Thursday, February 5, 2015

Get serious, Taekwondo seniors!

If you're over 50 and wondering whether there's a place for you in Taekwondo, listen up.  Yes, there's a place.  It's called USA Taekwondo, an outstanding organization which the U.S. Olympic Committee recognizes as the National Governing Body for the sport of Taekwondo in America.  And, no, you don't need to be an Olympian to benefit from joining.  So if someone has suggested to you that Taekwondo is only for the young, please read on.
   One of USA Taekwondo's primary missions is to provide first-rate tournaments at both the state and national level, and this is where USAT really sets itself apart from the crowd.  In many, perhaps most, tournaments I attend, the top age group for competitors is often 30 -- and sometimes younger.  And, yes, there's a message in this: if you're "old," don't bother showing up.
   But USAT takes a radically different approach.  I compete in what's known as poomsae, also known as forms.  And USAT's top age group is 66+.  That's not a typo.  The top age group is 66+.  So if, like me, you happen to be 69, you don't have to compete against athletes who are 18, or 28, or even 58.  You can compete against athletes your own age.  And that's a really big deal, because most of us don't get faster or more flexible as we get older.  
   There are numerous USAT poomsae age divisions -- covering all belt ranks as well as both male and female competitors -- but those of primary interest to readers of this blog are the following:
         66 and over
    Notice that at the upper end of the age groups there's a bit of compression -- 61-65 and 66+.  This makes perfect sense, since the older you get, the more difficult it is to compete against younger athletesI look forward to the day when USAT offers an age division for athletes over 70.  This would reinforce USAT's loud, clear message to the entire martial-arts community: seniors are most definitely welcome here!
   By the way, if poomsae isn't your thing, you will also find age divisions for USAT sparring.  In this case, however, the top age group is 51 and over.  I haven't asked why this is so, but I suspect it's a reflection of the number of interested competitors.  While a great many senior athletes still compete in poomsae, most of us have retired from sparring.
   So what should you do?  Join USA Taekwondo, of course.  Here's an organization that is highly senior-friendly, sponsors annual state tournaments from coast to coast, and runs an impressive National Championship every July in order to select our country's international competitors.  Annual membership is only $35, and you can get all the info you need at USA Taekwondo Membership.

   AN IMPORTANT REMINDER:  For senior martial artists who live in or near New Jersey, don't forget about the upcoming 20th Annual Mercer County Nationals, to be held on March 28th at Rider University.  Thanks to tournament director Master Ivan Mendez, this has become an important senior-friendly event over the past several years.  And this year he has taken the friendliness a step further: all black belts 60 and older pay no registration fee.  How much more of an invitation do you need?  
                                        Outstanding Senior Athlete trophy   

   Also new at the tournament this year will be a crystal Outstanding Senior Athlete trophy sponsored by The Ancient Warrior Society, a non-profit organization that honors some of the country's most respected Taekwondo masters and grandmasters for their lifelong achievements.  Tournament director Mendez and his staff will be selecting the recipient from among the day's top senior performers.
   For more information on the tournament, please click over to Mercer County Nationals.
   The martial arts belong to all of us!  No matter what your age, it's time to get in the game.  I wish you much success in your training.