Aging Martial Artists

When older martial arts are practice many tend to think, Tai Chi Chuan. Where older practitoners are seen in parks, etc. making slow movements that are graceful, rhythmic and peaceful. Aging martial artists have to deal with those aging issues just like people who are not martial artist but one of the great things about martial arts is that one can practice the arts regardless of their age.

Tai Chi Chuan is a wonderful and beneficial system for any age but is especially beneficial, in my view, to those who have reached the, “Winter Years” of life. It is a wonderful time of life, the age beyond the first sixty years. The changes nature inflicts on us can be mitigated by certain mental and physical efforts and this blog is about how the effort of martial arts practice can and does mitigate and alleviate the aging processes.

So, this blog will be about that aging process and how the practice of martial arts can help. The first article that will follow will simply list those aging issues that directly relate to the practice of martial arts such as balance as it relates to falling. As with any effort such as this it warrants the readers effort in understanding that this effort is from a non-professional view and with that stated I encourage each reader review the caveat provided here and at the start of each article. I also encourage each and every person who is taking up this practice to make sure it meets approval by your personal medical professional. Get that before you try to participate in martial arts or any program that would benefit you as you age.

Blog Article/Post Caveat (Read First Please: Click the Link)

Bibliography (Click the link)

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Monday, December 7, 2015

Age Benefits of Martial Disciplines

Blog Article/Post Caveat (Read First Please: Click the Link)

1. Teaches various principles, i.e., physiokinetic, such as proper alignment of the skeletal system resulting is proper posture, alignment, full diaphragmatic breathing, mind clarity, core or centeredness strength and control and a full range of motions for the entire body.

2. It teaches and trains physical-mental skills to actively cause the mind to work and control the body and the body to work and control the mind. The constant use of the various aspects of the mind-body are exercises of the mind where that use and continued use keeps the mind, the brain, active and flexible countering the often negative effects aging of the mind tend toward during the aging process. 

3. It teaches the body and mind to maintain balance, a huge danger to those who age and limit or stop movement. Movement is the one great key along with balance to keep the mind-body connection fresh and active. 

4. The yin-yang aspects of physical and mental training also contribute toward the soft and dynamic tensions aspects to keep our stress levels lower and remove the often physical manifestations of daily stresses. It promotes continued fluid movement when the muscles, tendons and other connecting tissues tend to lose elasticity, strength and connected movement. 

5. It in its movement through training and practice of kata generate and maintain energy levels within the body coupled with the positive effects of breathing deeply, continuously and diaphragmatically releasing healthy body chemicals that counter those released from stress, a counter to the adrenal stress releases often encountered in daily life. 

6. Through the body-mind mind-body connections, training and practices it maintains and supports continued body awareness because MA tends to teach us how to remain aware of our senses such as visual acuity, tactile sensitivity and audio detection processes used in daily life and tend to diminish as we age unless we practice to maintain and MA disciplines adjusted accordingly promote such higher levels of body-mind health, fitness and strength, etc.

7. Through its practice, especially in group settings, it also promotes a group dynamic of a social nature resulting in a body-mind-social driven life with contentment, happiness and enjoyment that comes with extended life, longevity, often promoted only through such practices and disciplines.

8. The connectedness and centeredness of practice and training lead to a natural power from alignment, breath, and movement that maintains and generates energy often referred to as “Ki or Chi.” 

The age benefits that come from the practice of such a diverse discipline that is adjustable and fluid in nature toward changes one can achieve themselves to adjust and reform toward benefits of aging to combat aging not as a stop but a fluid adjustment that many other disciplines do not advocate as can be seen by athletes who retire from sports in the early “Summer Years,” i.e., thirties and sometimes forties over after the sixty entry point of the winter years. 

Unlike most sport disciplines one can continue in the winter years in practice of martial disciplines with a focus on principles with emphasis of the sub-principles of the principle of Physiokinetics removing the contact aspects for sport or self-defense or combatives, etc.

MAD (Martial Art Disciplines) are practices that transcend most human foibles of stature, strength and most of all - Age - to achieve a well-rounded discipline that can and does take us from our youth well into our winter years for a happy, healthy, and fit time most needed in life, our winter years.

We all face many battles in our lives with some actually for our very lives but the one battle we will all face sooner or later is that of the human aging process. It is our choice how we face that greatest of battles and this venue, MAD, is a most advantageous model to win the battle of the ages. 

Bibliography (Click the link)

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Age, Diet and Martial Arts - Fueling the Machine!

Blog Article/Post Caveat (Read First Please: Click the Link)

Face it, we are all going to get older. When we are young we tend to get away, so we think, with fueling our bodies with stuff that may or may not necessarily be good not just for hour bodies but also as fuel to create/generate energy.

If we don’t already know it applying martial arts is a lot about generating and applying force and power. To achieve that goal we have to generate power from energy and then transmit that energy to a target with the maximum force and power needed to reach our goals. It all starts with the fuel we put in our body, the machine that has to generate energy so that we can transform energy into power and force. 

Look, most who may read this post may already be experiencing their winter years, i.e., age sixty and above. Those my age and older will remember the, “Muscle Car Days,” of our youth. We would build our cars with engines that we understood needed certain things to get the most horse power possible where the rubber meets the road. We all knew that filling the tank with low octane gas would not provide the maximum necessary to keep that muscle car rumbling and roaring at its best so that when we put the pedal to the metal we would screech, lay rubber and take off like a rocket to beat out competitors. 

As we age our bodies are going to change and in one area the change involves what and how much food or fuel we ingest to maximize our bodies functionality and ability to generate energy to make power and force. One reason why many of the older generation tend to have more carried around their middles that is necessary. We tend to keep consuming the same things in the same amounts as we did when we were filled with, “Piss, Vinegar and tons of testerone.” 

Part of our needs as to fuel are changed when age begins its slow, silent and deadly changes. Part of what we should have done and now “NEED” to do is change the way we fuel our bodies. It means not just how much, and that is critical here, but also what we eat. It is time to start, if not already, to discover what is best for our bodies so that we fuel it properly much like how we used high octane fuel for our muscle cars. The better that muscle car engine idled and ran the more horses hit the pavement so that it moved that mass, our bodies if you will, creating energy within and energy outside with movement of said mass so that when we applied physiokinetic principles along with various enhancing actions such as hara rotation, etc. we can create the most power and force needed in each situation. 

Another aspect of the aging process is our training and practice with more youthful practitioners. Because our bodies WILL change our muscle mass, strength, etc. will diminish and just lifting more and heavier weights will not keep us at the same level as we had in more youthful times. It will help greatly to keep us strong but our strength still changes and diminishes just at a slower rate. What do we do, we start doing something we didn’t do in younger years when we relied on our youth, our strength and our minds to accomplish, we start using more of our minds so that we can use our bodies smarter and that means applying principles over, “Muscling It!”

Yes, in our modern times you would think the younger students would be smarter when it comes to fueling our bodies but remember that they were raised in our modern food industry and that industry tends to rely on the three evils of heath, fitness and well-being - “Sugar, Fat and Salt.” We can say that one aspect the more modern practitioner is now exposed to is the, “Organic Food,” but remember those food requirements to be organic are also politically and economically influenced so be smart, check and verify and validate. 

Our age means our diet and our martial arts will change and one of the great things about martial arts models are their ability to morph to adopt and change according to each individuals changes as they live life and grow along with age. 

Adapt, adopt and embrace our aging and adjust fuel along with other aspects the feed not just the body but the mind and the spirit to boot because it will be your friend and close ally as those years keep adding on. 

p.s. there are some really good references in the bibliography on fueling diets.
p.s.s. you can bet your life that professionals in competitive martial arts are focused on proper diet to enrich fuel, its ability to convert to energy, force and then power. 
p.s.s.s. you truly are what you eat and I can attest to that myself. 

Bibliography (Click the link)

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Age and Targeting as a Victim

Blog Article/Post Caveat (Read First Please: Click the Link)

Well, not just as a victim but even a potential victim. When we age a time will arrive that to an attacker, a resource and/or process predator, etc., may start to see us old one’s as easy targets as if we are just a convenient money teller machine on legs begging to give up money to any dildo who has the nuts to approach and insist. 

Aging does not necessarily mean we will be a target. When we actually reach such an age where our bodies just won’t support that type of defensive activities and aura’s it won’t truly matter since we just might be home bound anyway but that is a pretty high number in years from my view. Regardless, martial arts training for an aging practitioner still provides us the type of movement, confidence and attitude that can tell an attacker to leave this old fart alone. 

To combat aging you have to move and keep on moving. In the martial arts world you are always moving because it is a physical discipline. What most people who are either approaching or in those winter years of life may not realize is this, martial arts as depicted in movies and through sport events like MMA, etc., are not necessary in practice for those who want defense and that includes a mode of defense of the older folks through awareness, confidence and an aura of ability, etc. 

Martial Arts is one of those disciplines that with some adjustments allows a person to continue its practices no matter your age and even physical issues, i.e., those issues can and are manageable and mitigated by the active discipline of martial arts. You can take up and practice any and all forms of martial arts and benefit physically, mentally and spiritually along with a level of defense capability, etc. 

I realized this recently when a few folks were talking to a friend the same age where the conversation rounded toward health, etc., so I asked why they didn’t see me that way. The response I got was pretty much about their perception of me as physically fit, confident and a very abled bodied person. They said I had a certain bearing in the way I moved, etc. I attribute this to a lifetime of martial arts and physical fitness effort. 

Aging does not mean you are a target or will become a target unless you allow your age to govern how you live. You can take charge by applying your efforts to a positive activity that keeps you moving, builds on your confidence and sends out signals that your are NOT a VICTIM. Now, ain’t life grand?

As an aging martial artists and as an experience martial artists I have learned, developed and do practice a more principled based way and it is that principled based way of moving, etc. that makes for a confident personal physical bearing. It is the principles of martial arts that make them unique and variable to the age in which one practices, trains and applies their skills - now that is a trait that carries on regardless, SKILLS!

Bibliography (Click the link)

Read also a great article by God's Bastard "My First Mugging." 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Previous Articles on Age and Martial Arts

Waxing philosophical today so if you don't want to hear about the winter years you can skip this post. I am very close to what is referred to in Asian culture as the "winter years." Those years that are at and exceed the sixty year marker. I turn fifty-nine shortly with sixty just around the corner.

The winter years are different for me and I suspect just about the same for everyone else - mostly. It is really weird too. Often I don't even realize that I am at this age in life. I get a reminder every morning when I look in the mirror and sometimes get reminded when I look at other people on the BART train to and from work that I am also much older than most on the train. 

I often forget until my body reminds me that I am close to my winter years but often still move forward as if I were still in my spring years. I don't mean that I am forcing myself to try and remain at the same levels of fitness and ability that I did then but I don't stop myself from doing things just because I am reaching toward the winter years. I just do things a bit differently and when reminded by circumstances tend to just adjust so I don't abuse my body and mind unnecessarily. I make adjustments, age adjustments.

I do think differently now. I suspect this is how nature intended as I understand from my life that those in winter years tend to have a bit more experience and their philosophy of life is one that can sometimes enlighten those much younger - if they listen. Even when they don't I suspect that the mind stores the information for later use and that is why we sometimes get the "oh shit, that is what that meant" thoughts as we move from spring to summer years and even if the fall years. 

I can say for me that entering into the winter years is kind of exciting even tho it means making some changes that seem disturbing on some level. I sometimes feel that due to my age I have actually learned a few things that I sometimes wish I had recognized in those earlier years. When I feel this I do have the wisdom to tell myself that this is life and I am lucky to have these thoughts now because they were not meant to be there then vs. now. 

Is this actually deep thoughts? I think not. It seems now that it is merely a matter of finally listening to reason - maybe. In my younger years I fell into that trap that I thought I knew everything. I realize that I closed my mind and allowed my rightous perceptions to lead my monkey brain where it wanted to go at the time. I chalk this up to gaining experience. I just thank the powers that are I was able to change and open my mind somewhat - knowing that it can still open more. 

If you actually have the honor of reaching the winter years it can be hoped that they will open the doorway, the gate, toward an open-mind and to finally know that you don't know all things great and small but do want to listen and learn about all things great and small.

Just waxing philosophical about my coming life in the winter years.

Caveat: This post is mine and mine alone. I the author of this blog assure you, the reader, that any of the opinions expressed here are my own and are a result of the way in which my meandering mind interprets a particular situation and or concept. The views expressed here are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of other martial arts and/or conflict/violence professionals or authors of source materials. It should be quite obvious that the sources I used herein have not approved, endorsed, embraced, friended, liked, tweeted or authorized this post. (Everything I think and write is true, within the limits of my knowledge and understanding.)

Ever hear of that shugyo training done in some martial communities whereby training and practice are conducted in extreme weather conditions like very cold ice and snow covered environmental dojo’s? Well, shugyo exists in many forms and for those entering their winter years, approximately sixty years by Chinese standards, must endure many changes that contribute to shugyo. 

First, mentally, as in mind-set or mind-state, we have to take into consideration that as we age, our bodies change in those winter years and our minds age we have to make some adjustments so that we remain strong, energetic and proficient in our practice, training and teachings. 

Second, mind-set/mind-state is considered our strongest martial technique and to disregard that our entrance into the winter years means changes, uncontrolled and immutable, will happen. This goes for our journey through those winter years. 

An example from a personal view is recently I was practicing when I first heard then felt something like an explosion or better described as a rupture. Now, I have been a weight lifter/body builder, a Marine and a Martial Artists all my adult life and part of my more youthful years say from fifteen to nineteen and I consider myself at the very least heathy and fit. It turns out that a tendon/cartilage ruptured just above the back of my knee on the upper leg. The entire area turned black from the blood and it took months to heal enough where I could begin a light training and practice session on that leg. In my spring and summer years it would be about a week and I would be back out there plugging away but not now as I enter and travel the path of the winter martial artist. 

In case you are not fully aware, winter years for most begin at the age of sixty. This is the way some of the historical ancient classics of Asian studies equates the aging process. I have articles elsewhere about this aging stuff, i.e., spring, summer, fall and winter years for a full cycle of human life and existence. 

Part of martial arts mind-set/mind-state training is a kind of reality check. In this particular case, discussing the aging process in the winter years, we need to tell our ego that just because we can’t lift weights or run or spar like we did when we were twenty-four does not mean we are losing our capabilities as martial artists. It just means we have to change our path a bit and follow one that is conducive to our aging efficiency and proficiency. It is a bit like my Sensei would say, “As I get older I switch from being physically dominant to being a real sneaky bastard.” He was saying that to be sneaky we have to develop our full and complete martial arts where muscle is less and principles, etc., are more or rather develop a solid balance where no one aspect dominates so when one fails or is lost the others quickly fill in the void. 

I am sixty-one and that rupture really drove this home that I needed to be smart and make adjustments for a solid, enjoyable and learning path that embraces my journey through the winter years of life and it also lets us all know why martial arts properly disciplined takes us through the entire aging seasons of life. Consider this an extended winter shugyo training model.

The winter years is in reference to age. The winter years are 60 years and more. Recently in other blogs I have read sadly about those who have reached their winter years passing to that greater dojo and it reminded me that many of our leaders in the martial arts are reaching those winter years and later which means our time with them will be limited.

We often forget that our time in this particular existence is limited. That limit varies yet it often hits around the seventies or eighties with a few who have reached over one hundred. 

If you have someone who is in the later winter years and remains among us to guide and mentor make sure you remember and give respect and thanks to them because once they pass the gate into the great dojo it will be late, too late. In my case I have been in contact with my Sensei who has reached 75 years. We are getting together here in the next few weeks to reminisce and practice. What will you do for your Sensei or Martial Leader?

First and foremost it must be understood that I have no research or medical credentials on this subject. Second, this and any other posting on the aging process for martial artists comes from my personal experiences only and are not meant to project these theories on to anyone else. It is meant to convey the experience so that any other martial artist approaching or in the winter years of life will understand that some things that they experience are not indicative of some kinda of perceived loss. It is just the way life is.

Third, to allow for some validation to what I write I will say that I have been practicing martial arts since I was a teenager. Not seriously until much later, i.e. as a Marine I began serious practice circa 1976. There were smatterings of things martial all during my Marine career and I actually boxed for a period of time as a teenager and unofficially with other Marines during my first four years. I still practice and train with my system of martial arts, i.e. Okinawan Isshinryu karate. Oh, and I am fifty-nine years, one year away from officially being in my winter years. 

I will start with one mental aspect. Not to say all of this will not be affected by anyone's mental state but this one I consider important. I begin with recognizing and accepting that I am not twenty-four years old and that when I participate with others that are within that range I cannot allow myself to be psychological influenced by their state of health, fitness and ability. I have to consider using the fundamentals principles of martial systems to remain steady in practice and training that allows me to be craftier when training with those younger martial artists. There is no shame and there is not stigma I will allow to influence my status as a winter year martial artist. I am now different and as my Sensei used to say to me, i.e. he is fifteen years older than I, that he had to be sneakier than us to remain able and willing to teach, learn and practice with a bunch of testerone overloaded young Marines with a can do and cannot be overcome attitude.

Next is the discovery that those things that our bodies and minds ignored in those summer years will not be ignored in the fall and winter years. If we are lucky the injuries we sustained and overcame in those years will not be as influential in our fall and winter years. We who are at this stage know that when we first rise from sleep that the creaking and aching are not necessarily something we experienced in you youth. If we did it tended to last about two seconds but now tends to last at least a few minutes or sometimes much longer. I have these and I have accepted them as a part of life and allowed adjustments to compensate. 

I used to jump right in with minimal warming up and go to town and now accept that to train and practice with injuries in mind I will warm up and stretch for a minimum of fifteen minutes. I also add in time for the slow and gentle art of tai chi chuan and chi gung exercises so that my body is prepared. It is a shame I glossed over this in those early years for that would and could have possibly reduced the intensity of those aches and pains of today. 

Then there is my thoughts on how one trains, practices and work out. I use to run mini-marathons. I ran all the time. I ran in any climate. I also used weights, heavy weights - both free and machine. I now use stairs, bicycles, etc. to do my fitness and health training along with martial arts practice. I learned and now use tai chi chuan and chi gong as a softer exercise model. You get my drift and the reason I did this was to adjust to how my body, mind and spirit spoke to me as I did the old stuff. Another one of those things some tend to try and stay with just so they can say, "see, I am an old guy and I can run circles around you young guys." Competing of sorts is fun. It is challenging to attempt to do what younger folks do but with the caveat that when the body and mind tell you, you adjust so as to NOT take the body beyond its natural limitations. 

As an aging martial artist you do not have to do everything that your kohai do in the manner they do it simply because you are older. You can still do a lot but in some instances you must relinquish some teaching to those younger black belts who want to some day be sensei. I don't mean stop completely and let your body, mind and spirit sluff off till you get fat, slow and unhealthy. There is no excuse for that regardless of age. 

Then there is eating, the fuel you ingest. Sugar, fat and salt - the deadly three. We young-uns can't get away with eating what we want but I can tell you that at fifty-nine years that doesn't work anymore and all those days of eating fun food and drink will come to haunt you. My knee injury this time took about a year to heal vs. the original two to three months. I could hardly walk and I can tell you whenever I consumed sugar, fat and/or salt it exacerbated the condition a lot. I would take a half hour to get my legs going and when I stopped sugar, fat and salt I found my knee working just fine and that half hour disappeared. The moral of this story is truly, "you are what you eat." 

Strength, the muscular kind. This is a more direct thought previously discussed but relevant all the same. In our more youthful days we rely heavily on our strength and size. It is part of nature that the strongest and strongest includes strength gained by size as well, always survive the best. In the past this was probably true to a certain extent but I expect that histories warriors didn't remain clued to strength and size alone to carry them in battle. I suspect from my studies that the famous Greek warriors used fundamentals principles of martial systems to supplement that strength and size. Then you take into consideration the smaller stature warriors who relied on strategy and tactics coupled with strength, intelligence, knowledge and fundamental principles of martial arts to be the great warriors they were. So, what is it that carries us through to the older ages, the knowledge that it is not just strength and stature that are strong but a combination of the mind, spirit and body so when the body ebbs the mind and spirit take up the slack.

I wonder why we refuse to allow the mind and spirit to grow and prosper along side strength. I speak of strength in muscular form here not the psychological and spiritual strength that makes most warriors - warriors. You can get away with just the physical strength in youth but as time flies you had better have all of it. Every wonder why some good and strong football players stop in later youthful years and then suddenly become a bit heavy and lack that aura once held on the field that is no longer perceived or even present? 

Growing older requires an adjustment so that the mind and spirit can accommodate the diminishment of the body due to time. This is what I am trying say here. 

Maybe allowing for less active roles the mind and spirit morph into the wise person who can pass down knowledge and experiences to the youth. It is not adhering to some belief that we have to remain young and strong and upright but rather knowing we have to manipulate the great three to keep balance so that we may remain productive and respected in our winter years. 

Enough for today, I will continue this thread as thought comes up from within and allows me to realize the truth to it. Then again maybe this is just the ramblings of an old man. Remember one thing tho, if lucky we all will reach and experience our winter years. How we do that matters. 

Actually this is about the effects of aging for martial artists. In general our hearing and vision decline, muscles and associated tendons, ligaments, etc. lessen in strength, our skin and blood vessels become less flexible, and lets not forget the overall diminishment of our body tone. 

Body organs perform less efficiently. Depending on how well you took or take care of your body your organs will diminish by different degrees and the healthier you are the less you will experience. 

The immune system protects us against viruses and bacteria. Our immune systems also lose ground as to their ability to provide protective functions via our immune systems, i.e. antibodies, etc. 

Not to put out a dampener for those of us reaching the winter years but knowledge is power and realizing that our bodies are going to make changes that mean less ability, etc. teaches us to make adjustments. It is a reminder that our bodies are constantly changing and we need to change with them. 

At birth we begin developing our muscle strength and the nervous system. As we reach the toddler stages we develop finer muscle control and motor skills. Then we reach adulthood meaning we stop growing and have reached physical maturity. 

In our thirties and early forties certain chemicals change and our bodies begin to decline. Metabolism slows, i.e. why we begin to get that middle age spread. At the ages of 40 to 65 our muscle strength declines as well as vision and hearing. Our fifties provide us the gift of aging by the decline of cognitive abilities. 

As we enter our winter years, our sixties and beyond, our skin becomes less elastic. Our joints and bones may become brittle. Our bodies ability to fix itself lessens. 

I think you see what I am alluding to here. We aging martial artists shall have the need to consider these changes and make the appropriate adjustments in our training, practice and applications. We spend a good deal of time refusing to accept the inevitability of the aging process. In martial arts it can often manifest itself in our attempts at staying up with the younger martial artists. 

As an aging sensei your experiences and knowledge can still be beneficial and is often critical to younger marital arts learning but it may require a bit of a different approach to passing along to the younger artists. 

Part of being a martial artists and a sensei is the ability to go the full distance. Going the full distance means letting go of some things especially some things that may bring you great joy and satisfaction while maintaining the ability to continue on. I believe this type of mind-set and attitude is how those early Okinawan and Japanese pioneers of martial arts were able to teach, practice and train way past their sixties and in some cases right up and into the hundred year deep winter years. 

This also teaches those who are younger and have the false feeling of invulnerability that how you handle your body both externally and internally will dictate how well your body ages. 

Then there is the second of the holy martial trinity, the mind. How one ages in the mind is of equal importance. As we age we will experience a breakdown in the assembly process of memory. It actually begins in our twenties but gets increasingly more irritating in our fifties. 

In our early years we have reached a level where our overall brain structure is set but what continues to be created and reinforces are the connections between cells, the synapses. As we age the strength and connectivity we gain in our early years will define how those synapses begin to falter and that means how well you can retrieve memory. It as all about the drop in certain chemicals in the brain and that is far more complex than this simple post.

According to sources some parts of the brain are more susceptible to aging, the hippocampus loses about five percent of its nerve cells with each passing decade, the brain itself shrinks and becomes less efficient. Then if you inherited some special unhealthy genes or have been exposed to external chemicals, smoked too much or imbibed way past acceptable levels you will experience faster and greater declines when you age. 

I want to add this quote so you will understand that this is not damning  in and of itself but aging has its effects while you can maintain as stated in this quote, i.e. "While some specific abilities do decline with age, overall memory remains strong for most people throughout their 70s. In fact, research shows that the average 70-year-old performs as well on certain cognitive tests as do many 20-year-olds, and many people in their 60s and 70s score significantly better in verbal intelligence than do younger people."

It has been shown that we can both mitigate problems of aging of the mind but we can also reverse them as well. Knowing this now whether your young or in your winter years means you have the knowledge of find the answers and work diligently to limit the effects of aging. A primary means of doing this is what we all do anyway, physical exercise and mental stimulation, i.e. training the mind. The more you exercise and train the mind the more you stimulate the brain to stop cells from shrinking, etc. 

A stimulating environment goes a long way to create a mind or brain that will endure and carry us through our winter years. You may not learn or remember as well as you did you your spring and summer years but you will learn and remember nearly as well. In many cases the lack of brain ability comes from lack of use. 

As you can see the body and mind will reflect your aging but you also will see that exercise and stimulation of the mind and body through exercises and stimulation will defer the effects for a longer span of time allowing us to reach those late winter years while remaining able to get out there on the dojo floor and practice and train - just a bit different than at age 20 :-)

In a recent article at the Kowakan Blog titled, "Paragons of Health: I Think Not," brings up some relevant points in the practice and teaching of martial systems (in this particular example Okinawan Karate). His post made me think, when is it prudent to stop the leadership role, one that requires health, fitness, knowledge and experience, etc.?

I will use myself as an example. First, as we age (I am closing in by months to my winter years, i.e. 60 years) things change in the body and mind that we may or may not have control over. I have meniere's which is an inner ear thing causing vertigo and my status is the problem remains lingering with bouts where I lose more balance and then gain it back with about 98% most times. Should I teach?

There can be many factors involving a sensei who reaches toward their winter years. There can be many factors that crop up suddenly that will affect a person health, fitness and well-being that could effect their teaching abilities. How you handle those and incorporate them into your training, practice and teaching matters - they matter a great deal. 

Physical disciplines like martial systems require demonstration to supplement the whole teaching model. It means you must be able to demonstrate. It does not mean you have to keep up with younger, healthier and more fit practitioners but you must be able to demonstrate. You must lead by example and your health, fitness and demeanor to include how you walk, talk and the aura you project by the spirit and physical is important.

I liken sense to the military leadership I came to understand as a Marine. Your life depends on the what, how, who, when and other factors of those who would lead. The examples you set by the actions you take mean a lot, a lot. If a Marine goes fat, lazy and becomes unhealthy no matter the past credentials they lose a huge amount of credentials with those who have to do. This applies to all of life but no more so than in the military where your life depends on others of like minded military presence, etc. 

If you are not going to maintain your health, fitness and mind/body for your age as appropriate and if you are not going to maintain a level of expertise and continual update and change to your knowledge and experiences then you should consider relinquishing the mantle of sensei. 

I stopped teaching a few years back and now remain healthy, fit and knowledgable through personal practice and training. I keep researching and theorizing and working it out in my practice (as much as possible without a partner, etc.) to maintain a certain level of knowledge and expertise. I do realize that the lack of working it out with others, i.e. sensei, senpai and kohai, etc., limits my growth but I realize that as I enter the winter years and due to certain uncontrolled issues of mind and body I would not benefit practitioners on the dojo floor so I am kind of retired from teaching.

I am not overweight nor infirm to the point that I cannot do my martial arts but it may lack what I perceive is necessary to give a full and complete system of martial arts over to those who would follow. I relegated myself to an advisor in a academic form with emphasis that one must take all I provide to the dojo floor to work out with a sensei/senpai before melding it to their practice and training. 

An important, a critical essence that is teaching and practicing is knowing when to adjust to the aging process and knowing when to step down as a sensei on the dojo floor. A very difficult thing to detect within yourself. Like many things, it takes hard work and a lot of self-reflection. 

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I wrote an article recently on gravity in self-defense/martial arts but one aspect that is of importance not just in those arena’s but in the arena’s of health, well-being and most important of all, “Longevity,” came to mind. As coincidence (co-incide) there was an article I read early this morning on the dangers of falling after reaching into the, “Winter Years (> 60 years),” regarding loss of balance, etc. resulting in one “Falling.”

Note: Personally, I have to add in the ramifications and obstacles that come from suffering a major “Vertigo” incident. 

As a martial artists who has a modicum of inexperience in judo it occurred to me that it might just be possible and beneficial to use, “Falls from martial teachings,” to combat falling. Falling means gravity and as many of us in martial arts as well as in self-defense know gravity is a major player especially when fighting and/or defense results in deaths, usually from falling and hitting head against very hard objects. 

I don’t have the skill sets to teach but I have come to consider strongly learning how to fall again and to practice falling so that both my age and my vertigo, if that causes me to fall, can be mitigated as to injuries, etc. by proper falling through lessons, in falling properly. I would ask the many Judo and Jujitsu practitioners out there reading this to test this theory out and post as to how it may or may not actually work.

When I read the article on falling it provided many reasons as to why falling occurs. The mainstay of why tends to be the fitness and movement agility levels of those who pass into those winter years. For instance, as a sufferer of polio my legs lean toward certain obstacles and difficulties resulting in my making a concerted effort to walk, climb and work out certain ways. The methods I use help keep my hips, legs, knees, ankles and feet a bit more flexible and in the process contribute toward maintaining balance even under the issues from having vertigo, i.e., vertigo leaves the brain to reprogram and that takes time and concerted effort - the effort is the brain having to make a more conscious effort to maintain balance and as we age that makes the effort more taxing, i.e., you get tired mentally and that mental fatigue can cause the vertigo to disrupt balance resulting in a fall.

As we martial artists age we benefit from a life time of training and practice as it applies to balance, structure and movement. Those are traits that will benefit us when we begin to reach higher age in those winter years. Even with vertigo I find my training actually made a huge difference, in my mind, in my overcoming the effects of vertigo. I still swerve and stagger when the day is long and fatigue increases but if not for my efforts in physical fitness, through martial arts, etc., I suspect my mobility and stability would be much worse. 

As I consider this aspect of life I consider how I can once again make use of controlled falling, not falling as if thrown or taken down in a fight or for self-defense but simply falling properly when balance is disrupted, regardless of the reason, so that I can personally avoid or at least lesson possible injuries from, “Falling.” 

Bibliography (Click the link)

Often, in traditional senses, those who are in the Fall and Winter years are considered to have knowledge, wisdom and useful experience. They are considered to have a sense of ethics, an interest in a more traditional culture and the tend to live in the moment without disregard for the entirety of life, i.e. a holistic life. 

Today, the new generation, has no readily apparent sense of ethics; no interest in traditional cultures and values. They want things now, instantaneously and it results in eating to fast, playing to fast and only living in the moment for the moments sake and self-gratification. 

Those of this nature are coming up on the late summer and into fall years with no real knowledge other than how to make and spend money fast, not real life wisdom to pass down to the youth and no real useful experience that doesn't equate to money to spend. 

This sound daunting and depressing if your in your winter age now. You look back and hope your efforts in serving others had positive effects and results. You fervently belief you did good and that those who you mentored are following a similar path but you wonder. Your normal. 

It is not to late to continue to strive in deeds and actions to convey to other more youthful individuals the meaning of knowledge, tradition, culture, belief and its resulting wisdom. The efforts you present during your winter years can have a profound effect on those who follow and can even inspire change in those who may not currently see things the way they can be and are. 

Age does not necessarily mean one has the wisdom of the ages. The knowledge that takes one to experience useful service can provide for a wisdom of sorts. There are many things that inspire others and it can be either bad, yang, or good, yin or a balanced mix of both as life tends to lean toward. 

If you seek out someone who fits the bill and is of service orientation toward passing down to others then see, hear and feel their wisdom first for if they have it you will "sense it." Nature still provides us that instinctual sense for survival so  the desire to seek out and find wisdom in all forms is still there - use it wisely.

Another short terse post on aging. In most ancient cultures the older folks are revered for their longevity. They are also revered for their experiences and knowledge of life and what life throws at all of us. The cultures I speak of tend to look to the older generation for guidance and leadership because of these and other traits of those who live to the winter years. Especially so because to live that long in ancient times was a rarity. 

Why don't we in the west believe this? Why do we consider our older generation to be a bother and a nuisance? Why do we lose our patience with the older generation as if they are more a bother than a benefit? Why don't we seek out their counsel if for no other reason than to provide us a perspective we as younger humans have not experienced yet? 

I like to refer to the over 100 judo-ka woman, name I can't recall, who still comes to the dojo to observe and on occasion teach judo.  Even at her age and lack of physical ability she is still getting up on occasion and getting on the floor to pass along her knowledge and experiences to younger judo-ka. Why is it we see only this one instance of respect and admiration for those who came before us?

There are many things that change when we reach our winter years but the one hardest to bear is the ignorance and disregard and lack of respect those who follow us pay toward those who have come before. 

This comes to mind to me today as I hear in the halls at work that many think it would best serve the work if they hired newer, younger and controllable young people to replace the experienced, knowledgable and sometimes wiser older work force. Recently a large law suit was successful where about one hundred or so layoffs were awarded a win because they were given notice and all of them were fifty or older. They even called the day of layoff as "grey day." 

Respect our elders, give them their due for they earned it and remember that what they experienced and learned may not be how we do it or want to do it but that knowledge can contribute to a smarter and well informed decision by the younger generation. 

Yes, when I was that young I also tended toward ignoring older folks like me ;-) It doesn't make it right, fair or beneficial to me at that age and consider what I could have accomplished with use of the older guys experience and knowledge!

Back to the aging martial artists. Overall it is a matter of recognition and then modification. As you age you need to make changes accordingly and often those changes fly directly against our inner self caught up with the fact that mortality is an issue. 

When you first stressed your body to take on some strenuous activity you had aches and pains yet those tended to disappear quickly. Those of us in winter years now have aches and pains that are less forgiving. This is the bodies warning system that changes are required. Listening to those same messages even in our youth would best serve us if we listened and broke away from the monkey ego saying "this is what makes us men." This is what makes us tough. This is what makes us able to overcome obstacles. 

Yes, it is but just how much is the question. In our youth we accept it readily enough and when we are in our winter years we often question them as something to be overcome when in reality it is something to adjust too. Inevitable, the aging process is another obstacle in the path of life that we have to find alternate routes around to achieve the goal of longevity with minimal injuries, aches and pains. 

It is ok to alleviate some of them with anti-inflammatory medicines such as advil, not a promo for this one, but we often tough it out. If you want the enjoyment of continuing to work the dojo floor then work smart. Listen to the aches and pains, don't hesitate to tap out a little sooner to keep from breaking tendons vs. simply stretching them to certain limits.

Make adjustments for lack of flexibilities and bodily limits to elasticity of muscles, tendons and cartilage's. Your body will thank you, your mind will relax and your spirit will sour. Especially when you outdo, outlast and out perform younger folks who are still caught up in the monkey ego man thing. It is what I speak of when I say, I am older but a lot sneakier. I am simply using tools that should be taught from the beginning yet often overlooked or glossed over in lieu of muscling it or relying on size, strength and youth to carry the day.

Fundamentals are critical no matter what cause one day you get older and having a solid foundation in fundamental principles means you will still be formidable. Fundamental principles of martial systems never expire while youth does, speed does and so on. It is just a fact of life, if you wish to be able to defend yourself you had better focus more on principles over the fun stuff.

I am sixty-two this Xmas and I have a bum knee, a torn cartilage behind that same knee, stiffness in the legs and other issued in the legs from my time with Polio (one day stopped walking, a year later the legs came back and as age becomes prominent those same legs are enduring repercussions. Then there is all the stress on my body over the years. What does this mean, I can’t do what I use to do at age twenty-five. 

As I aged into my forties and fifties it was about teaching and training practitioners who were in their late teens and early twenties with a smattering of thirties and forties thrown in and I can tell you that when it came to two person practice and kumite, etc. I can not and could not move the way I did at twenty-five so …… I had to be sneaky. 

I am not saying all the time because there is a time to teach and a time to teach, i.e. teach by allowing things to happen in a manner that allowed the practitioner to see, feel, smell, etc. and make conscious decisions then a time to teach by going at it as hard and as fast as possible to stress things a bit. In other words we played a lot and had fun then we got serious and played a lot having some fun. 

At sixty-two I feel a need for solicitude in practice and training. There is much I can accomplish without the stresses and strains, both mental and physical, and injuries that come with seriously practicing while having fun at it (me, I was very serious but I still had fun being serious). 

Many of these younger practitioners often asked, “How do you manage it?” Mostly what I say is that I have learned how to use my body and mind so that when I age I can still use them properly and with seemingly ease but in reality it is the use of craftiness in that I use principles to achieve results over just “muscling it, etc.”

It comes down to “Whole body machinations.” When you work hard and diligently to get the most out of your body it tends to work well, better than others who lean toward muscling it. Whole body machinations are about proper application of physiokinetics (one of the major fundamental principles of martial systems). When you add in “techniques” along with the two others as additional supplements to push whole body machinations to maximum overdrive, i.e. theories and philosophies, you get good stuff.  All this provided, for SD, you have also trained the stress of SD. 

Old men who are “Smart men,” can go the distance. We have read about and seen this in those Asian Martial Artists who have gone on even after dropping deep into the “Winter years (age 60+),” Oh, yeah, it doesn’t hurt if you are one of those guys who has built up a lot of real life experience. 


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I had noticed not long past that my normal walking gate, rhythm and cadence had changed. I realized due to certain uncomfortable feelings that my gate was beginning to shorten. I also made note that my legs didn’t stretch out when climbing stairs and that I was relying on the railings more than I was not that long ago.

It occurred to me that my flexibility was encountering some issues so I had to make adjustments. I began to change the way I trained, my karate or martial arts requires a certain level of flexibility to perform principled based technique so I focused more on those as well as adjusted my walking on a focused and conscious level. I deliberately stretched out my hips, knees and gate and also stopped using the stair rails as well as stretching out my hips, etc., by taking two steps at a time. 

In my karate practice we perform basics where the lower leg basics involve performing technique that stretches and exercises the hip, knee, and ankle joints while requiring more use of balance (I tend to use the legs for stability in practice over kicks, etc.). Adding slightly higher kicks, not a traditional practice in Oki-karate, and that added height also will stretch the hips, etc.

One of the greatest benefits of karate or most martial arts practices are they set the tone for the entire life, i.e., the stretching and practice of techniques, etc., in our younger years creates a state of muscular, skeletal and mental abilities that even when the winter years creep up you still have the ability to both maintain and actually prevent loss of flexibility from the aging process. You may lose some of it because muscles, tendons, cartilage, etc. still have certain losses but to mitigate them early on makes it easier to maintain and prevent in those winter years. 

Now, in the winter years, the focus on both a defensive model along with the health and well-being can be practiced on a daily basis. The kata, basics and drills all will promote a body that remains flexible and actually mitigates loss of flexibility. Even if you had stopped your martial arts practice those early years promote a body capable of retrieving its flexibility, mostly, that will keep you from suffering the pitfalls of aging way into the later winter years.

Okinawa is one of those societies that is known for its aging. It has more people living on into the ages past 100 years and it is due to such things as diet as well as activities that keep the body and mind moving creating a spirit that overcomes obstacles set by nature such as those of aging. Martial arts contributes to attitude and it is the indomitable attitude of Okinawan’s that is conveyed through traditional martial arts practices. 

This is so true that many of our aging fathers and mothers can actually take up forms of practice even if they never did in their pasts and benefit greatly toward a healthier aging lifestyle so they can enjoy the retirement of the winter years. 

Bibliography (Click the link)