There are two strong health themes running in the media at the moment. One is the need to live a healthier life to cope with the raft of illnesses dogging current and future generations and the other is Alzheimer’s disease and the adverse effect on life quality of this disease and other dementias. So we want to live longer but not increase the risk of dementia. So what do we do when we understand the risks but are bored of gyms? Why not try something different? Why not try a martial art?
Unlike a typical fitness class, a martial art has an outcome other than just fitness. It’s a progressive, structured form of learning with regular gradings and markers of your progress. You gain fitness and mobility while studying new techniques both alone and with partners. Achieving a black belt is a big deal and is not easily earned – it is an excellent goal to keep you focused on long-term training.
It’s not a team sport but it is social
A lot of those that avoid the gym also dislike team sports. Of course there is nothing wrong with team sports but they do not suit everyone. A martial art is primarily an activity that focuses on your own development. But you share the journey with others during the class and there is a social element to the shared journey that can lead to the development of lifelong friendships.
It’s not just about the physical
Many sports and fitness classes are completely focused on the physical. Martial arts develop mental power as well. There is nothing like a round of sparring to focus the mind to deal with a live situation and put your learning into practice!
Learning a martial art may trigger a level of learning that you haven’t encountered since school days and the practical elements feel difficult to start with. You may think that you are uncoordinated, or unfit, or have poor balance but all of these can be learned regardless of age. The challenge is in accepting your limitations and accepting that the process can help you learn how to overcome or remove those limitations.
Everyone starts as a beginner
When you start a new martial art you feel like a beginner. But everyone starts at this point; even the 6th degree Black Belt started as a “non-grade”. A martial art is a practice; there is no end goal though there will be plenty of targets along the way. When I achieved my first Black Belt and went to my first class after passing, I felt like a beginner again; it was only at this point that I appreciated the true scale of what was possible and how learning what is possible could easily keep me busy for life! I try and hang onto that beginners mind at every class that I attend so I don’t miss the learning.
It keeps you young
Lots of martial arts students are young and so often you will be training with those who are both younger than you and yet senior (a higher grade). This is an excellent environment for keeping the mind open and engaged with people of all ages and abilities and learning that skill doesn’t come with age, but with experience and application. Aging, in itself, doesn’t necessarily make you more experienced, but trying out new things does, and trying new things also keeps you young.
Everyone’s journey to a martial art is different and personal. If you haven’t experienced a martial art before (or even if you have) or if you think you’re too old (I was 50 when I earned my first Black Belt) think again and try it out; you have nothing to lose except old age!