Old Fighting Master! Is this an Oxymoron?

Posted by: John W. Zimmer
Under: martial arts
17 Nov 2011

I’m sure you have heard all the cliches about growing older gracefully. I have always liked the more distinguished as my beards slowly whitens but what if you are a marital artist? How do you do that gracefully? I mean many martial artists that used to be in great shape when they were young and competing, now ride a desk and watch MMA!


We can still talk a good fight (as the brain is still there) but out reactions have slowed a bit (partially due to our increased stature – beer belly) and regular workouts are only in our mind. I’ve included myself in this group because as much as I hate to admit it – I’m 54 years young now and while I still work out often – I pay dearly for any injuries! It makes the next workout challenging. :)


In this post I will go over some issues older martial artists have to confront and some really great strategies for transitioning into that next phase of your martial arts training (and I don’t mean quitting) so you too can grow older and better!


Before I begin I’d like to consult those famous philosophers – the Beatles, take on getting older.


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Well will ya? (still love me when I’m 64) is the 64 (000) dollar question and more to the point of this post – will I still be worth anything as a martial artist? :mrgreen:


First some background – as we age we lose some muscle tone, reflex speed, maybe gain some weight (or in some cases a heck of a lotta weight) and have long stopped sparring. We still go to the local dojo if we live in the area for special occasions and even judge some tests all the while talking about the good old days. Well let me ask you – do you thing the gold old days are long gone? Or do you still have some moves in under your belt?


What about training? Over the years I’ve hurt my knees kicking and broken my wrist and hands many times doing bag workouts. I’ve broke my mountain bike/s while hurling over the handle bars (yes as I was eating it) and after getting back up after a dust off – had to do a new exercise the next day. I’ve started and stopped working out at the studio as new injuries cropped up… I’ve went from full contact, to point karate, to jiu-jitsu back to studio karate (full contact with the groin open – Hurrah – not that pseudo fighting they call boxing, full-contact or MMA – on slight intended by the way – just saying it how it is).


Here is the deal – when you get older – you have to keep changing your exercises because you get injured easier. I tend to increase the intensity in whatever I do – I guess I could lay off but that is not me. But my muscles and bones apparently did not come with a warranty (or it expired) so I have to be smart about it.


What is “being smart about it”? I mean if you start on a run and one of your knees start hurting – do you just tough it out and continue with the run? NO!!! You are an old guy/gal now. You can try to transition into a power walk if the knee does not hurt anymore but keeping up with the run is stupid! Even if you don’t push it – you are older and are going to pay! If you can get used to that – you can transition into older age as a marital artist gracefully.


Here is a quick video of a middle-aged man in some sort of boxing gym… he has heart.

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Now here is the other deal. I do karate and the way I’ve normally practiced most of the my life was everything was geared to fighting. I mean I know self defense techniques (240 of them) and katas (17 of them) as well as how to do every kind of strike (kicks, punches, elbows, knees, claws, finger jabs, hammer fists… and so on – you get the idea) but most of this stuff was the foundation.



After I got my first few black belts, sold my karate school and stopped teaching regularly – I stopped practicing the foundation of my martial art. It was the bridge to get me to where I proficient in karate but I was more interested in fighting.


Well let me let you in on a secret – I won’t be fighting much in my golden years…  so how then am I to stay sharp (as possible)? I have started putting what I used to call “fluff” back into my workouts. I have been doing kata, basics and techniques as part of my training as well as bag workouts, bicycling, walking, hiking and jogging. And yes as you may have guessed – as I injure one limb or muscle – I have to creatively try to work around it or turn to another exercise.


So old grasshopper – there is light at the end of the tunnel and I believe that martial arts are and can be a way of life into your 90’s (if god willing).  I’ll end this topic here and leave you with a video of one old master still practicing his kraft.


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3 Responses to “Old Fighting Master! Is this an Oxymoron?”

  1. Bob Patterson Says:

    Good post. I mix calisthenics, light weights, stair stepper, and walking with my weekly aikido lessons. Mixed in their are fundamentals: Bag work, punch/kick basic drills, and my old TKD forms.

    I’m 44 and the thing I am struggling with is energy. My job is stressful and mentally demanding. Once I leave it’s darn hard to motivate myself to work out. Any thoughts? I’ve especially noticed it this last two years.
    Bob Patterson recently posted..Friday Funny – Now with sexy centaurs!My Profile

  2. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hey Bob!

    I’ve been dealing with the same thing for a while and what I’ve found is by focusing on getting a balance in my life (not always successful) I have a better chance of hanging in there.

    Generally I focus on work, family, katate, IT training, faith, and any other short term goals…

    I never achieve everything and long ago I realized that is not realistic… so now I focus on a reach and stretch goal (or however you put it).

    You see over time the most important things keep coming up to the top of the list. If some things don’t get done – I guess they were not that important.

    Moderation is the key to success… Grasshopper and some realistic time management. :)

    Good luck Bob

  3. Dr. J Says:

    As Bette Davis said, “Getting old is not for sissies!”

    Other than throwing a baseball, nothing makes me feel younger than doing the martial arts :-)
    Dr. J recently posted..Lab Notes: Carrying Heavy Bags Affects Psyche; STDs Still a Big National ProblemMy Profile