I studied American Kenpo actively for 10-ish years, covering nearly half my adult life when you consider the off-and-on nature of it. I studied at Master John Sepulveda's Santa Clara Kenpo Karate in the Bay Area, Shayne Simpson's in Bellingham, and Chris Hermann's Alpha Martial Arts in Seattle, and other instructors included Mr. Buda, Mr. Tabb, Mr Graves, and Professor Skip Hancock from Spokane. In late 2011 I received my black belt from Mr. Hermann.
I also seriously injured my back during the test. I had first thrown my back out in about 1978 while moving into my dorm room at Pomona College by reaching out and lifting an empty cardboard box. Periodically since I've had to spend some time doing PT, seeing a chiropractor, or taking serious painkillers because my back had gone out again -- usually because I did something stupid, like carried too much firewood, or pushed myself too hard. In the black belt test I overexerted doing a pulling drill. It was my breakthrough moment for the test, but it cost me. I tried to return to the mat several times, but after re-injuring my back about six months later I gave up.
I have not been back to Alpha Martial Arts or stepped on a dojo mat since. I've done months of Physical Therapy, worked (and still work) with a Personal Trainer, and am up to working out three times a week at a local gym. But I know myself, and even at my now-best, I do not want to re-injure myself. I know enough to know that I will not go 50% or 75% or whatever it is that I can do without injury. I have to stay off the mat.
And it's too painful to go watch what I can't do anymore, so I have not been back into a dojo since about six months after my test. Until Saturday (yesterday), when Alpha Martial Arts held a benefit seminar for Mr. Frank Trejo, who's got some medical issues. I knew I could not get on the mat, and I knew that I should not stay and watch while I'm fighting a cold (no reason to infect others), so I just stopped by to drop off a donation. I watched perhaps 5-10 minutes of Mr. Durgan teaching, and ached to be back on the mat. It hurt not to get on the mat.
Because I can't do Kenpo anymore, I've had to reconsider my personal defense, and I have done some weapons and lethal force training, which I'll talk about later.