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.