Writing and Karate after Brain Injury

Brain Injury Blog

What do writing and karate practice have in common with TBI updates?

by Saverio Monachino

First, Karate.  The picture I’ve enclosed is found on my FaceBook page and shows me and my instructor posing the day I was awarded my black belt.  Here is the story, but I also have to tell you I am accident prone.  Before the truck ran over my car (December 2007) leading to my TBI condition I had many other accidents.  One that I will mention occurred way back in 1980.  I was a karate student, brown belt advancing to black belt level.  A few weeks before my black belt test, I was seriously injured in a sparring accident.   My left knee was kicked out from under me leading to tears in both anterior cruciate ligaments and the medial collateral ligament.   I gave up on karate and I missed a whole semester of graduate school.  Scroll down many years (about 20) and I move to NJ and have two young children.  As a family fun activity I enroll us in a local Karate club.  The children drop out after two or three years but I stuck with it (again).  I was once again a brown belt nearing the time for my black belt examination.  Then the truck ran me over and I was out of commission, so to speak, for quite a long time.

This time the instructor is a friend of the family, a local police officer and very, very good at evaluating people’s needs.  I think he would make a very capable psychotherapist in another world.  The long story cut short is this; he brought me back to class when I was still having trouble walking or remembering and stuck with me through these difficult times.  The result if his effort was a black belt for me.  Now I can never beat him in a sparring match, but I can make fun of him in my books, he makes an appearance in two of them.

Second, writing. 

If someone were to ask a group of writers why they love to write a variety of answers would come forth.  For some it is the pleasure of working ‘anywhere’ they choose or writing ‘anytime’ they feel inspired.  Writing is easy in this regard.  One can sit under the apple tree and write anytime, in rain or shine.  For others it is a way of transforming life’s experiences into stories or a process by which the clutter of one’s mind can be organized by setting it down on paper.  Of course some just like the idea of being able to ‘work’ without a defined dress code.  One of the most common reasons people write, both fiction and non-fiction work, is to make a difference in other people’s lives.

If someone were to ask just me the same question all of the variable responses would come into play, with one addition.  I use my writing in both fiction and non-fiction venues as a tool in my quest to find truth.  Fiction writing started for me as a hobby, a means to turn off my workaholic drive in the realms of scientific discovery while still keeping my inquisitive mind engaged.  Soon this form of relaxation morphed into a desire to find answers to everything my nonfiction science career was failing to grasp.  The desire to pass my findings along to anyone who would listen came next.  So, to answer the question; I love to write because it gives me a chance to seek truth, using cognitive processes found in both sides of my brain.

But there is more:  For a long time during my rehabilitation I could not verbally string two sentences together.  I used writing to get my message out.  For me the ability to be extemporaneous is long gone, again the accident’s byproduct, but slowly, deftly I can compose and write, and correct and embellish what I put on the proverbial paper until I am satisfied… then send it along.

I wrote By Any Means before my accident when fiction writing was my hobby.  After finishing this book I realized that work does not have to be work.  It can be fun.  This is what led me forward with the desire to write.  And of course my characters had a lot more to say about life, the universe and everything else.  I began The Lost King with my mind set on an issue that troubled me, well many troubling issues actually, and like much of my writing I needed to get my anger out and down on paper first and then slowly massage the effort to bring it into a more readable format … The Lost King was first undertaken to discuss on a broad scale the difference between the need to help people and the need to sell product.

The story line borrowed heavily from the legend of King Arthur which added complexity of the tale but halfway through my construction of the story, my own life changed and as I mentioned above, writing became the medium with which I could communicate.  I also revised the original story line.  Now the central theme involves the slow process a human undertakes to regain their cognitive abilities; that is, moving beyond interpreting the activity around one as part of a dream, regaining the ability to think in real time, and stringing two sentences together.  The second half of the book was written during rehab. Writing helped me move back into the real world and this is now why I love to write and find it the ideal format for me to communicate.

Saverio Monachino



twitter @Author_Saverio

September 24, 2011

One response to “Writing and Karate after Brain Injury”

  1. Wonderful blog and I love how you combine physical activity with mental activity and benefit from both. I believe my husband did the same by working out, cycling and then doing mental exercises (he loves numbers and is trying to learn Spanish). He has made a remarkable recovery. Congratulations on receiving your blackbelt…a huge accomplishment for anyone to achieve! You are an inspiration. Keep writing!

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