In Short: Rejuvenating.
I am not an athlete, and never have been one. I am a pudgy middle-aged matron with arthritic knees who hated gym class in grade school, and never did much in the way of fitness training for a good part of my life. But today I am a martial artist, and that’s the beauty of martial arts: anyone can be start at any age and reap many benefits.
It started as I was approaching my 50th birthday — and was already starting to feel the effects of aging. A slow decline into physical and mental decrepitude was in the cards if I didn’t do something about it soon.
Why martial arts? The challenges are both physical and mental, the history is fascinating, and I get to hit things with sticks — what a hoot!
The benefits of studying martial arts have been far more rewarding than I could have predicted. Physically I am stronger, more flexible and agile, and have more stamina and endurance than ever. I can climb up and down stairs and ladders with confidence, and carry heavy bags of groceries with ease. I can reach things on high shelves or in the cupboard under the sink without having to ask for help. This is definitely the fittest I’ve ever been and it feels great!
Mentally the effects are just as pronounced. I am far more confident and outgoing, less afraid of taking risks and getting hurt, and more open to trying new things. Slippery sidewalks in winter are no longer to be feared; not only do I have a more stable footing, but I know how to fall without getting injured.
Of course, any program of physical activity is better than none, but martial arts are a great option that many older adults don’t consider. There are a few key considerations. First, find the martial arts style and school that is right for you. I started with karate but didn’t like it. I soon switched to a Filipino art called Modern Arnis, which uses weapons such as sticks and blades for self-defense.
Soon after, I started training in American Eagle Cane, which is a self-defense art suitable for anyone with mobility impairment. Students train with canes, walkers, even wheelchairs. Last year, I added Okinawan Kobudo to my training. This art consists of training with traditional weapons such as nunchaku, bo and sai.
Another important consideration is that you probably will not be able to do everything your 20-year-old training partner can do. I will never be able to roundhouse kick someone in the head like Chuck Norris — not that I would ever want or need to — and I’m OK with that. Also, you will have to be more careful about injuries as an older martial artist. We can get injured more easily and take longer to heal. Take care of your body and you will be able to train for many years.
I will be 60 this year, and know that my martial arts training will stand me in good stead for decades to come.
RoseAnne Mussar is a career software developer approaching retirement who enjoys hitting things with sticks, cracking whips, playing drums, and thinks that any day where you learn something new is a good day.
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