Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Taekwondo After 65

No, that's not a misprint.  It's "Taekwondo After 65," not "Taekwondo After 15."  While it's true that many Taekwondo classes are comprised exclusively of teens and pre-teens, it's also true that a great many men and women over 65 are still active after 30 or 40 years of Taekwondo training while others their age are just taking up this rejuvenating martial art.
   As long as your doctor clears you for vigorous exercise, you'll find that Taekwondo can work wonders for your body and mind.  It's not quite a fountain of youth . . . but it's close. 
   If you're taking up Taekwondo for the first time or resuming your studies after a prolonged layoff, keep these two bits of advice in mind:
              1.  Set reasonable goals
              2.  Adjust to the biomechanics of aging.
   When it comes to setting goals, make sure you fine-tune your training schedule to accommodate both the length of time it will take to get in shape and the level of achievement you can logically expect.  If you want to join the U.S. Olympic team in six months, you'll be disappointed.  It ain't gonna happen.  No one 65 or older is going to be sparring on the Olympic stage, and no one at any age can go from a standing start to Olympic glory in six months.  But if your aim is, let's say,  to earn a black belt in three years -- and to get in wonderful shape along the way -- there's a reasonable chance you can get there.  You'll certainly get in shape.  Whether you earn the black belt on schedule is basically a matter of choice.  If you choose to put in the time and effort, you can probably succeed.  If not, you'll still be better off for all the work you've put in.  It's what you learn -- and not the color of the belt -- that matters.
   Throughout your training you must, of course, accept the realities of aging.  You don't need a medical degree to realize that athletes who are 65 and older face some challenges that kids 15 or 16 probably don't.  Even elite athletes begin losing something as they age, no matter how hard they train.  Flexibility, muscle mass, endurance, and quickness are among the numerous biomarkers that can be affected.  And at 65+ you may have joint or recovery issues that didn't affect you 50 years ago.  But, trust me, you can work around virtually any reduction in capability.  Just remember that you're competing with no one but yourself.  Taekwondo is about getting your mind and body in the best shape possible . . . and then maintaining that level to the best of your ability.  For how long?  Forever, naturally.
   Find a school that has a nucleus of adult students, and then speak with the master instructor to make sure he or she is prepared to work with someone your age.  You should not be expected to train immediately with a group of 30-year-olds.  But once you've grown accustomed to the program and carefully eased yourself into a better level of fitness, you'll most likely be keeping up with everyone else in the class.  You know your body best.  Set reasonable goals, and recognize that whipping an older body into shape takes some time.
   Good luck, and good training. 

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Many thanks for sharing your comments with Seniors in the Martial Arts. Best wishes for continued success with your training.