Friday, December 6, 2013

Five fitness lies we tell ourselves

I'm a 67-year veteran of the aging process, and I've spent much of my life around gyms and other athletes.  So I'm reasonably familiar with training myths and, even more, with the outright lies that we often tell ourselves in order to feel better about our fitness programs.  Since we're wrapping up another year, I decided to share my thoughts on five key fitness lies that you might have told yourself in 2013.  Oh, and for the record, I'm guilty of at least three of them.  With some luck and a lot of extra motivation, perhaps you and I can lie to ourselves less often in 2014.
    Since I'm training, I can eat a lot more.  Every year hundreds of thousands -- or perhaps even millions -- of Americans find fitness-center gift certificates under their Christmas trees.  So they amble off to the local gym and begin walking on the treadmill, climbing the stair stepper, and generally becoming more active than they had been.  This is good.  But sometimes you get hungry after you exercise; and sometimes you tell yourself that eating more than you normally do is okay, since you're now on the fitness track.
   Well, here's how it really works.  If you want to gain weight, you need to consume more calories than you burn.  On the other hand, if you want to lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume.  So let's use Joe as an example.  Joe weighs 180 pounds, would like to weigh 165 pounds, and has just begun training at the local gym three days a week.  Each time he goes to the gym he walks on the treadmill at three miles per hour for 30 minutes, burning roughly 178 calories in the process [the actual figure will depend upon Joe's age, fitness level, metabolism, and such].  He feels great after each 30-minute walk and treats himself to a healthy snack: a raisin bran muffin.  Raisins are good for you, and so is bran.  But by the time you mix the raisins and bran with other ingredients, you end up with a muffin that contains about 370 calories.
   So let's do some simple math.  It takes Joe 30 minutes to burn 178 calories by walking; it takes Joe about 2 minutes to eat a muffin that contains 370 calories.   In other words, Joe has just consumed about 200 calories more than he burned.  This is not how you lose weight, Joe.  But Joe's problem doesn't end here.  Because he's "in training," his eat-anything philosophy lasts all day every day.  He eats whatever he feels like because he's burning nearly 600 calories per week by walking on the treadmill.  But since he's now consuming an extra -- pick a number -- 5,000 calories per week, Joe will most likely gain weight at an alarming rate. 
    Since I began training a month ago, I've added 8 pounds of muscle.  A 20-year-old who begins a weight-training program and sticks to it fanatically might gain a couple of pounds of muscle mass in a month.  But that would be an exceptional gain.  A senior gaining 8 pounds of muscle in a month?  In a word, no.  You may have gained 8 pounds, but only a fraction of it is muscle.  See lie #1 above.
   But there is certainly a foundation of truth in this particular lie.  Seniors can, in fact, gain muscle mass.  It won't happen as quickly as it does for a 20-year-old, but it can happen at any age.  You need to train and eat properly . . . and then give the process months, not weeks, to kick in.  If you're 70, you don't need to look like Mr. Olympia.  But you can look and feel stronger than you did before you began training seriously.
    Once I'm in good shape, I can back off on the training.  Well, sure, you can always back off on the training.  No one is stopping you.  But if you're implying that you can back off on the training and maintain the same fitness level, then you're in for a rude awakening.  World-class athletes may switch training gears a bit and back off just before a major competition, but even their "light" workouts would hobble most seniors.  If you're 60+, you should probably aim for a training routine that you can maintain throughout the year.  If you push too hard too often, you run the risk of overuse injuries.  But if you never push enough, you'll never reach peak condition.  So aim toward the middle.  Build a challenging and varied routine that you can stick with week after week.  If you're competing in a martial-arts tournament, you may want to back off a bit just before the event.  But we're talking several days, not weeks.
    I don't need a coach.  Professional athletes always have coaches, but you don't need one?  Doubtful.  What I'll agree with is that you don't need a coach every day.  You certainly need a coach, or a personal trainer, when you first build a fitness program.  Too many aspiring athletes perform their exercises improperly, get hurt rather quickly, and then become former athletes.  Let a pro show you how to do each of the exercises in your program.  If you're a martial artist, this isn't a problem, since your master instructor will most likely pounce whenever he or she sees you doing something wrong.  Once you've built a sensible training program, consider using a personal trainer every now and then to make sure you're still executing the techniques properly and to determine whether it's time to change the routine.  If self-motivation isn't your strong suit, then by all means work with a professional all the time.  Personal trainers can get expensive, but the coaching you get from, say, a master Taekwondo instructor is quite affordable, since it's just part of the class fee.
    Aw, hell, I'm too old to get in shape.  This is the most vicious lie of all, because it keeps millions of seniors on the couch and out of the gym.  Here's my take on it.  If your doctor says you're capable of exercising, count your blessings, because there are hundreds of millions of people on this planet who will never be healthy enough to exercise.  So don't waste the gift.  Exercise.  You can benefit from exercise no matter what your age.  And you can take up Taekwondo or some other martial art at any age as long as you shop around for a senior-friendly school.  No matter what your age, you can gain stamina, build strength, improve your flexibility, and maintain a healthy weight.  Your body is a wonderful and phenomenally complex machine, and it works best when it's well tuned. 
   Since we're approaching the season of New Year's resolutions, why don't you and I resolve not to tell ourselves fitness lies in 2014?  Let's face facts, tighten up our training routines, and be the best that we can be.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Now this is how a tournament should be run

I've had the experience numerous times, and perhaps you have as well.  You show up at 8:30 a.m. for tournament registration.  The opening ceremony begins an hour late. Then you're pressed into service as a judge, even though you simply want to compete.  So you judge all day, and somewhere around 6:30 p.m. you actually get to do your form, or spar, or demonstrate your weapons technique.  Of course, by then you're tired from all that judging and all the attempts to stretch and stay loose for 10 hours.  All you really want to do is go home and rest.
   Well, on November 16th I had the extremely good fortune of seeing just how well a Taekwondo tournament really can be run, and that's what today's post is all about.  Mr. Michael Crocco, owner and head instructor of the Hamilton, NJ, United TaeKwonDo Academy, directed the TaeKwonDo United Regional Championships in Pennington, NJ.  And I left thinking that I had just experienced the gold standard, perhaps the platinum standard, in martial-arts tournaments.  If a tournament can be run more efficiently than this one was, someone needs to tell me how.
   The tournament hosted more than 200 competitors -- ranging from 4 to 67 -- who represented six NJ schools affiliated with the TaeKwonDo United national organization.  Of special interest to readers of this blog is the fact that Mr. Crocco went out of his way to attract "VIP" competitors -- meaning those of us in the 60+ crowd -- for the tournament's three events: sparring, weapons, and forms.  You need to file that detail away, since you should plan to compete in future TaeKwonDo United tournaments.  If a tournament offers a 60+ age division, we need to support it.
   Okay, let's check off a few of the reasons that the recent NJ Taekwondo United Regional Championships was an A+ event.
        -- All the judges were selected and ready to go before the tournament date.  There was no last-minute scrambling for judges on the day of the event.  No frantic announcements over the loudspeaker: "If we don't get more judges, we can't continue."  If you came to compete, that's all you had to do.
        -- The judges were carefully briefed on tournament rules and ran their rings with great skill.  I found the judging to be objective, fair, and demanding.
        -- The entire day's schedule was published online well in advance of the tournament date.  If you wanted to know what time you would be competing, all you had to do was check the tournament website.
        -- Three days before the event all competitors were told what ring they would be in . . . and at what time.  They were also told to arrive at least 15 minutes before their scheduled time.
        -- Believe it or not, the tournament ran on schedule -- like a fine Swiss watch, in fact.  My 9:00 a.m. event began at 9:00 a.m.  My 9:30 event began at 9:30.  You get the picture.
        -- Since competitors didn't need to arrive until 15 minutes before their scheduled times, the competition hall was not the usual frenzied scene that you find at many tournaments.  Why try to crowd hundreds of people into the space at the same time when only a few of them are competing?  By staggering the times and sticking to the schedule, the tournament directors were able to eliminate chaos and make the experience entirely competitor-friendly.
        -- Immediately following each event the winners were escorted to an Olympic-style podium for an awards ceremony.  Each competitor received his or her medal and was announced over a loudspeaker that could actually be heard clearly.
   Bottom line: this was a friendly, highly competitive, extremely well orchestrated tournament that should serve as the model for all martial-arts tournaments.  According to Mr. Crocco, the format is the result of years of trying different models, always seeking the one that best served the competitors and the fans.  As far as I'm concerned, they've reached the promised land.  It really doesn't get any better than this.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Why compete in tournaments?

In a few days I'll compete in my seventh and, I think, final martial-arts tournament of 2013.  So this is as good a time as any to pose the question that I'm sure many senior athletes frequently ask themselves: why compete when you're 60, 70, or older? 
   I can get cute and just ask, "Why not?"  Or I can say, with great authority, that most folks 60, 70, or older actually don't compete.  I'm 67 and still young by the way I define old and young, but I can tell you that I'm virtually always the oldest competitor in every tournament I attend.  Sometimes I'm the only 60+ competitor and therefore have to compete against athletes who are 25, 35, or in one recent instance 45 years younger.  This isn't necessarily good, which is why I would love to see more -- make that MANY more -- 50+ athletes competing in martial-arts tournaments.  But I compete just the same.
   Okay, so why bother?  Well, let me offer a few reasons why you should come out of retirement or take up Taekwondo or another martial art at this point in your life.
     1.  Fitness is forever.  The average American adult is destroying his or her health in a variety of ways, generally by eating too much and exercising too little.  So if your doctor clears you to begin a fitness program of gradually increasing intensity, you would be wise to consider Taekwondo or another martial art.  You need to make fitness a permanent part of your life, and doesn't it make sense to choose an activity that also teaches you how to defend yourself from an attack?  Of course.  But at a certain point your training needs to be put to the test, and that's where tournaments come in.  By training with a tournament date in mind, you'll push yourself beyond your usual limits while preparing, and on the day of the tournament you'll give 100%, not 75%, when hundreds of eyes are on you. 
     2.  Charting your progress.  Your success in the training hall may or may not reflect your level of competence.  Whether you specialize in forms, weapons, or sparring, you need to face new competition -- athletes from other schools and perhaps other styles -- in order to get a genuine progress check.  If you're consistently #1 in sparring at your school but consistently #10 in tournaments, allow reality to set in.  The message is clear: you've got ability, but you haven't yet invested the hours that some other athletes have.  Competing in tournaments is an exciting and sometimes humbling experience.  This is good.  Martial artists shouldn't wear rose-colored glasses.  If you want to get better, work harder.
   3.  Because you can.  Call me old-fashioned, but I believe that if you have some talent, you're supposed to use it.  Billions of people on this planet don't have the health or resources to engage in sports, so I believe it's a bit offensive for capable people to behave as though they're incapable.  If you sit on the couch long enough, well, yes, you'll become incapable.  But this is not nearly the same thing as being born physically or mentally challenged.  So it's up to you to push yourself and use what God gave you.
   I compete in martial-arts tournaments for the same reason that many people run marathons, even though they can't possibly win . . . or play golf even though they'll never beat Tiger Woods . . . or shoot hoops at a local gym even though they'll never be drafted by the Miami Heat  . . . or play tennis even though they'll never be invited to Wimbledon.  I do it because I can . . . and because striving is its own reward.
   If you're 50+ and active in the martial arts, sign up for a local tournament.  And if you haven't tried the martial arts yet, remember that age isn't a barrier.  Find a senior-friendly school, and join the family.
   Enjoy yourself.  Compete. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Balance and Aging

Rumor has it that we get wiser as we get older.  If that's true -- and, frankly, I have my doubts -- it's one of the rare benefits of the aging process.  Let's face facts: the older you get, the more problems you can encounter.  And one of the most troublesome is a diminished sense of balance.
   You can have balance issues at any age, of course, but the potential causes seem to accumulate with age, ranging from inner-ear changes to high blood pressure to reduced feeling in the feet.  The first step in countering balance issues is to see your doctor and let him or her know what's going on.  If the doctor agrees that exercise can help you compensate for the balance problems, you should think seriously about the potential benefits of Taekwondo and other martial arts.
   Since Taekwondo is a kicking-oriented martial art, you spend a lot of time on one foot rather than two.  And this means that you get to challenge your sense of balance on a regular basis.  The more you challenge, the more stable you can become. 
   One simple way to begin is with an ankle-loosening exercise.  Place your hands on your hips, and raise one leg so that the thigh is parallel to the floor.  While holding this position, gently rotate the ankle of the raised leg, first in one direction, then in the other.  It's helpful to bend the knee of your supporting leg slightly, since the joint then becomes an adjustable stabilizing unit.  If you wobble a bit, not to worry.  With practice the warm-up exercise will become routine.  After working one leg, switch to the other.
   It's important to practice this exercise in a safe area, one that's free of objects that could cause injury if you fall.  If you have a thick mat, you can try practicing on that.  If not, try standing close to a wall so that you can use one of your hands for extra stability if you need it.  Just be sure that the wall is clear of all furniture that could be hazardous should you lose your balance and fall.
   After working on this ankle warm-up, work on gentle kicks.  Once again raise a leg so that the thigh is parallel to the floor.  Then gently extend the leg into a waist-high kick, and bring the leg back to the starting position.  Do 5-10 kicks before switching to the other leg.  The power of the kick is unimportant.  Right now we're simply working on balance issues.  The more you practice balancing on one foot while changing your upper-body position [and your center of gravity], the more "muscle memory" you build into the maneuvers.
   While you're working on challenging your sense of balance in this way, you should also begin -- again with your doctor's approval -- a strength-building program.  Without question, improving your leg strength is one of the most important ways to compensate for a diminished sense of balance.  If you have access to a gym, try using the leg-extension, leg-curl, and leg-press machines.  If you're working out at home and don't have a lot of equipment, begin with knee bends.  But don't bend the old knees too far; just get low enough that you feel the muscles working.  And try to keep your upper-body weight back, not forward.  You don't want to be bent over your legs.
   An alternate way of doing knee bends is to place a strong, stable chair behind you.  Sit until your butt just touches the seat, and then stand up again.  Repeat this motion until your legs begin to feel fatigued.  Over a period of weeks this simple exercise can help you regain the kind of leg strength that can overcome age-related balance issues.  Strong legs won't make balance issues disappear, but they can often spell the difference between staying upright and falling.
   I wish I could say that practicing Taekwondo or another martial art will eliminate age-related balance problems, but that's not the case. By challenging your sense of balance religiously and by keeping your legs as strong as possible, however, you'll greatly improve your chances of compensating for what could become a life-threatening problem.  If you've been "retired" from the martial arts for too long, get back on track.  And if you've never enjoyed the experience, remember that it's never too late to put the power of Taekwondo to work for you.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Vibration-assisted stretching

I could never do a full side split, even when I was in my twenties.  I could get pretty close -- a matter of a few inches -- but I just couldn't get all the way into it.  It's a genes thing, apparently.  And now that I'm 67, I find that my side splits are no longer just a few inches from the floor.  If an elephant sat on my shoulders, maybe I'd get there.  But then, of course, I'd also never walk again.
   Nevertheless, working on the side split is still part of my daily Taekwondo routine, partly because it's a challenge and partly because I'm still a tournament competitor.  Several of the forms, or poomsae, that I must perform in competition rely heavily on side kicks, and higher side kicks score better than side kicks that might perhaps threaten an opponent's ankles.
   A couple of months ago I ran across something I had never heard of: vibration-assisted stretching.  I found a reference to this stretching method at Save Yourself, an excellent health-related website published by Paul Ingraham.  Paul and I traded emails, and I began to do some Internet research on the subject.  Turns out there's a fair amount of scientific work being done on the subject of vibration-assisted stretching, so I began applying the concept to my own training as best I could.
   But let's back up a step.  What is vibration-assisted stretching?  The idea is that an athlete -- a gymnast, let's say, or a Taekwondo student -- gets into position for a side split, then applies gentle vibration to each leg while stretching.  The concept, as this non-scientist understands it, is that the vibrations prompt the muscles to contract and relax rapidly, and this in turns allows the stretch to improve without pain.
   So far so good.  I looked online for vibration stretching machines and was able to find a number of fairly exotic items that sold for $4,000 and up.  Maybe you can afford that if you're running a popular gym or a physical therapy clinic, but it's not something your average senior martial artist is going to rush out and buy.
Necessity being the mother of invention, I then thought of a simpler and much cheaper alternative: hand-held vibrating massagers, the kind that the local barber uses on your shoulders after cutting your hair.
   For $28 I bought two Wahl hand-held vibrating massagers.  Two-speed devices, no less!  And then I began using the massagers on my legs while working on my side splits.  Result: my heels are nearly a foot farther apart now than they were a month ago.  That's a pretty big gain in a relatively short time.  Is it really the magic of the vibration stimulation?  I have no idea.  But I learned a long time ago not to second-guess things that seem to work.
   Here's how I do the stretching.  I lie on my back and spread my legs into a V on a wall.  I like to have my butt actually touching the wall to make sure I do as little cheating as possible while I stretch.  I then apply one hand-held massager to each leg, concentrating on the adductor muscles -- the muscles on the inside of the leg that feel the pressure when you try a side split.  Then I let gravity do the rest.  I keep massaging both legs while they gradually come closer to the floor.  I do this for a minute or so and stop before anything hurts.
   I have no idea whether this approach will help you with your own side splits, but I'm pretty well convinced that the approach works for me.  I'm gaining flexibility, and I'm walking away from the training sessions without pain.  At this point in my life I don't really care how long it takes to improve.  My primary goal is not to get injured, since that would cost me weeks or possibly months of training.
   So there you have my poor-man's approach to vibration-assisted stretching.  If you have any thoughts on vibration-assisted stretching that you would like to share with our readers, by all means send them in.
   Train well; live long. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

2013 New England Open Taekwondo Championship

On Saturday, October 19th, Grandmaster Young A. Kwon will once again host one of the most important Taekwondo tournaments of the year: the 21st Annual New England Open Taekwondo Championship.  And based upon last year's packed house, I'd say it's wise to register for this event as soon as possible.  The tournament offers four competitions: sparring, forms, breaking, and power breaking.
   Grandmaster Kwon, a 9th-degree Kukkiwon black belt, has as usual made sure there's room for the seniors among us.  Top age group is 51+, so if you're closing in on 70, as I am, you won't have to compete against 18-year-olds.  I found last year's tournament to be fairly judged, with scores based only upon your performance -- not upon how well you know the judges.  That's a problem with some tournaments, I'm sorry to say, but definitely not this one.
   This year's New England Open Taekwondo Championship will be held in the Tewksbury Memorial High School gym in Tewksbury, Massachusetts.  It's an easy drive for competitors from Southern Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.  And once again I expect to see competitors from more distant states -- New Jersey among them.  For me the tournament requires an overnight stay, of course, but the event is well worth the extra effort.  The competition is excellent; the judging is first-rate; and the Taekwondo camaraderie is outstanding.   Grandmaster Kwon is a most gracious host.  You don't need to bring home a medal in order to feel that this was a day very well spent.
   If you're serious about Taekwondo -- as either a senior competitor or as a devoted spectator -- this is a tournament you'll not want to miss.  For more information, including a link to the tournament's registration package, visit Kwon's Taekwondo online.
   I wait all year for this tournament, so I'm truly looking forward to the 2013 version.  Hope to see you there.  Remember, preregistration makes a great deal of sense for this event.
                           All the best,
                              Russ Johnson

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Training for Baby Boomers Only

Here's a great story in the making.  57-year-old Harry Grimm, a martial-arts student for more than 30 years, spent 19 years running an extremely successful all-ages karate school in Massachusetts.  Then about seven years ago, after moving to Naples, Florida, Harry decided to embark on what he calls his "semi-retirement project": operating a martial-arts school exclusively for adults 40 and over.
   As I've noted in this blog before, all across America you can find thousands of instructors teaching millions of kids.  And the kids, of course, are the great future of the martial-arts.  But because the kids vastly outnumber the adults who are currently training, many martial-arts seniors begin feeling that maybe they're too old, or too slow, or not limber enough . . . and consequently retire to the couch, TV remote in hand.
   Enter Harry Grimm, one man who's determined to make a difference.  He believes that there are an unlimited number of baby boomers who either want to resume training in an adults-only program or who would like to take up a martial art in their golden years.  What better place than Florida to pursue the dream?  So he started up Bucket List Martial Arts, a place where folks over 40 could master karate and perhaps even earn a black belt before, well, kicking the bucket.  His research had indicated that earning a black belt was way up there on the "bucket list" of many seniors, so he began offering a way for serious students to jump in with both feet and fists.
   Yes, there are plenty of senior-friendly exercise programs out there.  Yes, there are plenty of seniors who join each other for the health benefits of long walks.  But the martial arts offer something special: a comprehensive mind-body activity that, if you're fortunate, will become a way of life rather than a brief fling with the fitness program du jour.
   Harry is still trying to reach his target audience in the Naples area, and currently teaches a number of 40+ students in either private or group lessons.  Although there's no tidal wave of 40+ students yet, we think there's a good chance that it will materialize.  His program has gotten excellent press in the local community, and without question there are thousands of prospective students who would benefit greatly from martial-arts training.
   So you don't live in Naples, Florida?  Well, maybe you know someone who does.  Either way, you can contact Harry at If you've had the martial arts on your mind, it's time to stop thinking and start doing.  
   If you belong to a senior-friendly school or have a compelling story about seniors in the martial arts, please send us an email.  We'd like to share the story.
   In the meantime, we send good wishes to Harry Grimm, who's fighting the good fight down there in Naples, Florida.  All the best, Harry.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Maine Coastal Taekwondo Classic

If you live in or near New England, circle August 10th on your calendar and plan a trip to South Portland, ME.  You'll definitely want to be on hand for the 3rd Annual Maine Coastal Taekwondo Classic, hosted by Master Dave Esposito of the Southern Maine Taekwondo dojang. 
   In addition to providing competitors of all ages with an opportunity to test their skills in forms, breaking, and sparring, this year's tournament will also be a fund-raiser for the Boston Strong Foundation.  A portion of each competitor's entry fee and spectator entrance fee will go to the Foundation.  But that's not all.  As part of the opening ceremonies, anyone attending the tournament can purchase one or more $5 "donation boards" and do some just-for-fun breaking in support of Boston Strong.  Never broken a board?  Not a problem.  Master Esposito and his staff will teach you a basic breaking technique to help get the job done.
   I happen to love Maine, and August is a fantastic time to be there.  But there are two extremely important details about this event that have put the Maine Coastal Taekwondo Classic on my to-do list. 
     1. All adult black belts will compete first in each event. 
     2. Poomsae [or forms] competitors will compete one at a time.
   Let me say a few words about each of these two key points.  First, it's a rare tournament indeed that has the adult black belts compete ahead of the younger set.  What normally happens is that the tournament begins with the youngest kids -- perhaps ages 4 and 5 -- and slowly works its way up by age and by belt color until finally, many hours later, the adult black belts get their chance to compete.  But here's the worst part: after the kids finish competing, they and their families generally head for the door, joyously carting off their medals or trophies.  And who's left in the stands to watch the adult black belts?  Well, hardly anyone.  In my experience, by the end of the day the few people left watching the tournament are the spouses and families of the adult black belt athletes.
   Doesn't it make more sense to have the adult black belts compete first . . . so that all the kids in attendance get to see what their futures might hold?  I think so.  By showing off the adult black belts at the beginning of each tournament event, you help raise the bar for all the younger competitors as well as for the older competitors who have not yet earned their black belts.
   And now I move on to a favorite complaint of mine: having two poomsae [forms] athletes compete at the same time.  If you want to know how I really feel, scroll back to my May 15, 2013 post, "A Change I Would Love to See."  Here's the short version: no judge, however experienced, can see every move of two competitors at the same time.  The judge can glance back and forth between the two competitors, but he or she cannot possibly see every technique that each competitor executes.  The judge is therefore certain to miss some big mistakes or some really splendid moves, and that's not a reasonable way to treat athletes who, especially in the higher ranks, have invested hundreds or thousands of hours mastering their forms.
   What these two competition details tell me is that Master Esposito has thought hard about how to make the tournament a learning experience for everyone in attendance and how to treat competitors as fairly as possible.  That's a rock-solid foundation upon which to build a successful tournament.
   For more information about the 3rd Annual Maine Coastal Taekwondo Classic, please click over to Southern Maine Taekwondo and download the tournament packet.  This is a great way to spend a Saturday in Maine.
   Hope to see you there.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Is it muscle, or is it fat?

Here's every athlete's dream: eat all the pizza, ice cream, and chips you want, and any weight you gain will be all muscle.  Sound too good to be true?  Well, of course.  I already said it's a dream.  In the real world, if you don't eat properly, you gain fat, not muscle.  And sometimes even if you do everything according to the book, you still gain weight -- maybe muscle, maybe fat.
   One of the great ironies of exercise is that it causes too many people to get fatter, not thinner.  This is especially true of those who are just beginning exercise programs at the local mega gym.  They feel so incredibly energized by their workouts that they assume that they can eat whatever they want.  So, naturally, many of them eat whatever they want, often consuming far more extra calories than they burned off during the workouts.  Let's face it: consuming 500 calories is a lot easier than burning 500 calories.
   Okay, so life isn't quite fair.  But suppose you're a senior martial artist who trains regularly.  And let's suppose further that you've incorporated strength training into your training regimen, because pumping a little iron is extremely important even to aging athletes.  Finally, let's suppose you begin gaining weight.  Is the new weight all muscle?  Is it fat?  Or is it a little of each?
   There are two simple ways to decide.  1.  Flip a coin, since any answer you give yourself is as accurate as another.  2.  Step on a bathroom scale that measures body-fat content in addition to weight.  I prefer method #2, because it gives me facts, not guesses.  And out of all the body-fat measuring schemes I've examined, this one is by far the most user-friendly.
   For well over 20 years now I've used a Tanita scale.  The folks at Tanita aren't paying me to say good things about their scales, and they haven't given me any freebees to tout the brand.  So what you're getting here is only what I believe: every athlete's bathroom or training room should include a Tanita scale.
   Tanita scales measure fat using a process called Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis, or BIA.   You step on the scale, and a small electrical impulse passes from one foot to the other.  No, you don't feel a thing.  But while the current passes through your body, it distinguishes between fat and muscle through a series of complex calculations that some scientist with a PhD might understand.  Fortunately, you and I don't need to know the math.  All we have to do is read the numbers.  First you get total body weight, and then you get  your percentage of body fat.  If you buy one of the slightly more expensive scales, you also get a third statistic: your body's water content [generally above 50%, since we're built mostly of water].
   How often you step on your Tanita scale is up to you.  I use it every day, because I like to track the effects of certain foods on my body weight and water content.  But over longer periods the scale helps me understand how my weight gain or loss is affecting my muscle mass.  The more muscle mass the better, of course, because among other things more muscle means a faster metabolism, and that translates into a more efficient fat-fighting machine.
   By the way, the Tanita scale comes with a useful booklet that helps you understand what your body-fat percentage should be.  For a 66-year-old male like me, the average healthy range is something like 13-25%.  For women of the same age the range is more like 24-35%.  Some Tanita scales also have an Athlete mode for those who are into serious training, and this mode does some extra calculations to reflect the fact that athletes of any age will likely have lower body-fat readings than non-athletes.
   Are the Tanita scales accurate?  Since I'm not a scientist, I can't answer this question authoritatively.  So I'll hedge a bit.  Once you've established a baseline figure -- let's say it's 14% body fat -- you can keep that number in mind and see how it changes from week to week or month to month.  All you're really after anyway is the direction of your body-fat content.  Are you gaining muscle, or are you gaining fat?  By the way, it's important to use the scale at roughly the same time each day, because the readings will change throughout the day as you exercise, eat, and drink. 
   Bottom line: training religiously is the key to peak performance in the martial arts, and part of your training program should be tracking whether your hard work is successfully keeping body fat under control.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The form is the thing

What you call it depends upon the martial art that you study: poomsae, kata, form, or any of several other names.  But since most tournaments simply list it as "forms," that's what I'll do for this present discussion.  A form is a meticulously choreographed set of martial-arts techniques -- punches, kicks, blocks, stances, and such -- and represents serious combat against a number of imagined opponents.  In my view, the form is also the solid foundation upon which senior martial artists must build their training programs.
   Since I'll be turning 67 this summer, I can no longer handle the kinds of training sessions that introduced me to Taekwondo more than 40 years ago.  Yes, a few things have changed -- cardio fitness, endurance, strength, flexibility, and speed among them.  And since I want to continue my training for many years to come, I would be foolish to disregard the obvious physical changes that come with age.  So I continually modify my training program to respect those changes while pushing as hard as I can.
   The one element of training that doesn't change, though, is my emphasis on forms.  Each form that you learn from white belt through the various black-belt ranks is a masterful lesson in how to apply proper techniques in a combat setting.  Look at it this way: each time you execute a form properly it's like having a master instructor guiding you through key techniques and combinations.  That's because each form you learn was created by master instructors of a given style in order to standardize training throughout the world.  So the Sipjin [5th Dan] form that I practice in Kukkiwon Taekwondo should look the same as the Sipjin form being practiced by someone in Korea, Chile, or Australia.
   Essentially forms represent a comprehensive curriculum for each martial art.  Once you have learned a variety of techniques from your master, you learn how to execute them properly in forms.  You begin with simple forms that rely on basic techniques, and you slowly move on to more complex forms that require a far greater understanding of how advanced techniques can be used in combination against multiple opponents. Along the way, forms deliver two important lessons:
       -- Discipline: a form isn't worth doing if it's lazy, sloppy, or casual.  You must master each movement and deliver each technique as though your life depends on it.  After all, the techniques of the form could very well become a matter of life and death in actual combat.
       -- The power of meditation: in order to execute a form seriously, you must close your mind to the clutter of noises, actions, and intrusive thoughts that surround your inner self.  In my view, practicing forms is an elegant form of meditation that empowers you to forget about "stuff" and to focus on the present moment.
   Since I'm on the topic, I should tell you what a form IS NOT.  It is not an item on a checklist to get you from white belt to black belt in, let's say, two years.  Yes, some schools crank out black belts at an alarming rate, and many of those black belts haven't reached adolescence yet.  But a serious martial-arts school doesn't rely on a checklist in order to advance students from one rank to the next.  Instead, it relies on the student's willingness to push himself or herself to the limit and upon his or her ability to master the necessary techniques.  Knowing all the forms required to reach 1st Dan doesn't mean a student is ready to wear a black belt.  But mastering forms is an important step toward a lifetime of success in the martial arts.
   Do you know of senior-friendly schools in your area?  If so, let me know about them, and I'll be happy to mention them in this blog.  In the meantime, enjoy practicing those forms.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A change I would love to see

Each tournament I attend is different in some ways from all the others, and generally I'm well satisfied with the way Taekwondo tournaments are run.  With rare exception, the tournament sponsors have invested a tremendous amount of time and energy in the venture, much of it devoted to selecting qualified and unbiased judges.  The "unbiased" part is extremely important, by the way.  Every now and then you run across a tournament in which the judges seem to know all the top local competitors and also seem to have certain events judged even before the competition begins.  This, I'm glad to report, is the exception, not the rule.
   But one judging norm that I would love to see changed is the fairly common practice of judging two forms competitors at the same time.  For the uninitiated, this means having two competitors stepping onto the mat at the same time and executing their respective forms -- often different forms -- while being scored by three, four, or five judges.
   Okay, first let's understand why this makes practical sense.  Some tournaments may have 500 or more competitors, and if you had to judge 500 forms, all lasting roughly one minute, you would need over eight hours to get the job done.  Obviously you cut that time in half by judging two competitors at the same time.
   The problem, however, is that no judge is capable of watching two competitors at the same time.  A judge can shift his or her attention from one athlete to the other periodically and get a general impression of how sharp each competitor looks, but he or she cannot possibly watch the full start-to-finish forms of two competitors at the same time.  It can't be done.  And by shifting attention back and forth between the two competitors, judges are apt to miss either the best techniques or worst mistakes -- or possibly both -- delivered by the two athletes.
   So we seem to have a dilemma.  If you judge all competitors individually, you end up with a tournament that never ends.  But if you judge two forms at the same time, there's a good chance that the officials will miss something important.  In addition, there's also a reasonable chance that the two competitors will collide in the middle of the mat, especially if they're executing two different, complex black-belt forms.
   Well, there you have my brief analysis of the problem.  Now it's fair to ask what, if anything, I would do to fix it.  Answer: in the interest of time, I would continue the practice of judging two forms competitors when they are under the rank of black belt; for black belts, however, I would allow each competitor to receive the full attention of all judges throughout the complete form.  Since all black-belt competitors should be executing their forms exceptionally well, it's critical that judges see everything that's right or wrong with each athlete's
performance.  At this level of competition, small differences will make the difference between gold and silver, and judges simply can't see all the small differences if they're being asked to watch two forms at the same time.
   All of this, of course, is just one man's opinion.  If you would like to weigh in on the subject, please send an email.  I'll gladly publish your comments no matter which side of the argument you take.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Conquering back pain

In my family it has become known simply as "the book."  My wife and two adult children have read it.  I have recommended it to countless friends.  And I generally read it myself at least two or three times each year.  "The book" is Healing Back Pain by Dr. John Sarno, a highly regarded physician who has dedicated himself to identifying the link between physical symptoms and the innermost workings of our subconscious minds.
   Let me begin with a true story.  About 14 years ago I was suffering from crippling pain after my back "went out" one morning.  I could barely walk, and the pain ranged from intense to unbearable.  This wasn't the first time I had suffered severe back pain, but this was by far the worst episode.  A colleague at work suggested that I read something that had changed his life, and he gave me his copy of Dr. Sarno's Healing Back Pain.  That day I had to fly to Florida for a business convention, and I read the book from cover to cover while on the plane.  It's a slender book and an easy read -- but it worked a small miracle in my life.
   I hobbled onto the plane in the morning, and that afternoon in Florida I walked off as though I had never had back pain at all.  If this sounds impossible to you, I understand, because it doesn't sound possible to me either.  But it's true, because I lived the experience.
   Here's my very short summary of Dr. Sarno's explanation for what causes most incidents of lower-back pain: our subconscious minds deliberately produce physical symptoms in order to keep us from examining specific elements of anxiety or anger in our lives.  It's the brain's way of saying, "Don't go there."  And by throwing some pain at us, the subconscious mind gets us focusing on something that completely draws us away from the underlying psychological issue that needs addressing.
   This is a layman's very brief overview of a book that is written in plain English and may work a miracle in your life if you're suffering from lower-back pain, shoulder pain, heart palpitations, and a host of other problems related to the phenomenon that Dr. Sarno describes in his book.
   So why am I writing about Healing Back Pain today?  Ah, good question.  Well, this past Friday morning my back "went out" while I was training at the gym.  And the timing could not have been worse, since I was set to compete in a tournament the following day.  I'm sure that many of my readers understand how it feels to have all those months of preparation go down the drain the day before a tournament because of some dumb injury.
   But this story has a happy ending, thanks to Dr. Sarno.  I went home and read "the book."  One of the points that Dr. Sarno makes is that IF your back is structurally sound -- and doctors have found that mine certainly is -- then the pain is caused not by injury but by the actions of your subconscious mind.  And the best -- actually the ONLY -- was to overcome the pain is to accept that it's a fraud.  Rather than tiptoe around the pain, take it for what it is: a phony roadblock that your brain has set in your path.  Long story made short: after reading Dr. Sarno's book yet again, I was able to compete the next day, high kicks and all.
   Fifteen years ago this would not have been possible.  Back then I would have seen a doctor, who would have prescribed pain killers, physical therapy, and rest.  The doctor might also have said, "Oh, and stay away from that activity, because your back can't take it."  Thanks to Dr. Sarno, I now know that the enemy is psychological, not physical, and that there's no reason to baby my back.
   I'm 66, and perhaps one of these days I'll have an actual physical ailment that prevents me from practicing the Taekwondo that I love so much.  But I'm not there yet, and chances are you aren't either.  If you're sitting on the sidelines because of back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, or any other "problem" that's making life less fun than it should be, please do yourself a great favor.  Buy a paperback copy of Healing Back Pain.  Here's hoping the book works a miracle in your life . . . as it has in mine.
  All the best to you.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Put the YOU in AAU Taekwondo

A couple of weeks ago I had the good fortune -- and the good sense -- to compete in my first AAU Taekwondo tournament.  So now I ask: why did I wait 66 years for something this outstanding?
   Since this was my first AAU Taekwondo event, I really had no idea what to expect.  After all, every tournament I've attended has had a different sponsor, and each tournament has been wonderful in its own way.  But I must say that the AAU Taekwondo Middle Atlantic District Championship -- hosted by Grandmaster Louis Parlagreco -- truly raised the bar for other martial-arts tournament sponsors. 
   A major reason for this, as it turns out, is that the AAU has a highly detailed handbook that specifies precisely how a Taekwondo tournament will be run.  The handbook covers, well, just about everything associated with a tournament -- from how to obtain official AAU sanctioning for the event to the hand signals that judges will use when managing their events.  And, yes, the handbook even specifies what the certified judges will wear in order to give the event a highly professional look: white shirt and tie, black slacks, white sneakers, etc.  Does this really matter?  Absolutely.  From the moment you step into the competition hall, you have the feeling that things are very much under control.
   I found the judges to be well trained, highly consistent in their application of the rules, demanding but fair in their scoring, and completely in charge of their rings.  When the judges are on top of their game, the contestants and spectators go by the rules.  No bad-mouthing calls; no trash-talking; and no obnoxious second-guessing from the stands.  This is how it should be, of course.
   The other benefit of having certified judges running their assigned rings was that the entire tournament ran like a finely tuned Swiss watch.  Events began when they were supposed to, and competitors always knew where they were supposed to
be . . . and when.
   Okay, so this was an outstanding event.  What does that mean for you?  Well, it's time to put YOU in AAU Taekwondo.  Your next opportunity will be the AAU Taekwondo New Jersey State Championships, to be held on April 20th in Spotswood, NJ.  Click over to to find out how to join the AAU and how to register for the upcoming NJ event.   Or you can begin by looking at the tournament flyer at AAU Taekwondo NJ Championship.
   If you're a Taekwondo Senior, it's time to get back in the game.  And by the way: the AAU also offers tournaments in other martial arts, so don't feel left out if Taekwondo's not your style.  Visit the AAU website today.
   Hope to see you at a tournament soon.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Mercer County Nationals: Two Thumbs Up

Here's a well-deserved tip of the hat to Sensei Ivan Mendez for the outstanding job he did with this year's Mercer County Nationals martial-arts tournament.  The event was held on March 16th at Rider University, and this year Sensei Mendez had arranged for the use of two gyms instead of the usual one.  The second gym really helped, because once again the tournament attracted hundreds of competitors as well as serious crowds in the stands.
   I had the pleasurable task of spending the entire morning as a judge for one of the kids' rings -- intermediate girls ranging in age from 10-12 -- and I was extremely impressed with the level of skill they exhibited in both forms and point sparring.  In addition to a high level of competitiveness, the girls showed a strong sense of camaraderie, and that's an essential ingredient of life in the martial arts.  In every tournament a few people go home with medals or trophies while most don't.  But everyone wins by trying his or her best, by learning new skills, by meeting new friends, and by showing respect for the discipline that lies at the heart of all martial arts.
   When not judging, I had time to catch some action in the other rings -- from kids 6 and under to folks over 60 -- and found the level of competition to be exceptionally high.  My only disappointment was in not seeing more seniors in the tournament.  I had alerted this blog's readers to the fact that Sensei Mendez had created a senior-friendly tournament by offering both 50+ and 60+ divisions -- something you don't often find in large tournaments -- but too few seniors donned their uniforms this year.  If you weren't there, you missed a golden opportunity to participate in friendly as well as spirited competition. 
   So now you have to wait until next year.  But that gives you plenty of time to get active in the martial arts or perhaps to dust off the uniform you haven't worn in a few years.  If you're 50+ and reading this blog, I hope to see you at the Mercer County Nationals in 2014.  If you join me for this major event, you'll look forward to it each year.
   Congratulations to Sensei Ivan Mendez on the highly successful 18th Annual Mercer County Nationals.  Let's all be on hand for the 19th Annual version next March.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Thoughts on tournament preparation

As I've mentioned in this blog twice before, the Mercer County Nationals will be held at Rider University on Saturday, March 16th.  You can check back to previous posts for all the details.
   Today's topic is related but different: how do you prepare for a martial-arts tournament when you're 55, 65, 75, or older?  The answer is different for every senior, of course, depending upon your exact age, level of fitness, and martial-arts experience.  Oh, and yes, the answer will vary according to what your physician says.  You should not undertake any serious athletic venture until you've been checked out by the doc.
   But here are some general tips that may help you, especially if you've been off the tournament circuit for some time.
   1.  Understand why you're competing.  Tournaments are merely an extension of your formal martial-arts training, so think of them as steps toward your long-term goal of mastering your particular style.  Don't think about the color of a medal or trophy.  Simply do your best.  If you compete, you win.  This is not about capturing awards.
   2.  Know what you're doing.  If you're competing, let's say, in forms, you really do need to know the form.  This sounds awfully obvious, I realize, but you'd be surprised how many competitors simply don't know the form they're supposed to be demonstrating.  Okay, a few people forget under pressure.  But most of those who fail to finish just didn't practice enough.  How much is enough?  In order for a form to become second nature, you will have to perform it hundreds of times.  If you haven't invested that sort of time, save your entry fee for the next tournament.
   3.  Cardio training is essential.  Whether you compete in sparring, forms, or weapons, you need to have the stamina to get through an entire day.  Even though your event may last only a minute or two, you'll feel the adrenaline pumping all day long as you watch other competitors in action.  By the time your event gets called, you'll need all the reserve energy you can muster, because even a one-minute form will drain you if you do it seriously.
   4.  Taper your training.  As you approach the tournament date, you need to begin resting any overworked body parts.  How far in advance you shift into "maintenance mode" is up to your body, but generally you should figure on taking things a bit easier for one or two weeks prior to the tournament.  The goal is to avoid over-use injuries, and you can do that by not going all-out during your practice sessions.  It's important to stretch every day and continue moderate cardio training, but don't train every day at "competition level."  Save that top level for the actual tournament.
   5.  Warm up, warm up, warm up.  Don't plan on getting to the tournament and walking right into your event.  Instead, get there a couple of hours early so that you get a feel for the facility, the crowd, the other competitors, and your emotions.  Once you've settled in, begin a gentle workout: dynamic stretching, static stretching, light kicking, and so forth.  Get your body warm, and keep it warm and loose right up until your event is called.  Maybe some 20-year-olds can just jump onto the floor and fly through their routines without warming up, but you're not 20, and neither am I.
   6.  Cool down properly.  The proper way to cool down after a workout or a tournament event is to stretch.  Remember, a tournament is really just another training session, and you should end every training session with stretching.  The best time to stretch is ALWAYS after your body is well warmed up.
   7.  Search for the next tournament.  If you approach your first tournament as an enjoyable learning experience, you'll find that you'll want to compete again.  Try to get in at least three or four tournaments each year so that you always have an intermediate training goal.  If you approach each tournament as part of your long-term goal of mastering a martial art, you'll add immeasurably to your level of knowledge and self-confidence.
   Hope to see you at the Mercer County Nationals on March 16th. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Mercer County Nationals: A Senior-Friendly Event

If you're a senior in the martial arts, plan now to be at Rider University in Lawrenceville, N.J., on March 16th for the 18th Annual Mercer County National Karate Championship.  Under the leadership of Master Ivan Mendez, this year's tournament promises to be an even bigger success than last year's first-rate event. 
   Last year's tournament attracted 550 competitors and more than 700 spectators.  To help accommodate the growing interest in this family-oriented program, the 2013 Mercer County Nationals will operate in two Rider University gyms rather than just one.  Athletes will once again be able to compete in weapons, forms, point sparring, and continuous sparring, in each case according to age and rank.
   The tournament is open to martial artists regardless of style, so for spectators this is a golden opportunity to see top competitors representing a wide range of martial-arts disciplines.  Media coverage for the event will be provided by Action Martial Arts Magazine.
   One of the most important features of this year's tournament is best represented by the words of the director, Master Mendez: "We are seeking female & male competitors over 50 & 60 years old to participate in the event's activities. This year we would love to commemorate SENIORS for their efforts and contributions to the martial arts."  If that doesn't sound senior-friendly enough for you, then you should read the sentences again.
   Many tournaments -- too many, I would say -- have a top age group of 35 or 40, and that doesn't send a warm-and-fuzzy message to those of us who are pushing 70.  So I give Master Mendez two thumbs up for actively promoting the role of seniors in the martial arts and doing what he can to attract older competitors.
   The rest is up to us now.  If you're 50 or older and still active in a martial art, please join me at the 2013 Mercer County Nationals.  It's not about whether you come home with a medal.  It's about staying in the game, doing your best, and making some new friends. 
   See you at Rider University on March 16th.  For more information about the 2013 Mercer County National Karate Championship, please visit 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

You just ran out of excuses

If you live in Central New Jersey and have been complaining that you can't find martial-arts programs for seniors, you'll have to find a new excuse for not training.  There are now two ways for you to access senior-friendly programs if you live in or around West Windsor.
   Free workshops for senior centers.  Yours truly is now offering free "senior self-defense workshops" -- either one or two 45-minute sessions -- at official community senior centers in Central New Jersey.  The sessions can cover unarmed self-defense only or incorporate self-defense techniques using a standard cane.  These programs cover a set of basic techniques that seniors can use in the event of an attack.  Participants should be cleared by their physicians to take part in this low- to moderate-intensity program, and all participants MUST sign a liability waiver.  If you're interested in this no-cost basic workshop, please speak with your local senior center director so that he or she can place me on the schedule.  A contact form is available at                                          
   Ongoing martial arts classes.  Men and women who are 55 and older can enroll in a senior-friendly program offered by my friend and colleague, Master Steven Phillips (pictured at right), owner and head instructor of the West Windsor Taekwondo Academy.  A 5th-degree black belt who has more than 90 championships to his credit -- including world championship belts for kickboxing -- Master Phillips will provide classes for seniors who are either just beginning their martial arts training or for experienced martial artists who want to train with other seniors.  Students of all ranks and styles are welcome to participate in this "fitness and self-defense" program.  For information about enrollment and the nature of the training, please contact Master Phillips.  You'll find his phone number at  Pictured below is a portion of Master Phillips' West Windsor studio.
West Windsor Taekwondo Academy
   As I've said in this blog many times before, it's not too late to "unretire" or to begin martial arts training for the first time.  For a fuller discussion of why I believe seniors belong in the martial arts, simply visit "Taekwondo for Seniors" at
   Hope to see you before long.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Where to buy your martial-arts equipment

Reader alert: this is NOT a paid advertisement.  It's just some neighborly advice based upon my own experience in shopping for martial-arts gear. 
   If you live in New Jersey or anywhere near Philadelphia, the place you want to visit is Academy of Karate Martial Arts Supplies in Haddon Heights, NJ.  Live in Montana?  Then check out the store online.  If it exists, they have it.  And if they don't have it in stock, they'll get it for you.
   Because I hate shopping for anything, it's not my nature to brag about great stores that I've found.  But the Academy of Karate rates all five stars that I give it for quality, prices, and service.  And get this: I normally drive there [40 minutes each way] rather than order online just because I like the place. 
   Uniforms?  Yes, an exceptional variety.  Weapons?  You bet.  Kicking dummies?  Any kind you want.  Books?  A first-rate selection.  And most of the time when you visit the store you'll bump into fellow martial artists -- often school owners -- who are buying equipment for themselves or their students.  So you often get to strike up a conversation with someone  you aren't going to meet in the dairy aisle of your local food store.
   When I need something but can't visit the store, I just call.  Friendly service that brings the martial-arts equipment to my front door.  What's not to love?
   I don't accept advertising for this blog.  My only goal is to help keep senior martial artists training and competing.  So here's today's simple tip: put Academy of Karate Martial Arts Supplies on your team.  Check out the store online right now to see what you're missing.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Mercer County Nationals, 2013

The new year has begun, and hundreds of us who live in New Jersey will kick off the tournament season on March 16th at Rider University.  That's when Master Ivan Mendez will host the 18th Annual Mercer County National Karate Championships. 
   I had the pleasure of competing in the 2012 version of this tournament, and I can tell you that it was well run, fairly officiated, and loaded with talented athletes ranging in age from under 6 to over 60.  The event offers competition in sparring, forms, and weapons, and each category is broken into a huge range of age groups and is further refined by the competitors' ranks. 
   Although most of the age groups cover the younger set -- it sometimes seems that every kid in America is currently studying a martial art -- I think it's important to know that Master Mendez makes sure there's room for old guys like me in his tournament.  So you'll also find "Senior" and "Executive" divisions.  "Executive" sounds much nicer than "really old," doesn't it?  Either way, I'll be there on March 16th.
   If you're 60 or older, please plan to compete!  Through this blog I have been trying to locate as many 60+ black belts as possible and urging them to participate in well-run tournaments.  So here's your chance.  Remember, it's not about whether you win a trophy.  It's about showing that older martial artists don't have to be put out to pasture.  In the March 16th tournament you won't have to compete against some who's 21.  You'll be able to show your stuff against martial artists whose ages are close to yours. 
   If you haven't competed in a tournament recently, you'll find the Rider University gym to be an outstanding venue, conveniently located just off
I-95 in Lawrenceville, NJ.  For more information about the tournament, visit, where you'll find details on the competition itself as well as driving directions and registration materials.
   If you're a senior in the martial arts, now's the time to get back in the game.  Hope to see you on March 16th.