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Wednesday, March 8, 2017 issue

Porter uses martial arts to heal from massive injuries

SIXTH DEGREE SHAOLIN Master Jim Porter said he used meditation and other martial arts techniques to help himself recover from massive injuries he sustained when his truck was hit by coal truck. BSN photo/Tim Preston (click for larger version)
01/31/2007 - PAINTSVILLE — Shaolin martial arts master Jim Porter admits "It would have been easy to just give up" after he was severely injured when his pickup was essentially run over by a coal truck in the fall of 2004.

Porter, 42, had spent much of his life pursuing higher levels of expertise in the ancient martial arts style popularized by the television show Kung Fu and had achieved his sixth-degree black belt in the art years before the accident.

DEMONSTRATING A BRUTAL arm lock during one of his weekly self-defense classes at the Paintsville Recreation Center, Shaolin martial arts Master Jim Porter, left, works with black belt student Jason Goble as brown belt students Loren Crisp and Shannon Travis observe. BSN photo/Tim Preston (click for larger version)
But in the blink of an eye, he said, his entire life changed.

"I was sitting still and got hit from behind. I did see him coming, but there was nothing I could do. I didn't have anyplace to go," he remembered. "All of a sudden, the whole world goes upside down."

Porter sustained multiple injuries to his neck, back and arms, in addition to a concussion which "wreaked havoc on my memory." He says he has limited memories from the months which followed the wreck, but adds, "I remember the pain. I remember the pain a lot."

"I remember being unable to walk and lying there thinking how fast things can change," he said. "I remember thinking, 'Where do I go from here?' I had a new house just under roof. Everything was on track. I was building my dream home."

One of the first doctors he worked with told him, "Your life will probably never be the same," and advised him to strive to "make some sense of it and find what good can come from it."

Porter said "it was the best advice I ever got."

As the effect of his concussion gradually dissipated, Porter said he began to recognize the importance of setting goals for himself. Even with best intentions, he said the early days of his recovery were excruciating.

"The hardest part — it was so much pain. It was constant. It never let up," he said.

As he began physical therapy, Porter said he was immediately discouraged.

"It was the first day of physical therapy and they wanted me to lift my legs. I couldn't do it. I couldn't pick my feet up to walk in the door. I remember thinking, 'Here I am. I've worked out all my life and now I can't lift my legs."

His initial discouragement eventually transformed into anger, he said, bringing emotions he worked to eliminate from his mind.

"If you let it, that will consume you," he noted.

Porter had been teaching martial arts classes in Floyd County prior to the accident. As two of his students kept those classes active, Porter said he was further frustrated with his inability to contribute and demonstrate techniques without causing further damage to his body.

It was a situation which forced him to re-evaluate his role as a teacher and practitioner. He began making lists of goals and objectives "for when, not if, but when," his health improved.

Throughout his training, Porter said he had been taught the importance of meditation and discipline in addition to the physical aspects of the Shaolin approach. While he had paid more attention to the physical training, Porter said he turned his attention to mental matters to help his healing.

"Martial arts helped with being able to maintain focus and discipline. It would have been so easy to just give up. A lot of my drive comes from doing something," he said. "I started thinking this process was just another challenge. I have a personal competitive streak, but it has always been me competing against myself. That came into play."

"During my time off I did a lot of meditation and that kind of stuff — the internal part of martial arts," he said. "Every day you have to move forward. You have to try. Otherwise, it's got you."

After more than two years of gradual improvement, Porter was again able to stand before his students, teaching his first classes since the accident just before Christmas. While he isn't back to the condition he was in before the wreck, Porter said, "I think it's now as good as it is ever going to be. I can manage it if it stays as it is."

Porter is now teaching weekly martial arts classes at the Paintsville Recreation Center. Watching him move between groups of students, it is obvious he appreciates the ability to tackle the job.

"When you dedicate a lot of time to the study of anything, be it physics or martial arts or whatever, you have a sort of unwritten obligation to give something back, to teach it to someone else. To me, the payoff is being able to stand before a class and give something back," Porter said.

A spokesman for the recreation center said Porter's Wednesday evening classes are divided by age groups and cost $30 per month.

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