Not my favorite vegetable
Gross. I have cauliflower ear. I thought I wasn’t going to get it, since after 8 years of training I only had the smallest bit on the inside of my right ear and it hadn’t gotten any worse. Plus, as Greg, one of the blue belts here, said, “I thought girls couldn’t get cauliflower ear because I thought God wouldn’t let it happen.” Well, no such luck. I have it. Thanks anyway, God. Wikipedia says:
“Cauliflower ear or hematoma auris or or perichondrial hematoma is a condition common among rugby players (particularly forwards), boxers, martial artists, and wrestlers. If the external portion of the ear is constantly hit or bashed around, a blood clot may develop under the perichondrium. This separates the cartilage from the overlying perichondrium that is its source of nutrients, causing the cartilage to die. When this happens, the outer ear becomes permanently swollen and deformed. Headgear that protects the ears is worn in many martial sports to help prevent this condition. Among some athletes, it is seen as a badge of honor, a scar of experience.”
So basically, the fact that I smush my head into other people’s abdomens to put and/or keep them on the ground, that other people wrap their legs around my head while trying to cut off the blood flow to my brain, and that people’s gis routinely rub against my ears during sparring means that I have deformed myself. Note the part in the Wikipedia definition that describes how some athletes view “the ear” or “cauliflower” as a badge of honor. In fact, I know some people who cultivate the ear, and Eben, one of the black belts who trains at New Breed, is known for jumping on people who are just starting to get cauliflower and punching them repeatedly in the ear. Many jiu jitsu experts have ears that don’t look like ears anymore. They look like fists, lima beans, or fetuses, depending on your imagination and frame of reference. They are hard as rocks. They are generally disturbing.
This means that my cauliflower, as you will see, gets me very little sympathy from the guys here, and in fact gets me ridicule, because there isn’t much of it and it’s not really very visible. But it hurts and could get a lot worse if I don’t take care of it.
So here is a picture of my cauliflower ear. It’s on the left one, at the very top. Look at the right ear as a comparison.
Right ear (comparison):
Left ear (has the cauliflower):
The treatment for cauliflower ear is to drain it with a syringe. For those of you who don’t know me, I don’t like needles. I don’t faint or anything, but I whine like a baby. Jason, a purple belt who trains at New Breed, is getting pretty good at draining people’s cauliflower ear, and he agreed to do mine last night, so I spent all day yesterday dreading the needle. I know you want to see what came out of the ear after Jason drained it, and I have the pictures, but first, I will tell you about my retail therapy. I went to the On the Mat store in Hermosa Beach.
The On the Mat website (http://www.onthemat.com/) is a clearinghouse of information about grappling. There, you can find information on tournaments, belt ranks and lineages of practitioners, interviews with notable grapplers and coaches, training tips, and links to academy websites. You can also buy gear like gis, rash guards, board shorts, and DVDs. OTM also has three bricks and mortar stores in San Diego, Las Vegas, and the one in Hermosa Beach where you can buy the same stuff. I had a promotional card that I picked up at the tournament I did, and on the card they advertised that you could get 15% off your purchase if you showed new cauliflower ear. So needless to say, I wanted to get there before I drained it. They do business with John Ouano, who sells his own line of gis, rashguards, board shorts, and fight gloves (http://www.ouano.com/), as well as a cool sherpa jacket I want (see the main page). They're getting a new shipment in soon!
I ended up chatting with Nikki, who was behind the counter, and told her my story about quitting, etc. She said, “Whoa, that’s hard core!” She mentioned it to Ryan, who is one of the owners, and he gave me a pair of $50 board shorts for $20. Nice! He also gave me a bumper sticker and a couple of patches for my gi. If I bring a picture of myself in the gi with the patch on it standing on the winner’s podium at a competition into the store, they will give me something for free. That’s kind of cool incentive! They also seemed psyched that I would put on a bumper sticker because I’m going to be doing more traveling. So it was a win-win situation!
In the evening I took Johnny’s classes, which included a takedown called an inside trip and some moves from what’s called the X-guard—two sweeps and a way to take the back. Then, it was time to drain the ear. Here’s what came out:
Those two pics are two separate drainages. In other words, add up the contents of the syringe in both of those two pictures to get a sense of how much total fluid came out of the ear. And we didn’t even get all of it out. Jason said that when the fluid is bloody it means that it’s pretty new. When it’s yellow like the fluid in my ear, it’s been around for a few days. And the thing is, I didn’t even realize I had cauliflower until I woke up one day and my ear hurt for no apparent reason. That’s when I felt the sponginess—and when I started being unable to resist playing with it all the time.
Today when I saw Felicia, she gave me some good suggestions for how to drain the ear and keep the swelling down. I have to buy some heavy duty emergency splinting tape and keep it on there for 10 days or so. I also should wear the headgear I bought at On the Mat. But here is how I look in headgear.
What would you do? And when I put on the tape, it will just contribute to the “Great Dane that has just had its ears docked” look that I’m going for.
So there’s my latest adventure in jiu jitsu. I warned my parents about it earlier, but by now, they just laugh. And it turns out my dad has some from his football days. So the ear is actually a bonding thing!
Oh, and two other things. First, Moike said I could post pics of Johnny smashing him during training. Here are those:
If you were to replace Moike with me, the pictures would look about the same in terms of Johnny smashage.
And second, Felicia has her own website! Go to http://www.feliciaoh.com and see what a badass she is. She has a few pounds to cut before the Abu Dhabi trials, so my last blog post about food didn’t really do her any favors. I’m hoping this one, which shows the gnarly yellow fluid that came out of my ear, will help eliminate her appetite. Keep the faith, Felicia! I got your back.