Alive and Kicking – Martial Arts Over 40
Monday 21 November 2011: Issue #8
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Published by Brett Kraiger. Your comments are always welcome.
Welcome to this weeks edition of Alive and Kicking, the
newsletter for martial artists over 40.
Learning a martial art, just like anything, requires going
through a foundation period where you spend a lot of time gaining
a solid grounding in the basics of the movements.
This can be a slow grind, and is actually the reason many people
quit martial arts before they gain their black belt.
In many martial arts, and certainly in the ITF Taekwon-Do that I
do, black belt is considered the “starting point” or the end of
the “foundation” phase. Which is really quite different to how
many people perceive black belt.
A lot of people, certainly those who are not involved in the
martial arts, believe that black belt is the pinnacle of the art,
whereas it’s often the point where you are just getting started.
And most new students coming into the dojo or dojang will
probably have this same perception.
One thing I have noticed with older students in particular is
that they are often very results-focused. They are probably used
to this from their work or business environment – where they are
setting targets all the time, and perhaps have specific projects
And while it is good to have goals for what you want to achieve
in your martial art, it is also important to understand that the
goal or the destination is not everything. Actually it is the
journey that is the most important thing. And that you arrive at
your destination in good shape.
What do I mean by that? Well, I guess what I am trying to say is
that you do see people who want to rush through their tests or
gradings because they have their eye on the “ultimate goal”.
So if the “ultimate goal” is to get your black belt, then the
logical approach for many people is to break down that goal into
smaller steps, which in many arts will be to progress through the
different colored belts.
But the focus has to be right. You have to be focused on being
the best you can be at each level. In ITF Taekwon-Do that will
mean being the best yellow belt, the best green belt, the best
blue belt, and the best red belt that you can be.
The goal should not be to test whenever you can, according to a
schedule that you might have set for yourself. But to grade when
(and only when) you are ready to grade.
If your focus is only on the end goal, you can lose sight of the
importance of the intermediate steps.
And what you will end up doing is finding yourself on the verge
of your “big goal”, and finding that you are not ready.
You may find yourself having to go “back to school” and relearn
the fundamentals all over again – because you skipped them on the
I encourage you to set goals. They are important to keep you
motivated and interested in the art. But please don’t focus on
the destination at the expense of the journey.
I’ve mentioned previously that I have been having problems with
an old shoulder injury. It was injured over three years ago when
someone was showing me a new throw. It was all my fault because
just as he went to throw me, for some reason I resisted and it
all went downhill from there.
Well in the last few weeks the pain has been getting a lot worse.
It was getting to the point where I was reluctant to even use
that arm because every movement caused me significant pain.
Actually when I think about it now, it was also giving me pain
even when I wasn’t using it.
I happened to mention it to a fellow Taekwon-Do instructor who
had also recently had shoulder problems, and he recommended a
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner. While I am open
to trying anything, past experience with TCM had left me a little
I can tell you now I am so glad I went to see him. I was there
for an hour, about 20 minutes of which was him asking me about
the pain and trying different movements. And then I had about
half an hour of impersonating a pin-cushion, as he stuck needle
after needle into me. I was originally counting them but gave up
in the end.
For the first time during acupuncture I could feel “something”
happening. And at one point the guy decided I needed another
needle, this time in my hand. Boy that one made me jump, it was
so powerful. And as soon as he stuck that one in, the “something”
that I was feeling just went up another notch.
He finished off with a little massage… but this was NOT fun at
all. He was pressing in on the most incredibly sore spots. Spots
that I didn’t even realize were sore!
When I left his rooms, I was walking back to work and things felt
a little strange. I actually felt like I was lop-sided, and I
realized that it was because my left shoulder was, for the first
time in ages, relaxed. My shoulder was not up around my ear! And
over the last couple of days my pain has just become less and
less noticeable. It’s still there, but it is a whole lot better
than it was.
I’m back to see him on Wednesday.
That is it for Alive and Kicking this week. As always, I really
love to get your feedback.
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Quote of the Day
The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance
of the human bladder.
– Alfred Hitchcock
Just For Fun
The famous author of Robinson Crusoe changed his name in 1703
from Foe to Defoe. He believed that Defoe is “more socially and
upward sounding” than Foe is.