Saturday, January 7, 2012

Aging Into Your Martial Art

My how the cold, dark days of winter and working outside every day make us old Dojo Rats a little stiffer, achy and slower to heal.
If you are over 50 like me, you've very likely given some serious thought to how to keep your art and Martial Spirit alive.
I started in Karate around 1978, and I've seen scores of practitioners transition from tournament champions to self-defense specialists to satisfying health and hobby level players like myself.
Back in the day when I was climbing the Dan ranks, I knew high-level Masters that couldn't kick above groin level any more. After thirty years of spectacular jumping and spinning kicks, they resigned themselves to practical efficient movement that made sense for their age. Kind of makes us wonder why even try to learn something like a jump 360 degree spinning-hook-double-latte-horsekiller anyway...
It seems then that one should prepare for the day when we give up dynamic power and move into the more subtle methods of body manipulation.

There are a few criticisms of the above video we could all state, but let's look at what works in this context. This is Master Hiu, a former Tae Kwon Do champion that took up the Chinese internal arts in Malaysia. His website is "Tai Chi Secret Movements".

As you can see in this light sparring session, the Master yields, changes angles and takes advantage of what the opponent gives him.
This type of sparring will not prepare you for an MMA fight, but how many of us actually care to compete in cagefighting anyway? This kind of movement is sufficient to handle the occasional drunk or troublemaker. The techniques show fist and elbow strikes, a standing arm-bar and various sweeps.

At our old-guy Dojo, this is usually the level of sparring we play with. In fact, we usually start in a push-hands pattern to get moving with rhythm and then add in punching, roll-back arm-bars, knee kicks and the like.
The thing is, both partners must move at the same speed, usually very slow at first. Then speed can gradually increase but should never be fast. The best learning is slow, with each partner filling a void presented like the proverbial water moving around rocks in a stream. It's best to allow your partner to complete some techniques and not be too competitive.

Obviously, solo form work can stay with you well into your old age. We all know of the benefits of movement to prevent arthritis and other aging problems.
But the thing that makes people I have trained with fall away from Martial Arts practice is that they hit a plateau and never progress further.
Imagine if you are that "jump spin-kick guy", and you can't use those techniques anymore.
Do you give up and quit?
Why not change your techniques to what works for you. How about learning weapons forms or Chi Gong energy exercises?

There are many, many types of martial movement that can satisfy health and self-defense needs as you age.
Keep an open mind, and don't be afraid to start fresh as a beginner in something different and sensible for your age and needs.


Anonymous said...


Bobby P.

hermann said...

That was a very sensible and clever post of a mature MAist, and also a very good vid example of what and how we over 50 yrs. old people could train with a partner. In fact, my partner play is often even slower, with less force, but fun and constant mobility are my core factors. And of course, there always must be the solo practice of quicker finishing moves, for the self esteem, lol!

Faik said...

In my opinion is this not self-defense my friend. It´s just reaction training. It doesn´t give you realistic self-defense training because normally people don´t stay there and wait for you to attack (like in this video) Attacker goes right away with full power.

Dojo Rat said...

I hear ya Faik;

Many of us have done lots and lots of sparring and self-defense.
My point was moving into flowing, softer movement.