Doing Karate and Kungfu with a Hip Replacement

Typical Total hip replacement - my left leg

In 2003 I had a total hip replacement and wondered if my martial arts career was at an end. REALLY? I wondered. I had very few guides to go by, I just decided to keep trying. Fortunately, 7 years later I’ve had very few problems doing Shotokan karate and Shaolin kungfu with my artificial hip.

My doctors tell me I should limit myself only to slow internal martial arts like TaiQi. Fortunately my Karate and Kungfu masters disagree. They convinced me to keep doing the faster styles that I enjoy. Note to self: get new doctors.

And now many prominent martial artists have had hip replacements – such as Chuck Norris and Bill Wallace. I was inspired by their examples.

I can’t kick very high any more. When trying to kick my opponent in the head, first I ask him to lie down on the floor. Otherwise, I’m going to keep my kicks groin height or lower. That works in self defense. Fair enough.

Jump spinning kicks — some of the kungfu forms require jumping spinning kicks. I haven’t figured these out yet. But this limitation may simply be due to sloth, ineptitude, and my big non-aerodynamic butt.

Awarded 2nd Degree Blackbelt in Japan, Shotokan Karate

In the years since my hip surgery I’ve been very fortunate. I went to Saitama, Japan to be tested for Karate 2nd degree black belt. I passed with no problem. I also competed in some Karate tournaments in Japan. My main concession is that I no longer do kumite or high speed sparring. Training for kata and kihon waza, however, are a daily part of my life.

For the last 4 years I added daily training in Shaolin kungfu, learning in Shanghai’s Zhongshan Park. I’ve learned empty hand forms and forms for most of the weapons: stick, straight sword, broadsword, DaDao, spear, and half moon Monk’s spade. I manage to place and take home medals when competing in international wushu tournaments. At 51 years old, I can’t complain.

Somehow my hip is working great these days

Like many other athletes who have had hip replacements, I’ve learned that this is not the end of our active lives. My pain levels are MUCH less than the last 2 years preceding my surgery. I used to eat 9 ibuprofin tablets per day to reduce the pain and inflamation. Now I might use 9 of these tablets in a 6 month period.

My limitations might be different from other people. But here’s the list of things I try to avoid for my artificial hip:

– Running. I try to avoid high impact running. Instead I use bicycling, fast walking, and swimming for aerobic exercise.
– Jumping and cartwheels. My 75 year old kungfu teacher still does cartwheels. I told him my doctor won’t allow this. (who knows? maybe true)
– Sparring and leg kicks: I don’t want to take too much high speed impacts from sparring and/or leg kicks. The femur has a big hole drilled in it and titanium spike hammered in. If I break it, there’s not much material for repair.
– Judo and jujitsu — I’ve been avoiding these. I don’t want to be thrown to the mat onto my hip joint. But I’m starting to think of doing some controlled jujitsu training for self defense purposes.
– Sitting or standing in one place for too long: painful to be in one position for a time. Must keep moving.

Aside from these things, there’s little need to worry about it. 7 years after my surgery I feel much stronger each year. I’m pretty happy all in all.

Except for snowboarding. I REALLY would like to go snowboarding again. But my doctors prohibit it. On this point, I’ll listen to them.

Cheers and good luck.


About Shaun the Mountain Ronin 山浪人

I wander the world in Asia, America, and elsewhere as an engineer in advanced materials and clean energy. For hobby I study martial arts like karate, Chinese kungfu, and other disciplines.
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5 Responses to Doing Karate and Kungfu with a Hip Replacement

  1. Murray says:

    Fantastic website! Great read! Pu Laoshi is still in great shape and I miss his teachings and all the great people at training. I moved away from the Changning area out to Hongmei Lu, Hongqiao and wondered whether Pu Laoshi taught in any other locations so I can return to train regularly. Regards, Murray

  2. Bob Arnold says:

    I’m in a similar boat, having had bilateral hip replacement in 2001 and 2002. It was my long battle with worsening arthritis that ended my martial arts practice many years ago, but I have recently started training again and I am really enjoying it. There are some limits to what I can do, but I am making steady progress. I was also told by my doctors not to ski again, but five years ago I moved to Bozeman, MT and it is pretty hard NOT to ski here, and the local orthopedists take a fairly liberal stance regarding skiing, less an outright prohibition and more of “just take it easy” recommendation (no double black diamonds, but that is fine with me). So, don’t be shy about getting back on the snowboard; just take it easy. I also found that for some reason, even though I was an fairly advanced intermediate skier and continued to ski through most of my arthritis pre-surgery, I really had to start all over again after my surgery; still not back anywhere near where I was. So don’t expect to pick up right where you left off. Your example is encouraging, thanks and best wishes for your continued development in the martial arts.

  3. Paul says:

    I’ve had 9 total hip replacements/revisions since 1980 including 1 infection. Your first replacement is always the best (strongest) with all others being compromises that grow weaker as each generation progresses. I was fairly active prior to having hip replacements and played tennis, lifted weights and studied Cuong Nhu under Master Dong at UF in the early 70’s.

    After my first hip any activity that required twists, turns, shocks or any sudden leg movement was not advised and I eliminated it from my life. The rational to all this is you have to treat any hip replacement like a glass as it will be strong and take so much stress until it shatters. Having revisions may be unavoidable due to general wear over time (10-20 yrs) but you don’t want to have them for misuse.

    • Ron says:

      What are some cheap cannibus stocks to get had to retire from competition per surgeon but later after years of training I’m back kick boxing climbing in the rankings hope to regain my title RC Lewis XPD

  4. Chris Sandridge says:

    I’m 24 years old and have been very active in both exercise as well as martial arts for over 5 years now (Judo, Wing Chun, Taekwondo, but currently focused entirely on Yang Taijiquan) and it seems I am headed for a hip replacement surgery soon (I already had back surgery that removed the protrusions in my L4 and L5) and I have found that my flexibility and ability to do stances of any kind as well as kicks, throws, and takedowns are now non-existent. (Although my flexibility isn’t terrible, it is far less than what it used to be.) I have been considering taking up either boxing or Kali/Escrima/Arnis after my hip is replaced (after proper care and recovery of course) but I’m not sure if either of those arts will be too much for me. I know boxing typically takes a lot of hardcore conditioning and intense running and such; which quite frankly worries me. Kali/Escrima/Arnis seems like the better option but I am unsure if that would prove to be too much as well. Any advice from someone who could suggest either a martial art that would be easier to do that doesn’t involve deep stances or forms and has little or no high kicks, throws, or takedowns or could otherwise advise me as to whether boxing or Kali/Escrima/Arnis would be viable your help and input is much appreciated.

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