Martial Arts and Aging
The Seven reasons martial arts training gets better as we age.
As a black belt, instructor and school owner in traditional martial arts and self-defense, I have been reflecting on the central role martial arts occupies in my life. What does it mean to me as I age and how do I see my future as a martial artist? My passion and commitment to Taekwondo continues to grow as I enter my 60s. There are many reasons for this. Understanding what they are keep me motivated, particularly when I am having a bad day or when I want or need to lift my spirit.
Here are the top seven reasons why I am passionate about Taekwondo at age 60 and why training gets better as we age.
1. One of the best things about martial arts is that it is open to all ages. Whether you are a child just beginning to learn the ins and outs of life, or you are a bit older and have been through it all, martial arts offer a brand-new perspective for you to tackle physical fitness, health, and wellness. In fact, martial arts have a myriad of benefits for people of different age groups. For older people, in particular, martial arts has the ability to refresh our mind, body, and spirit. It slows down the process of aging by opening up a whole new world of possibilities. We never truly stop learning, even as we get older.
2. Martial arts reminds us that learning and growing is a lifelong experience.
If your age is beginning to show and you are starting to feel its effects perhaps martial arts training is worth consideration. Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t just for the young. Everyone has access to the knowledge and practice of martial arts, no matter what point in life we decide to start. You are never too old to begin training. Picking up martial arts later in life is an amazing way to breathe new energy into your exercise routines while learning something new. I find it’s just the opposite of what you might think. I don’t struggle to do martial arts because I am old, but because I do martial arts, I find I struggle less in the things of life. As I stand alongside of my peers, I see them sitting on the couch complaining about the many aches and pains. “My back hurts”, “I’ve got bad knees”, “My shoulders are bad, it hurts here there everywhere” blah, blah, blah, yeah everything hurts me too but because of martial arts I push through, I overcome, I persevere. It’s who I am. I will never submit to pain, never surrender to fear only strive to be a better martial artist.
3. Focusing on respect: Taekwondo is a traditional martial art, which is based in fundamental human values, like respect. This includes respect not only for others, but also for ourselves. In a world where many people feel free to abuse each other online, spread hateful messages, and turn a blind eye to suffering, it is deeply poignant to be part of a respectful environment. It connects us with each other at a fundamental human level and reminds us of our own humanity. With respect comes tolerance and compassion. These are values which make us kinder and more caring people. The fundamental value of respect grounds me as a person in what truly matters in my life, particularly as I get older, namely the importance of my relationships with other people.
4. Making a difference: My position as a school owner and instructor enables me to make a positive difference to the lives of many people, such as the anxious five-year-old, or the teenager who is being bullied, or the under confident adult. By teaching them martial arts in a respectful environment, I am able to make a very real and important difference to how they perceive themselves and interact with the world around them. Every student has something to learn, whether it is developing the physical skills of self-defense or personal growth in areas such as confidence and self-belief. The influence does not end there though. By making a difference to a student, that ripples through to their entire life. It is this ability to positively influence the lives of our students (and beyond) that motivates me to teach. It is extremely rewarding knowing that I can use my wealth of life experience to help others
5. Keeping me young: As I age, my body is physically changing. For example, I carry old injuries which limit some training activities. I am finding that even though I have hit 60, I am still getting stronger and my flexibility continues to improve. Physically, Taekwondo is helping to keep my body young and healthy. It is also keeping my mind young. Perhaps the best way to keep our minds youthful is learning new things. Whenever you feel you are “the master” you see something that’s not quite right and now you have something you must work on. The physical and mental learning never ends. Martial arts training without question helps to keep my mind and body young.
6. Being mindful: Martial arts teaching and training is a very mindful experience for me. It helps me to stay focused in each present moment, without judging myself harshly. This is important for my physical and mental wellbeing. It increases my enjoyment and reduces my levels of stress and anxiety in all aspects of my life, not just while I am training or teaching martial arts. It also gets me out of my head and more connected with my body. As someone who spends long hours writing machine code for a living, this is refreshing.
7. Psychological freedom: At the age 60 I have probably already lived more than half of my life. Of those years that are left, some may not be good years physically and mentally, as my body and mind will at some stage begin to deteriorate and give in to old age. Instead of dwelling on this potentially depressing reality, martial arts focus my mind on all of the things that I can do. I am no longer worried about whether I can kick as high or as well as the young students or get as low in my stances. I am liberated from the expectations people have of martial artists as young, dynamic, and gifted athletes. I no longer feel the need to compare myself to others. Instead, I am secure in the knowledge that I am doing something tremendously beneficial for me. This is a very powerful place to be psychologically and it enables me to really enjoy and value each moment of my life and the opportunities that are presented to me. There is a freedom that comes with this and it is life-enhancing.
We all have our reasons for training in martial arts. I encourage you to take the time to reflect on what they could be for you. This will help to motivate you during the tough training days, as well as provide you with greater clarity of the many benefits your training brings to your life. For older martial artists, you may well find that like me, your training is getting better and more enjoyable as you age.
Second Degree Black Belt and School Owner
Published: May 23, 2023