At age 49, I began martial arts training. This was my first experience with this kind of physical training. Here is what I learned.
What Are Martial Arts Exactly?
The term “martial arts” includes different methods and styles of combat. People practice martial arts for lots of reasons: self-defense; competition; and mental, physical, and spiritual development. In the U.S., sumo, karate, taekwando, judo, kajukenbo, jiu-jitsu, and krav maga are the most popular forms. In fact, Sumo and taekwando are Olympic sports for both men and women, and karate is being considered for the 2020 games in Tokyo.
Why Did I Decide to Train?
When my daughter was in the 8th grade, her junior high school needed noon playground supervisors. Because my daughter had a tough 7th grade year — she survived a severe hemorrhage during her 12-hour spinal fusion surgery — I wanted to keep my eye on her. As a result, I felt it only natural to volunteer for the (paid) job.
Initially, the school started out with 5 supervisors for a student population of 1,000, but attrition and illness eventually took their toll. At one time, I was the only adult on a campus of 1,000 rambunctious kids. I was frightened and felt powerless to stop potential physical altercations. When I mentioned this feeling to the school secretary, she invited me to drop by the local martial arts studio where she and the P.E. teacher trained. The 7PM class was for students of all ages. So, I joined and quickly became adapted to the routine of twice-a-week martial arts training.
What Are the Benefits of Martial Arts Training?
The first thing you learn is that the best fight is the one you walk away from. Understanding that, here are the reasons I chose to study martial arts.
Martial arts teach etiquette, self-discipline, respect and self-confidence.
It was interesting to watch youngsters learn to obey an instructor, and to watch adults learn to appreciate the talents of those much younger. We were all students, no matter what our ages. The only thing that differentiated us was the color of our belts.
Training together creates bonds.
Students are more motivated to succeed when they have friends in the class. In my case, I already knew two students from the junior high school staff. I quickly made new friends.
You build strength, stamina, and flexibility.
The studio I attended taught taekwondo. This form of martial arts uses all the muscle groups of the body are involved in the exercises. And our memories were as taxed as our bodies: working to remember all the forms required for promotion to the next belt.
Martial arts teach which actions injure and which do not.
Understanding the difference between actions that can cause injury and those that don’t is a really useful skill. It was because of this skill that I was able to continue my job without feeling so powerless in the face of normal student rambunctiousness.
Training becomes part of your life.
I attended martial arts classes for 8 years. It is the sort of exercise that grounds you, connecting your mind, body, and soul. Because of this grounding force, martial arts becomes a lifestyle for many people. However, the exercise can be hard on your joints, especially knee joints. Eventually, my knees told me to retire. I listened.
Not all martial arts use belts to mark progress.
What Are My Takeaways?
This was a great sport. Would I do it again? Definitely! Adults can take away many things from any kind of self-defense sport.
Stay aware of your surroundings.
Set texting and screen time to the side
Don’t walk alone at night.
Stand up straight and tall, and walk with confidence.
Keep your purse and other possessions close to your body.
Use your voice when you are in trouble.
Yell. Scream. Bite. Attract attention.
Carry legal defenses in your pocket such as pepper spray.
Your greatest physical powerful is in your legs.
Legs are longer and stronger than arms.
Use your legs as shields.
The key to getting up off the ground at any time is to get your legs underneath you.
Most martial arts studios will teach a number of arts. You may learn how to use Escrima sticks, knives, and maybe even gun safety. These can be an important addition to sparring and kicking.
Don’t overdo it.
Your body needs time to recuperate. Surviving an hour of martial arts training is quite an accomplishment. Celebrate it!
How Have I Changed?
Although I no longer train in martial arts, the activity made me the way I am today. I am physically fit and self-confident. Although I’m not terribly fond of roller coasters, I’m up for most any physical activity. I choose environments I’m comfortable in, and I look out for others. I have more stamina than a lot of people my age and expect a long life span due to healthy exercising and good eating habits. It is never too late to take up a sport that may interest you. Try it. Your children and grandchildren may be amazed by your “new moves!”