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Tau
Tau's picture
Getting Old and Getting Older

This past weekend saw a fantastic BCA seminar in Wakefield taught by Peter and Iain. One interesting discussion was around getting older and getting old. Anyone who's trained with Peter must be impressed with his physicality at his age. Peter's view is that getting older is unavoidable but that doesn't mean we must get old. I'm sure there have been discussions on here in the past. A phrase I use in work is that I can treat very "old" sixty year olds and very "young" ninety year olds. To suggest that "age is just a number" is naive to say the least, but for the lucky or determined ones increasing age is surmountable.

Personally I'm hurtling towards 40 and I have martial friends who are struggling at a similar age. I confess that my physical fitness isn't as it should be and I know I'm capable of far more, should I devote more time to it. However, I don't think there's anything in martial arts that I've stopping doing as I've gotten older. Chronic knee injuries rather than age mean I don't like the idea of day of throwing because that's a day of knee pain from standing up afterwards. I also don't like squats for the same reason. If I run up stairs (which I do in work to respond to emergency bleeps) that I find myself in agony in my knees but not out of breath.

I digress but my point holds. I do find that injuries take longer to heal now but intellgent training can negate this to a large degree.

What are the general thoughts; is Peter right or is he a physical annomoly? 

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

One thing I often get asked is if I’d like to be as fit as Peter at his age. My reply is always that I’d like to be as fit as him now! Training alongside him makes that conclusion inevitable. I don’t think he’s an anomaly though.

Peter is adamant that he’s not a natural athlete, but he is someone who has trained both hard and smart for a very long time. The “hard” part keeps him in incredible shape. The “smart” part avoids unnecessary injury. He’s not immune to wear and tear; as the fact he’s recently had a hip replacement illustrates. However, many karateka of Peter’s generation had their hips done decades ago. This would again point to the “smart” part of how trains.

As a general point, I think people use age an excuse to take it unnecessarily easy. We talk about this in the dojo all the time. We have 60 somethings, 50 somethings and 40 somethings training alongside people decades younger and holding their own. Inactivity do will more damage to the body and performance than aging. So, if people decide that they “can’t” train in a meaningful way because of their age, they may well find the “get old”. Those who remain active, remain “young”.

When it comes to martial performance, skill, experience and conditioning are more important than a tally of years lived.   

Below in the video on Peter’s observation that I shared earlier this week.

All the best,

Iain

Chikara Andrew
Chikara Andrew's picture

Tau wrote:

This past weekend saw a fantastic BCA seminar in Wakefield taught by Peter and Iain. One interesting discussion was around getting older and getting old. Anyone who's trained with Peter must be impressed with his physicality at his age.

It was a great seminar and I agree that the final Q&A was great with Peter addressing this point with great humour.

Tau wrote:

What are the general thoughts; is Peter right or is he a physical annomoly? 

One of my other passions is the great outdoors and in particular caving. I got into it around the age of 20 when my father in law and many of his friends were still active. Although many of them put it down to advances in technique but most of them never expected to still be actively caving beyond their 40’s and 50’s. Most of these guys have now stopped having been caught out by issues with knees, backs etc. but they remain fit and active people into their 70’s – many have taken up cycling (shudder)!

Indeed a great friend of mine only recently gave up caving in his mid 80’s, having accompanied him on many “last trips” over the years and I still half expect to see him underground again.

Iain Abernethy wrote:

Peter is adamant that he’s not a natural athlete, but he is someone who has trained both hard and smart for a very long time. The “hard” part keeps him in incredible shape. The “smart” part avoids unnecessary injury. He’s not immune to wear and tear; as the fact he’s recently had a hip replacement illustrates. However, many karateka of Peter’s generation had their hips done decades ago. This would again point to the “smart” part of how trains.

I think this is the key point, Peter talked about his hip operation and the fact that he hasn’t yet got back to kicking as he was. He knows his limitation and works within them, albeit it’s clear that doesn’t mean taking it easy.

It’s easy to see how it happens, and I have been guilty of it myself, you get into running a club and you have so many sessions/classes to run and you don’t take an active part in them. Yes we demonstrate, go through movements etc, but don’t necessarily as instructor put as much into a class as the student. It’s clear from what Peter says that trains as hard as his students.

I always try to push myself but Sunday was a bit of an eye opener for me too, for a number of reasons but my overall fitness was certainly one.

Andrew

Neil Babbage
Neil Babbage's picture

I like to put it this way: "It's the mileage that counts, not the age on the number plate."

I will never be old, just older than I used to be.

AllyWhytock
AllyWhytock's picture

In January'18 I changed my teaching approach. Previously I found that I was getting physically unhealthy.

I now participate within the class, moving around, training alongside folks, setting or keeping the pace, observing the moment and giving feedback in real time.

When teaching  a new technique or I see a general issue, I will slow things down, gather folks around, demonstrate/discuss and restart. This replaced myself standing on the perimeter pontificating.  

I also reduced the number of grading opportunities per year to slow down the overall approach to give folks more time to learn, practice & train; whilst increasing the actual intensity. 

I've lost students because of the intensity increase but a sacrifice I'm willing to take to ensure those folks who work smart and hard get my attention, yet balanced with giving other folks the opportunity to learn at their own pace. Everyone learns individually and uniquely. 

So at 50 years I'm now healthier and lighter than what I was at 49 years. The extra energy I have feeds into the class and hopefully a more positive environment is created. 

It's perhaps leading by example or "show me, don't tell me" has a postive benefit.

All through the effort to change my lifestyle over the last few months is the "smarter & harder" axiom which works for personal training and for teaching. I know how to balance the workload and take everything in moderation. Excellent advice from Peter & Iain. It works.

Furthermore the smarter part in my experience encapsulates pain management, acting on inflammation, hydration, sleep, rest, variation of training, mental stimulation aswell as physical, being brutally honest with yourself and accepting failure and mistakes as lessons. 

Cheers,

Ally

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Greta post Ally!

AllyWhytock wrote:
Furthermore the smarter part in my experience encapsulates pain management, acting on inflammation, hydration, sleep, rest, variation of training, mental stimulation as well as physical, being brutally honest with yourself and accepting failure and mistakes as lessons.

Great observation!

One difference between training in our teens/20s and training when 40+ is we can get away with being “stupid” in our training to a greater degree. We can skimp on rest and sleep while overtraining and not pay as heavy a price as we will doing the same things 20 to 30 years later.

In the past, my body was an enemy to be overcome. These days I know we need to work together a little more :-)

All the best,

Iain

Anf
Anf's picture

I think growing old is what happens when we cling to a fantasy of youth.

I get injured from time to time in training. As I'm sure we all do. I could sulk and remember a time in my latest teens when I was utterly invincible. But if I take the rose tinted spectacles off I remember being injured probably just as much in my youth. And now in my mid 40s I can do as much as I could back then. In some ways, more.

Sometimes people outside of martial arts politely suggest I'm too old for it. I laugh and tell them I'm actually getting younger. I'm only half joking when I say it, because with careful training, striking the balance between pushing the limit and resting, generally speaking I feel fitter than ever before. OK injuries come along, then I feel old. But I try not to spend too much time injured :)

Chris Jvrn
Chris Jvrn's picture

I think it's a combination of training smarter and a bit of a mindset. I know people in their 20s  that compain that they are old, and cannot even reach halfway to their knees when asked to touch their toes. While there are people I train with who are 50s and 60s and they hit hard and fast and have a lot more energy.

This past weekend I was at a tournament where an individual in his late 40s or early 50s was outspeeding his opponents in their 20s, was a really hard Goju pratitioner, much to a friend of mine's dismay when he got tagged :-)

Phoenix
Phoenix's picture

Having only begun training in Karate after the age 40 has been interesting for me, people my age who who have been very sporty when younger seem to have alot more knee and. back problems. Sports injury is I think is a great teacher... pain becomes both a warning to pace myself and not overdo it, and a guide to identify and target my weaknesses... much in the way Iain discusses our relationship to fear.

In fact in my experience (as a Doctor) it is the avoidance of pain (from physical injuries) that seems to lead to pain becoming stronger, much as avoidance of fear letting fear grow. It is my belief that the body has an internal economy, and that it invests in that which it senses it needs, and will de-invest in that which is dormant/unused.

When we hurt it is a warning to be careful to avoid worsened harm, and a guide to say here is my limitation and where I need to invest effort! If you sprain your ankle and treat it by resting for 6 weeks you will think you are better but infact you will be worse! When I have injured myself through training the thing that has helped the most was to continue the training (albiet with care and pacing), whereas resting has made me worse. Pain leads to fear, fear leads to pain avoidance, pain avoidance to stiffness, inflexibility, no resetting of joint and muscle position sense (proprioception), muscle weakness and deconditioning and increased risk of re-injury. Although with ageing we have more inelastic fibrous connective tissue than elastic, healing times are longer... and we may accumulate degenerative joint changes that limit flexibility...

I truly believe karate is suitable for all ages, provided we train intelligently, appropriately, and develop that sensible approach to pain and injury that most martial artists develop... and which non martial artists do not (because they do not recognise the difference between the good pain, and the good fear of training, and avoid it at the cost of becoming weaker physically and mentally) which is why many non physically care active older adults feel old more than those with a more practical relationship to their mind and body.

John Van Tatenhove
John Van Tatenhove's picture

Don't be dismayed by the students you have lost. Every change, even positive ones, will cause students to leave. In the long run, when you are offering a better service, you will bring in more students.

John,

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

42 Here. The biggest difference for me is that I am more careful, because everytyhing takes three times as long to heal now. I'm less interested in proving that what I do "works" to people these days. After 30 something years of Karate, i've seen all the permutations of that debate, seen the (much of them positive) changes in the Karate world surrouding those debates, had some great teachers, and have settled on my own "best practices". Of course I remain open to changing when presented with reason to. I don't like taking a ton of falls anymore. I can do it, i've done Jujutsu/Judo for anumber of years and have decent ukemi, but I actually thinks it's just dumb training to take falls over and over again, and i'm definitely not risking my already delicate spine (chronic back issues) in said dumb training.

I have also become more interested in meditative pursuits in life generally, and while I integrate this into my own training, I do not do much with it in my classes, as I don't see an interest. I have taken up Taiji, and while I hope to learn some of the martial bit, my main interest is in learning to move different in a fairly broad sense, rather than acquiring specific skills.

Oh, I'm also getting fat, and it's much harder to lose weight due to the slowing metabolism. I'm having to figure out conditioning that I like, which also does the trick. I have never been a good exercise for excerises sake guy. Currently i'm discovering the speedbag, and doing indoor climbing - indoor climbing is real fun at 225 pounds;)

Honesly in some ways I feel like I am healther than when I was younger, if only because I pay more attention to my day to day habits and have more awareness of how they affect my quality of life.

With martial artists, I have know some who are impressive physical specimens as they age, due I thnk both to genetics and hard work.  I have also known some that weren't in such amazing shape but were still great martial artists. I think there's a minimum of shape one needs, but personal preference mattters...I do things that make me happy and allow me to keep training, i'm fairly confident in what I do, and I build my fitness around wanting to continue doing it. I'm not as fit as plenty of others, but I do ok.

PS: Some of the best Karateka i've met have  been in their 40's and 50's, even 60's.. so I hold out a lot of hope for us:)

Dennis Krawec
Dennis Krawec's picture

Just found this from the BBC facebook page. It looks like after I get new hips that I’ll be able to make Sho-Dan someday.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-england-leicestershire-44985210/meet-the-medal-winning-ninja-nan