October 2019

OUTSIDE THE OR

A passion for karate


by Ellen Stodola EyeWorld Senior Staff Writer/Meetings Editor






Source: Arjan Hura, MD (all)

Arjan Hura, MD, has practiced Shotokan karate since he was seven years old. Even now as an ophthalmology resident at the University of Cincinnati, he continues to prioritize the practice of martial arts alongside his medical training.
Shortly after moving to Cincinnati as a child, he enrolled in karate classes at a new nearby dojo. “I’m not sure what specifically motivated my parents to get me started in karate, but I do remember that I was initially quite resistant to going to the dojo,” Dr. Hura said.
Compared to other types of karate, Shotokan is characterized by long, deep stances and linear movements that seek to maximize economy of motion, Dr. Hura explained. There are exceptions, he said, but if you look at the other popular styles, you could easily identify Shotokan from the group based on those characteristics alone.
His interest in karate was a key factor when he began to search for a college. “On my list of requirements was that my future university have a karate club or local dojo nearby. I was fortunate that The Ohio State University not only has a fantastic Shotokan karate club but several other types of karate and martial arts groups as well,” he said. His campus housing was conveniently located near the training facility, and Dr. Hura scheduled his classes to allow for training in the evenings. “Classes and academics were always priority number one, but karate was a close second,” he said.
Continuing to train in Shotokan karate during college was a great experience in terms of growth and personalizing his karate. “The fundamental principles of any martial art are taught the same to all beginners, regardless of an individual’s physical differences,” he said. “These basic principles are the foundation for all progression. At some point, one needs to go beyond the basics and begin tailoring their movement to their specific body type and personality. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have an instructor aware of the need for this natural progression, or one who will allow it, but I had both.”
As his experience evolved during college, Dr. Hura said he viewed his training experience as “self-guided;” in addition to training with the club, he started his own personal karate training including cardiovascular conditioning and weight training.

Training frequency

At The Ohio State University, training was structured around 2-hour classes three times a week, Dr. Hura said. He did an additional 2–3 hours of karate a week plus another 3–4 hours of other physical activity. This structure was similar to his training prior to college as well.
When Dr. Hura attended medical school at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, he continued training at his home dojo under Sensei Sonny Kim for his first 2 years. Dr. Hura had to change his routine during his third year of medical school, however, when Sensei Kim was killed in the line of duty as a police officer. Dr. Hura took on more teaching at the dojo and continued self-training. He was able to maintain this routine until the start of residency, when its long hours began to conflict with regularly scheduled classes and he was forced to train at odd hours. Still, in the midst of his ophthalmology residency, Dr. Hura said karate remains important to him, though clinical care, studying, research, and other ophthalmology-related endeavors remain the top priority.

Time balance

If you make something a priority, you will incorporate it into your life, Dr. Hura said. “In my opinion, ‘balance’ is all relative to what you consider important,” he said. “We all have the same amount of time every day; how we spend it depends on our personal preferences.” He added that he’s never had a problem training or exercising because he makes it a priority.
“I also think that if one prioritizes physical fitness and health, whether that includes practicing a martial art or any other regular physical activity, the need to find ‘stress-relieving’ activities will diminish, as one’s lifestyle will intrinsically be that of off-loading stress,” Dr. Hura said.

Competitions

Dr. Hura participated in competitions in the past but has not for some time. “I went through a phase when I was younger where I competed two to three times a year,” he said. However, when his interests shifted to working on the more biomechanical and technical aspects of martial arts, he stopped competing and has not in almost 15 years. That being said, he mentioned that lately he has “felt that competitive desire beginning to resurge.”
Competitions can be individual or as a team. “Most competitions consist of kata (pre-arranged forms) and kumite (sparring), and some feature embu (pre-arranged demonstrations),” he said.
Team kata is done with a group of three performing the same kata at the same time, ideally in perfect synchronization and harmony. Kumite can also be done as a team, with a different competitor from two teams facing off during each round. When he was competing, Dr. Hura competed in kata and kumite, as well as team kata.
Team kata training is based on synchronizing each individual’s performance with the other two teammates and making sure that every technique is executed with the same biomechanics and timing, Dr. Hura said, adding that team kata involves a triangle formation. “It can be a very hard thing to do properly, but a well synchronized and executed team kata performance is a beautiful display to behold,” he said.

Similarities between karate and ophthalmology

Upon entering medical school, Dr. Hura was first interested in neuroscience, but after extensive time shadowing and working in Neurology clinics, he realized that it wasn’t for him. “Within days [of discovering ophthalmology] I knew it was the right specialty for me. I enjoy the dualistic medical and surgical aspects of the profession, the ability to transition at any point between academics, private practice, or a hybrid environment, and the fact that we are the specialty most on the cutting edge of technological innovation with new devices constantly changing the way we practice every year. Patients greatly value their vision and are extremely grateful for their care. Ophthalmology is a very rewarding field and I hope in my lifetime to make contributions that advance the field forward to improve care for all patients in the future.”
Martial arts and surgery parallel each other in time required to become proficient and excel, he said. “Martial arts often attract personalities that enjoy delayed gratification, as someone who has never practiced a martial art will find that kicking and punching beyond the basics to be a challenge.” There are an “infinite” number of layers to peel away in martial arts and constant levels of refinement to achieve, he said.
“As a resident in a surgical subspecialty, I think some of this is similar to how we learn and perform surgery,” Dr. Hura said. “Early on, you learn the basic movements or surgical techniques, and over time, as you keep training and performing surgeries, your movements become more refined, more efficient, and you learn different strategies and approaches to complex pathology or any intraoperative situation.
“A great martial artist is one who is fluid and can adapt to any changing situation in combat, and I think a great surgeon is one who can adjust their game plan in the face of any complication or difficulty during surgery,” he said.

About the doctor

Arjan Hura, MD

Ophthalmology resident
University of Cincinnati

Contact information

Hura: arjan.hura@gmail.com

A passion for karate A passion for karate
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