There’s no secret that exercise and proper maintenance of your body can contribute to more quality out of your senior years. Whether it be through the media or experience in the martial arts we have all seen the Archetype of the Grand Master in his Golden Years with all his skill and experience keeping him a cut above the youth and vitality of younger warriors, and a. Steps ahead of the average individual in their golden years. The sight of this is a true testament to the benefits of martial arts practice, that being said I would like to share an experience and lesson I learned in an encounter I was privileged enough to have with a martial arts practitioner in his senior years.
I was a guest at an academy recently that offered several schools of study from Kali to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and at this academy I met the gentleman I am speaking about, in the Wing Chun Class first. He was 87 years of age and had a bit of a wobble about him, but from the moment we payed respects to the master he starts to stabilize a bit, so we are warming up with sticky hand drills and we switch partners and we are paired together and when the timer sounds for the groups to begin… before I know it I’ve ben trapped! He went from wobbly to warrior in 0 to 4 seconds and didn’t go back to wobbly until h was walking out of the academy doors to go home! Even though I knew better… I wasn’t so much underestimating him… but going easy because of his advanced age, but I realized quickly he was ready to go with the best of them, it was an impressive transformation to witness and a testimony to what martial arts can do to enrich ones quality of life.
Fast forward 1 1/2 days and here we are in the BJJ class, and here’s my new friend in his well used gi and blue belt getting loose… Again with his wobble, but we know the story on the wobble and expect to see that disappears soon. The class warms up starts with individual drills the repetitions on the techniques of the day and he does well, the wobble comes and goes between action. It is now time for free/resistance rolling and within two rounds I’m paired up with my new friend. Now under few circumstances am I ok with choking or applying joint locks to the elderly, and grappling is a different beast than Wing Chun and Sticky Hand Drills, so I’ve come to an internal crossroads where in one street I respect his age and like any other training partner I don’t want to accidentally injure him in practice, but that feeling is heightened in his case. On the other street I don’t want to hinder his training or disrespect him by going easy. Needless to say I’m not Sensei Crease from Cobra Kai, there won’t be any metaphorical Sweeping the leg here! I’d rather error on the side of caution. So as we’re rolling, he goes from wobble to warrior as expected, but I’m going light to keep from causing any injury… The first round ends and as were getting water he asks ” young man can I speak with you for a minute?” I’m like of course, so he proceeded to say “your taking it easy on me aren’t you, I can tell” so I come clean and say yes, I’d hate to accidentally hurt you or disrespect you in any other way. And he replies stating ” I appreciate your concern for my well being and your respect for your elders, but I would appreciate if on the mat you would respect me as a martial artist first and practice with me as you would the younger individuals on the mat, I’m here to train and be the best I can be as well and were all here to help each other get there I understand I’m 87 years old but I have never allowed anyone to impose or pre determine my limitations and I don’t intend on allowing it to start happening now, I’m more than capable of communicating that I need to stop for any reason besides that’s what tapping is for (he says jokingly yet firmly)! Taking what he said in to consideration alleviated some of my concern and re-enforced a few valuable lessons at the same time, ” never limit yourself or allow others to do so” “Strive to be the best you can be” and “age is just a number” and as soon as the 2nd round bell chimed he shot from wobbly to warrior and happily proceeded to attempt a bow n” arrow choke on my lol!
But in conclusion the martial arts gave this gentleman a new lease on life and was gratifying to him, thus another example of how the Martial Spirit can be age truly defying.