Alive and Kicking – Martial Arts Over 40
Monday 23 January 2012: Issue #17
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Published by Brett Kraiger. Your comments are always welcome.
Welcome to this week’s Alive and Kicking, the newsletter for martial artists over 40.
Today we look at some wisdom from Bruce Lee about accepting your limitations.
As I sat down to write this week’s newsletter I needed some inspiration. I’ve had a crazy busy day (well, all weekend actually) and to try and switch my mind off from all of that stuff, and onto this newsletter, I grabbed my copy of one of my most favorite martial arts books.
It’s “Zen In The Martial Arts“ by Joe Hyams and it really is a great book. I’ll talk a litte more about this book later in the newsletter.
I picked up the book, and looking for inspiration I opened it at a random page. You know how they say that if you want for something just ask the universe and it will provide? Well I’m not sure I believe all that, but in this case it worked a treat!
The author, Joe Hyams, trained with many famous martial artists. Including none other than Bruce Lee himself. And this is what I read on the first page I saw when I opened his book…
Bruce Lee and I were having dim sum, a traditional Chinese breakfast of meat-filled pastries, in a downtown Los Angeles restaurant after a lesson. I seized on this opportunity to tell him that I was discouraged. At forty-five I felt I was too old and my body too stiff to achieve any real ability in jeet-kune-do.
See what I mean when I said that the universe provided! I just about fell off my chair. Anyway, let’s continue!
“You will never learn anything new unless you are ready to accept yourself with your limitations,” Bruce answered. “You must accept the fact that you are capable in some directions and limited in others, and you must develop your capabilities.”
I love this idea, and it’s something that I have personally been coming to grips with in the last couple of years. As I get older I definitely am noticing a lot of change. Along with my fairly serious shoulder problem, I have also noticed decreased flexibility (although that is coming back), and my speed is not what it was. So I’ve personally started working on my close-in attack and defence and trying to improve my ability to get into and out of that range. I’m slowly coming to accept that my days of high kicks are probably behind me, and flying kicks – once my favorite part of Taekwon-Do – invariably involve knee pain! Sometimes I’m not even sure they count as “flying”!
On that note, let’s catch up with Joe and Bruce again…
Joe: “But 10 years ago I could easily kick over my head,” I said. “Now I need half an hour to limber up before I can do it.”
Bruce set his chopsticks down alongside his plate, clasped his hands lightly on his lap, and smiled at me. “That was ten years ago,” he said gently. “So you are older today and your body has changed. Everyone has physical limitations to overcome.”
Did you know: Bruce Lee’s right leg was one inch shorter than the left. That’s why he always fought with his left leg leading. He also studied Wing Chun initially because he had bad eyesight, and wanted a close-in martial art.
Let’s let Bruce have the last word…
“Stop comparing yourself at forty-five with the man you were at twenty or thirty,” Bruce answered. The past is an illusion. You must learn to live in the present and accept yourself for what you are now. What you lack in flexibility and agility you must make up with knowledge and constant practice.”
The book I quoted from above is “Zen In The Martial Arts” by Joe Hyams. My copy is quite old and worn now. It’s a small book, less than 150 pages. But what I like most about it is the chapters are very small – usually only about 2-4 pages long. And each chapter is a different “lesson” on living in and with martial arts. The lessons are often told in a story form, just like his breakfast with Bruce Lee, and they are really good.
I’ve never sat down and read this book from cover to cover. And it’s quite possible that there are whole chapters I’ve never read. I just tend to pick it up, open it at random, and read a chapter or two. And I always come away with food for thought or a new perspective on some aspect of my martial arts. Or indeed on life itself!
And hearing some of the perspectives of well known martial artists like Bruce Lee is an added bonus. If you don’t have a copy of this book you should definitely get it. It’s only $8 at Amazon.
I’ll sign off there. I was about to launch into a discussion about the movie Ip Man (and Ip Man 2). Just writing about Bruce Lee reminded me of them (Ip Man was Bruce Lee’s teacher). But perhaps I’ll talk about that next week!
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Quote of the Day
It is difficult for a student to pick a good teacher, but it is more difficult for a teacher to pick a good student
– Ip Man