Friday, December 21, 2012

Train With A Friend

A few days ago one of this blog's followers wrote in to say how much he loves training in the martial arts with his young son.  That may surprise someone who hasn't attended a martial-art tournament recently, but it certainly doesn't surprise me.  I continually find parents -- father, mother, or both -- joining their children in the training hall, and the entire family wins.  Everyone gets in shape, and everyone shares in the same challenges, frustrations, and successes.  And, yes, many of them compete in the same tournaments -- though in different age groups.
    Whether you study Taekwondo, karate, or another art, you can train together in a way that's just not possible with most other sports.  Have you tried joining your child's Little League team or PeeWee Football squad?  Ain't gonna happen.  You get to sit in the stands while your kids have all the fun.  But the martial arts allow families to train together, grow together, and pursue black belts together. 
    But suppose you're 60 or 65 and your "little ones" are married and have children of their own?  If you're interested in learning a martial art, get off the couch and find a friend who's willing to take the challenge with you.  And if you're a "retired" martial artist, maybe bringing a friend to the training hall will provide the extra bit of motivation that you need.  It doesn't matter whether your friend has martial-arts experience or not.  You can train together and support each other.
    Why bother with the martial arts if you're a "senior citizen"?  Put fitness at the top of the list.  There's no better all-around training program available.  And there's a powerful self-defense component that we can't overlook.  The older we get, the more we look like targets to those who are out for trouble.  But you don't need a huge arsenal of techniques in order to survive a street attack.  What you need more than anything is the will to defend yourself, and that comes only from training.  Beyond that, a strong, swift front kick and a palm strike may be all you need to buy enough time to get away from trouble.  If you're in reasonably good health and have a doctor's clearance to begin training, you owe it to yourself to put on that uniform and hit the training hall.
    If you're already training and have found a senior-friendly school, please send me a note.  I'm happy to publicize senior-friendly martial arts schools no matter where they're located.
    Happy holidays to all.  Hope to find you here at Seniors in the Martial Arts throughout 2013. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Old dogs actually can learn new tricks

This 66-year-old dog recently began taking bo staff lessons after seeing some of the amazing things that can be done with this ancient weapon.  The bo staff is one of the most popular weapons used in martial-arts tournaments, and I've got to say that we've come a very long way from the old wooden staff that might have been used, say, a thousand years ago. 
   To begin with, competition bo staffs generally are no longer clunky, hand-carved wooden items.  Most of them are tapered so that they can generate more speed, and they come in a wide range of materials, from wood to graphite.  The more exotic lightweight staffs aren't designed for actual combat, of course; they're meant to be spun, twirled, jabbed, and whipped at imaginary opponents in a formal exercise that's judged for creativity, fluidity, and precision.
   Now I should mention right up front that I'll never be a world champion with the bo staff.  In fact, so far I have countless bruises that give testimony to the difficulty of mastering the fancier bo staff techniques.  But so far I haven't broken anything -- well, no bones . . . but perhaps a few household objects and a couple of wooden bo staffs -- and I'm gradually getting my brain and body to cooperate in the venture.
   This, by the way, is what my bo staff training is all about.  When you cease challenging your body and mind, they figure it's okay to slow down.  And before you know it, you've merged your atoms with those of the living room couch and the TV remote.  Not good. 
   But there's something else about the bo staff that has become quite apparent as I check out my new bruises each day.  Even a lightweight competition bo staff can generate tremendous striking force, the combination of speed and a small impact surface.  Yes, those ancient warriors knew what they were doing when they first began using wooden staffs as weapons. 
   What can you and I do with this information?  As we age and inevitably lose muscle strength, we can substitute a simple weapon in our self-defense arsenal.  Think cane.  Think walking stick.  Here you have two common objects that are often found in the hands of seniors anyway, so why not learn how to use them for self-defense? 
   If you want to see what a simple cane can do, head to Google or your favorite search engine and look for YouTube videos on "cane self-defense," "cane fu," or anything similar.  You'll find lots of videos, some better than others, all of which demonstrate that something as basic as a cane can become a highly effective weapon when used with a bit of skill.  And listen: you don't need to become a competitive athlete to use a cane effectively, nor do you need to hold a black belt in some martial art.  What you need is some basic training and the willingness to say, "If necessary, I WILL DEFEND MYSELF." 
   Seniors are all too frequently the targets of assaults of every description, and in some cases -- depending upon the strength and fierceness of the attacker -- there's not much to be done about it.  But in many cases, perhaps even most, a senior who is mentally prepared to defend himself or herself AND who has some training to back up that willingness can hold off an attack and buy enough time for help to arrive.
   What's that you say?  You don't need a cane for walking?  So what?  Buy a cane, take some lessons at a local martial arts school, and begin carrying the cane whenever you're headed someplace where trouble might be waiting, especially at night.  Knowing how to disable an attacker with a swiftly applied cane or walking stick could one day save your wallet or your life.
   Interested?  Check around for senior-friendly martial arts schools in your area.  You may also find that a local senior center offers a class in self-defense using a cane or walking stick. 
   Be the old dog that learns a highly useful new trick.  It's not too late.