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 Post subject: Aging Karateka
PostPosted: Sat Sep 17, 2005 1:01 am 
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The 24FC website that has been posted about recently on these forums is worth a visit. Upon checking it out, I ended up reading an article about aging and karate that raised, for me, some questions. I have taken out an excerpt but the article is worth a read...

http://www.24fightingchickens.com/?p=45#more-45
Quote:
However, I do not hold any illusions that these men and women are as good as they once were, or that their abilities and potentials are not in decline as mine are. Their associations may continue to award them higher and higher dan ranks in appreciation of their continued service, example, leadership, and contribution, but they know the same thing about themselves that I know about myself: We are going downhill.
...
Karate players, seeing these higher ranks awarded to the senior instructors, who are men of talent, to be sure, confuse holding on to talent with having increasing levels of it. Just like in any other sport, karate players peak in their twenties, perhaps in their thirties, and then it is all downhill.

But the aging master of karate, with deep lines of wisdom in his face, shows his wisdom by not entering into tournaments or being seen sparring young folks and getting his rear end handed to him.


I am sure there is some truth to what is said in those paragraphs. There is some slowing down and loss of strength after a certain peak age. However, I think that the article and the concept of the aging karateka deserves a little nuancing.

There are a few assuptions made that merit some thought...
1. That the value of the aging "master" decreases because he can no longer win fights at tournaments.
2. That the idea of a physical peak is necessarily as important to the average karateka as it is to an elite athlete.
3. That the idea of working "smarter" can be discounted.

So here are my thoughts...
1. At least in Uechi, from what I understand, the rank of Master is that of a valuable teacher. I don't think it is fair to say that organisations hand out rank to older practitioners just to thank them for their service. I think they become more and more valuable as they learn through their teaching and gain deeper understanding into how to pass their skill on. This doesn't happen "just because" you get older, but it takes time to gain that insight, so many great teachers/coaches are older.

Also on the same point, I think that you have to differentiate between tournament sparring and fighting. Toughing out any number of rounds through the unfolding of a tournament is much different than a fight over in 10-20 seconds. So that run down old guy that got beat in the tournament might kick the same guy's a$$ if jumped in the parking lot...?

2. This idea of a physical peak is certainly important in elite athletes. Look at Andre Agassi. He really is not THAT old, but everyone thinks his recent performance is a miracle. However, we are talking about the top 1% of the tennis world here, and how much difference in performance is really seperating the 20 something year old players from Agassi? Not much when you think about it!!

And the way modern medicine, nutrition, sports science, etc are today, the physical peak does not necessarily have to drop by much for quite some time. Sure, when you are at the very top of your sport, when you need to be at 100% of your potential, age is going to matter. But for us regular folk, we are SO far from our physical potential that we can't use age as the excuse. Heck, I take way better care of myself now than I did when I was 25. And I can say quite objectively that I am stronger, faster and more agile than I was then.

Granted, I am far from, and never expect to reach, my potential in Uechi either. So I can see the author's point about physical potential when related to the very best. A master like Kiyohide Shinjo probably does feel the physical prowess recede as he gets older, but only because he is one of the 1% who actually reached his physical potential, like Andre Agassi.

3. And then there is that "myth" that says that as you get older you get "smarter." This idea gets discounted to some extent in the article, but I think it is true in many ways, especially for something like MA that have a heavy reliance on tactics and strategy.

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day who plays tennis. He is a skilled player who has been at it for quite a while. He regularly plays this other guy at his club who is pushing 70. He ain't fast and he ain't that strong, but my friend just can't beat him. Sure, he wins a point here and there, but the old guy justs reads the game so much better than him, thus using better tactics and strategy.


Well, this whole thing is getting long, but I'll finish with two reflections...

First: A few years ago Jim Maloney grabbed me and put me into one of those pressure point locks. He sure as heck did not seem old or slow!!!

Second: Most of us can rest assured that we are nowhere close to peaking out physically. We still have lots of room to improve even as we age, so we shouldn't worry about it...


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Sep 17, 2005 3:55 am 
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Joined: Thu Sep 23, 1999 6:01 am
Posts: 1509
Location: on the path.
Asteer:

My teacher just turned 60.
His bones are apparently made of concrete and he is faster than a snake.
His SanSeiRyu is so energetic and powerful it makes me feel like "why did I ever bother starting?"

He can demonstrate (even painfully so) EVERY concept and technique he teaches, and we all secretly fear being asked to be the demo "meat puppet" when he needs a volunteer for a drill.

I pray that a swarmer or home invader will make the grave mistake of targetting him, and consequently winding up themselves permanently hospitalized.

I aspire to even a fraction as competent when his age. Of course, I won't be, I started too late. Let THAT be a lesson to any readers--START NOW!

NM

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Sep 17, 2005 6:29 pm 
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Location: Victoria BC
I like 24fg even when I don't agree with him.

I started formal karate training in 1972 as a total non-athlete. After 8 years I started to get the hang of it and understand my body a little. Many people never reach this stage and quit as no understanding has been developing.

But it is the doing that brings understanding, not the thinking about them!

At 15 years, without any special emphasis, I was suddenly doing things differently and better, ie, stronger, in better balance, more graceful and effective.

After 20 years I found I was often finshed a combo before I decided to start. I was not thinking any more at all, just doing.

The last 10 years I have been adding Modern Arnis concepts and Chen / Bagua Zhang concepts into my karate. It has been an excellent education in getting better as you get older.

Because of the disassociation between my mind and body and the weakeness of my body when I started, its been a long haul and I believe I could only have achieved anything thru a committed effort of many years.

I have nothing to say about the 1% who are natural athletes who walk into a dojo and just have to be taught the outer form and they have it all.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Sep 19, 2005 12:21 am 
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Let's face it guys, most karateka are not elite atheletes. You generally don't find old fat guys, middle aged soft bellies (like me) and skinny wimps (also like me) actively in any physically elite group. You might see an oldster with a long career but then we never count all the greats who burned out or were brought down by bad knees and hips. The nice thing about many martial arts is that you can still do a good deal of it, get better at parts of it and still have something useful for a good long time.

I was just going through my video collection to see what I could get rid of and I watched a Hapkido tape(1995) featuring Bong Soo Han of Billy Jack fame. When comparing the Billy Jack footage to the video you could tell that he'd lost some of his game, same with Hwarangdo founder Joo Bang Lee. Both guys still had skills and knowledge but their peak was long behind them. And such is the way of the world. 8)

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Sep 19, 2005 3:58 am 
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Location: on the path.
"Let's face it guys, most karateka are not elite atheletes"

Check your spelling...
***********************************
Anyway, my point is that KarateKa and athletes are at opposite ends of the spectrum.
Lance Armstrong is an athlete (one of my heroes, BTW.).
He can perform long-duration, high-endurance performances (I'm not referring to Sheryl Crow) and the Tour is all about that.

At the other end of the spectrum, the KarateKa trains to perform for the SHORTEST possible duration.
End the fight as quickly as possible.

There is no "athlete" or "marathon" mentality involved; in fact it is the opposite.
No endurance or long-windedness should be required: what are you planning to do, spar with a drunken idiot in a parking lot until sunrise?

The point of Karate is: END IT. NOW. QUICKLY .INVISIBLY.
Ideally, no one in the bystander gallery should ever see any technique you use.
They might report that you put up your hands to defend yourself. Other than that, the attacker simply fell down for some reason. They couldn't see any reason why. Maybe he tripped.
The guy he was attacking really didn't do anything. He didn't even hit him, as far as I could tell... He might have pushed a little...
******************
This is the ideal outcome of Karate training. Completely invisible self defense that looks so unremarkable that even a bystander didn't see it.

Don't think it can't be done.
Dirty fighters do it all the time.

NM

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Sep 19, 2005 7:59 pm 
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Quote:
Anyway, my point is that KarateKa and athletes are at opposite ends of the spectrum.
Tell that to Chuck Norris, Joe Lewis, Benny the Jet, Mas Oyama, the Enshin guys, members of the US SF that I know, I'd say the Marines and a host of others who do karate, want to end if fast and are/were in the physical elite. And all have lost a step or two with age.

Quote:
This is the ideal outcome of Karate training. Completely invisible self defense that looks so unremarkable that even a bystander didn't see it.

Don't think it can't be done.
Dirty fighters do it all the time.
And I train under one of those people every week, and guess which group he falls under? :wink:

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Sep 19, 2005 8:40 pm 
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The point I was trying to get across was that the elite athlete WILL peak and then decline gradually with age... The "recreational" athlete/karateka/whatever, may not feel that as much because they are not at the ceiling of their potential. If you are at 100% of your physical potential at any given age, there ain't nowhere to go but down... because age will result in some loss of strength/power/speed.

However, if you start at just 20% of your physical potential, and you work hard, chances are you are going to get BETTER even as you get older and your ceiling of potential gets a bit lower. Because you are nowhere near that ceiling, you don't see it or feel it as much as someone who is pinned up against it.

Also, I never intended for a minute to imply that a karate player is not an athlete. Athleticism is not exclusive to endurance. Just take a look at an Olympic Lifter, shot-putter, high-jumper, etc, etc... I see karate in this arena of power and speed "sports".


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