As I approach my 49th year of training, it occurs to me that perhaps I’ve been lucky in more ways than one, in connection with the martial arts. I read an article in Shotokan Karate Magazine recently, that dealt with training as we age, and earlier this year I was asked to participate in a study that looked at the most common injuries due to training, especially as we age.
Like most karate-ka I have had strains and broken bones (ribs/nose and clavicle) but these had never left lasting damage – as far as I’m physically aware. And yet I have many friends in martial arts who have had injuries that have let their mark as the years roll on; mostly hip/ankle and knee problems. My own training now mostly concentrates on stretching, and I can still manage full splits, but I take it easy with a good long warm up session, oddly enough, the exact same warm up we (give or take a movement or two) all did in the 60’s under the KUGB. I leave strength training to the weight lifters, but I still do lots of the same push-ups and sit-up etc. that we used to do at the end of a Shotokan class.
I’m interested to get the views of those still training in their 50’s and beyond. The study I took part in seemed to suggest that certain aspect of training should be stopped altogether, and other techniques watered down. Obviously for most people, things like ‘bunny hops’ and kicking and punching thin air are a no-no, although there are a few in their mature years that can still manage all these techniques. Regular kata practice calls for strong techniques against ‘thin air’ and again I have no issues with this; how on earth could you perform a kata otherwise? Kata is still as important to most Shotokan organizations as it was in the 60’s and for me, it becomes more important as I age, I enjoy kata training now more than I ever did in my early years. Muscle mass is easily lost in later years, along with flexibility, but regular careful training and kata practice will delay this, probably for as long as we continue to train.
All I can offer is my own take on the subject, and so long as a good and targeted warm-up is done first, there’s nothing to say that any technique should be avoided or curtailed. One of my friends (a medical doctor) argues that genes come into the issue, and maybe some of us are more blessed than others with what nature gives us. What do you think about it?
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