In Japan, about 12 million people reportedly suffer from knee-related problems such as degenerative arthritis. The arthrosis support brace is a device worn by such people to reduce pain and enable them to walk comfortably. Despite a variety of corrective braces available, most are relatively heavy weighing from 500 to 800 grams, and not quite supportive for smooth bending of the knees. The company’s technology employed in attaching a center bridge resulted in reducing weight by about 180 grams. It also enables complete kneeling as well as natural fitting without discomfort by eliminating the metal parts used at the top and bottom of conventional braces. Because this brace makes painless training possible, many people who use this product are in the process of recovery. The company has also developed products equipped with gears for sports activities. Research is now being conducted for replacing light alloys with carbon to achieve even further weight reduction.
Sakima Gishi http://www.cosmos.ne.jp/~sakimat/
Founded in 1980. The founder, Tamotsu Sakima, acquired welding skills in Yokohama, Okinawa, and Hokkaido after graduating from junior high school, and then worked for a brace maker in Kitakyushu City. Later, he established “Sakima Gishi Works” by drawing on his experience. In 1999, he developed and patented an arthorosis support brace (“CB Brace”), and then his manufacturing company was incorporated in 2003. This evolutionary product has received a number of awards including the “Kyushu Region Invention Award” and the “Promotional Award from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.”
It was in 1998 that a familiar doctor introduced me to a patient in her 40’s, who was half-paralyzed due to a brain hemorrhage, resulting in one of her ankles being awkwardly twisted and bent. She visited Mr. Sakima with a last, straw-clutching hope after a number of medical institutions had failed to help her. Her accompanying husband bowed deeply imploring, “Please help her.” Mr. Sakima responded encouragingly by saying, “I will try,” even though he was no arthorosis expert. Unfortunately, his various prototype devices for supporting the ankle turned out to be virtually useless.
“I cannot go on any longer,” declared Mr. Sakima, which triggered rage on the part of the husband who exclaimed, “You said you would try!” Mr. Sakima still vividly remembers the man’s enraged facial expression. He thought to himself, “How could I disappoint the expectations of someone like him who sincerely thinks only of his suffering wife.” As he watched the man slowly trudging homeward while pushing his beloved wife’s wheelchair, Mr. Sakima’s pride in his craftsmanship compelled him to shout, “Wait, please, give me
once more chance!”
Mr. Sakima subsequently focused not on the ankle but on the knee, driven by his “inspiration” as an expert who had seen and treated many patients face to face since launching his business. Although the lightweight, sturdy “braces made in Sweden” improved the ability to walk better than other devices, the braces had many problems, such as sliding down, too much pressure, an unfashionable design, and the possibility of injury should a person fall down. The devices made by Mr. Sakima offered better support and weighed only half or even a quarter as much as the other devices. When wearing such a brace, a person feels no discomfort and can even sit on folded legs, Japanese style. Miraculously, the woman’s twisted ankle was eventually corrected, and later she was able to leave her wheelchair.
Hanging on right before giving up, and again facing the challenge with a completely new approach led to the development of the “CB (Center Bridge) braces,” knee support devices featuring an original structure.
In fact, Mr. Sakima experienced a serious disability himself. Due to tuberculous vertebra caries that he suffered from during childhood, his back was curved considerably, causing him to attend elementary and junior high school wearing a heavy corset. That did not discourage him at all, but he despised the condition so much that he would swear at anyone staring at him, saying, “What are you looking at?”
After graduating from junior high school, he was sent to live with a relative in Yokohama but left after only one week. After acquiring welding skills at an iron factory where he found employment, he returned to Okinawa and then suddenly moved to Hokkaido for no apparent reason. As he moved from one factory to another, his natural talent for monodzukuri gradually blossomed. Hokkaido can be called his “second home country,” since it was there that he met his wife Machiko, got involved in an construction accident, underwent a subsequent operation, and as a result, his “chronic condition” of having a bent back was corrected.
There is no doubt that his own disability and the expert skills he acquired as a metalworker were factors in helping him choose this profession and developing such revolutionary arthorosis support braces.
Degenerative arthritis causes the knee to curve and mainly develops among the elderly. However, “CB Braces” are effective in treating even this “national disease” that currently afflicts about 12 million people in Japan. According to Mr. Sakima, “Wearing this brace not only makes it easier to walk, but in most cases can actually cure the arthritis itself within two or three months.” He adds, “Enjoying walking restores the muscles that support the bones.” Actually, there have been some reported cases where completely bed-ridden elderly patients suffering from knee pain have been able to rise up from the bed and even to walk straight by wearing this brace.
After these braces were patented in Japan (in 1999), there are pending patent applications overseas with the world market in mind.