Advancing in Years and Grace in the Martial Arts

When you are young, you are invincible.

When the challenges placed before you are insignificant to what you want to do and they mean little more than just ploughing through and driving harder, power and speed are your companions.

But there is another factor at play and that is age. It waits for no one and acts totally on its own accord. We, in our society, use everything possible to delay the outcome of ageing, but as is right and natural, we cannot stop it.

Within martial arts, as in all activities, the ageing process is the absolute expression of truth.

I was at a camp four years ago and was feeling good. The instructor was an old friend I had trained with over many years and I was excited to have her instruct me again.

I trained hard in front of her with all of the other black belts in that class. After class, she took me aside and said it was time I moved to the next level of training, which entailed leaving much of the force behind and adopting more of a fluid and less-strenuous technique.

In other words, it was time for achieving effortless mastery of what I had been practising for over 30 years.

A few months ago, I attended a class with an instructor I had trained with many times in the past. A local karate group had invited him back to the Yukon to offer some instruction and testing.

He can no longer sit in a kneeling position due to the damage he has done to his knees, over the years, through extremely hard training. He has always been a hard-driving type of karate-ka with a tendency to throw a lot of power and force into all techniques.

This may have worked when he was young, but that is no longer the case. I watched him as he continued to move in the same manner as he did many years ago, but without the same results. If anything, it looked painful and I felt for this person.

I have seen this in other activities as well – people hanging on to the image of what they were and not what they are today. Whether in sports, arts, lifestyles, it doesn’t seem to matter: we all must change and accept what is unavoidable.

We may not be as flexible or as fast or as strong as we once were, but we can be smarter, more aware and far more efficient in our actions.

It has become more apparent over time, through many examples, that ageing should be embraced and welcomed. Once that opening to the ageing process happens, we can continue to grow in our daily life and activities, realize the gift we are given and the lessons we can learn if we accept and celebrate all ages and not just one.

That is a full life.

Todd Hardy has studied and taught a variety of martial arts for over 38 years and has trained with many people from around the world. Would you like to comment on what you read here? Contact him at [email protected]

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