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Dennis Hooker 04-14-2003 07:46 AM

When is long enough to long?
 
When is long enough to long?

I am speaking in generalities now but these particular generalities seem to reflect my life fairly well. Most of the martial arts instructors I have had over the years came to America in their twenties or mid to late thirties. Even by then it seemed they had achieved such rank and skill as not to need the same daily training require of the rest of us. As we Americans grew older and matched, even surpassed, these ages by decades we still (those among us still physically capable) are take daily training. While some Judo, Karate, Jujitsu and Aikido teachers stopped taking the kind of abuse we place on 40, 50 and 60+ year old bodies in their 30's and early 40's . When is long enough to long? After four decades of this training I look around and see very few of the faces I saw in the beginning. Death, crippling disability, joint replacement, war and a since of failure at not being able to keep up with the young ones has taken its toll on my friends.

Luckily for me I found a friend and teacher that could take me beyond my physical limitations and offer more than just training on the mat. It saddens me though to see old bodies try to match the physical prowess of the young lions and pay the price in injury and worn-out joints. While some Japanese and Korean teachers stopped taking hard training in their 30s masses of Americans continue to do it well into their late 30's, 40's, 50's and even 60's and what baffles me is some have been doing it for 20, 30 or 35 years or more. Much longer than the young teachers coming over to take their fathers and countrymen's place. Many of the older Americans seem to think this kind of training is required of them, and in some cases it seems to be. Their sensei require it or they require it of them selves. There seems to be little given, and little self-sense of honored venerability.

I do not like to travel outside the U.S. much so I ask those of you from other parts of the world. It is same where you are at? Where is the

johanlook 04-14-2003 08:21 AM

Hi Mr. Hooker, I'm in my late twenties and still finding hard training productive I would like to understand what you mean by this type of training. What would spring to my mind are high falls(although I have seen ukes who can high fall like they're landing on feather pillows.), and rough training with a martial intent...sparring? I'd say that there's probably a time when I should stop beating a makiwara with my bokken, I've heard the elbows can start to get sore.

I'm interested to hear what older practitioners have to say about this.

Russ Qureshi 04-14-2003 08:58 AM

Hi Dennis sensei,

Another interesting thread starter from you! Thanks.

Having travelled to Fukuoka to train with Suganuma Sensei I can tell you the feeling I picked up on there. It's very much a mindset of "train your age/ability". So, the "young lions" train very physically (mostly after class during free practise)and the older ones tend to take a more staid approach. They still train hard, but hard for them. During formal class the mats are usually too crowded to train big/fast/hard, or, at least this is the impression I got while there. Age ranges were young adult to eighty plus years old.

I should say that Suganuma Sensei always says: "Mori-o shinai" (spelling is hooped I'm sure) or "take it easy".

Regards,

Russ

Alec Corper 04-14-2003 10:52 AM

I really recognise what Dennis Hooker is talking about. I will turn 51 in a few months. Although I've only trained 12 years of Aikido, I began Kyukushinkai when I was 16 and switched to Chuen Shu Kwan for a further 8 years then stopped until I was 38. If I try to train now as I did I simply wont survive. A combination of extra weight, old injuries and loner recovery times have convinced me to train differently. This is sometimes a problem when I want to keep up with "the young lions" and am forced to admit that I cannot. However this is mainly in the athletics of our art and rarely in its martial application. There, on the contrary, I feel my movement is more effective, more powerful and what I lack in speed I can make up for in efficiency. I think as we age we should begin to train differently, take less hard falls, try not to exhaust ourselves in the name of building spirit, practise very regularly but not too long, and above all,IMHO, try to stay flexible.

I have also trained in Fukuoka with Suganuma Sensei and my experience was exactly the same as Russ'. Suganuma Sensei emphasizes training according to your capacity, and I know he supplements his training with yoga which is very beneficial. We often trained twice a day for an hour and a quarter which worked wonders for my condition and flexibilty, whereas once a day for three just leads to injuries.

As for the respect of others, again I have to say that this is western mindset related. Too many of our younger brothers and sisters on the mat (especially the brothers!) have an excess of energy (just jealous) and would sometimes rather go at it with each other, which is fine, but not at the cost of dismissing what it takes for the 50, 60, and 70 year olds to still come on the mat week after week and actually train.

One final point.my Chinese Boxing teacher insisted that unless we use our body and mind correctly we would be ruined in later life, and what then would be the value of all our training? Yes it's true we would have a strong spirit, but why not also be in the best condition possible for your age as well. Having seen Shaolin Boxers at the age of 70 I think they know a thing or two that some Budokas have never learned concerning energy and self healing and that is my concern for the next 10 years of traing.

with respect, Alec Corper

rachmass 04-14-2003 11:29 AM

Very good thread Mr. Hooker,

I agree with what everyone here is saying about training as you get older. Want to add as well though, that the intensity can be there without necessarily hurling your body around as much as the young lions. Controlled and somewhat slow traing doesn't negate intense training, and sometimes the out of control movements of wild young lions is anything but intense. Does this make sense? I would much rather practice concisely, even if it involves going a little slower, than get speedy and sloppy (the two are not mutually exclusive, but there is a tendency to get sloppy if you get too fast). As we age, our training focuses more inward towards that still center, and that is extremely powerful.

That said, I still like to play rough with the young lions (not being too far out of that stage myself at age 42) a good deal of the time, and just pace myself a bit better.

best,

Rachel

Larry Feldman 04-14-2003 11:34 AM

I started my martial arts studies in Ju Jtsu, and had long since switched to Aikido - and a relatively 'softer' style at that. On a visit back to my old Ju Jitsu dojo they did warm ups and started the rolling 'lines'. One of my old teachers said 'under (age) 26 breakfalls, over 26 rolls'.

I am thinking, were is the over 40 line....!

It was a rude awakenng to me, since the style of Ju Jitsu was certainly 'hard' by Aikido standards. But it makes a lot of sense.

In my 'softer' style seminars were very exhausing to due the pace and duration of the practice. When people got tired, they just took a break, if they needed one.

Where is the 'self defense' benefit if the practise kills you? Hard to understand when you are young, stong and heal quickly.

Dennis Hooker 04-14-2003 01:02 PM

Thanks for the input folks. If you have not seen the training section of the Aiki Web there are a few good arterials on the subject of age, health and training. This one I wrote a few years ago http://www.aikiweb.com/training/hooker5.html

One of the questions I may not have made clear enough in asking "When is long enough to long" is, is there a lack of parity in recognition. Some Americans (again I am not experienced with other countries) have trained in their various arts with a specific instructor two or three times longer than that teacher studied with his sensei. Some of these people are really talented. Yet they never seem to reach, or are given recognition for reaching, the same height as their teachers. Even though they may have actively trained under strict supervision two or three times longer than their teacher did. As for myself I have gained more than I ever believed possible, but I have friends in various arts that have not received the recognition and I believe respect due them. Of course their evaluation of their situation and my concurrence could be wrong.

daniel loughlin 11-01-2005 10:59 AM

Re: When is long enough to long?
 
i began training when i was 8 years old and have the intention of training for as long as i can still stand on my own two feet. there is also a lady at our organisation who is still training (she in her eighties) in some cases there is no too long

Rupert Atkinson 11-01-2005 02:52 PM

Re: When is long enough to long?
 
I have been physically active, pushing the limit, since I was a child and at 43 am not ready to stop yet. My body, however, is beginning to show signs of wear. One danger I have seen in others is to slow down too quickly - some 'lose it' and become fat quite soon. I'll just keep going as long as I can. I am not as fit as all of my students but am fitter than most and intend to keep it that way.

My grandfather was still climbing on his roof to fix it at 80 ... and if you look at elderly Koreans or Japanese or Chinese, many are incredibly fit, male and female alike. They can beat me up the mountain no problem. Our generation has had it too easy and will not surpass the present elder generation, who when young had little or no antibiotics and often went without and are in a sense, pure survivors.

crbateman 11-01-2005 03:40 PM

Re: When is long enough to long?
 
Glad to see a revival of this thread...

Speaking as a geriatric-in-training, I must say that I have observed that the spirit and the mind can, for quite a while, convince the body to do things it doesn't want to do. But eventually, the body loses its tolerance for such nonsense, and begins at first to protest, and finally to rebel. Such is the way of things, although every culture has its myths, legends, and even bona fide exceptions.

For all his training and spiritual enlightenment, even O'Sensei lived but for what would be considered a normal lifespan. It is true that his life was full to the last, and perhaps that is the real lesson... Make the best of the time you have, and when it's up, move bravely and without regrets into what awaits.

Devon Natario 11-01-2005 03:51 PM

Re: When is long enough to long?
 
Dennis has some good points.

When is long enough Dennis?

I would have to say long enough is a personal decision.

A lot of people have commented here. There are marathon runners of all ages. Some are good, some are not so good. Should they give it up because they aren't as good as they were in their twenties? Depends on their personal decision.

For me, I am thirty and I have found my body is just fine. I do not heal as fast as ten years ago, and I am sure I will see this continue to deteriorate over the years.

I teach Jujitsu 3 days a week, I train Muay Thai and Submission Wrestling 3 days a week, I work out with weights, and I run when I have the chance. On my off time I am usually watching a DvD of martial arts and trying to learn a kata. To me the road of discovery never ends.

You mentioned that people have trained and are equal to their teachers or may have surpassed them. If a student reaches your level and stays it couls be because of a myriad of reasons. Again, answering this is for the person that has chosen to stick with it.

Paula Lydon 11-01-2005 03:53 PM

Re: When is long enough to long?
 
~~I recently turned 49, have been training for 19 years--different arts/lately Aikido--and have been asking myself this very question this past year or two. The answers I finally arrvied at were:

1) No matter the mood of the dojo I'm in, I'll train as I deem appropiate and practical for wherever I'm at any given day.

2) I will train, because I love it, for as long as possible. Just as I will garden, backpack and live my life generally.

3) I train with intensity. Intensity doesn't have to always be physical. Much less, actually, as time goes by and timing, focus and positioning make more sense.

My 2 cents :)

Dazzler 11-02-2005 03:27 AM

Re: When is long enough to long?
 
Quote:

Dennis Hooker wrote:
After four decades of this training I look around and see very few of the faces I saw in the beginning. Death, crippling disability, joint replacement, war and a since of failure at not being able to keep up with the young ones has taken its toll on my friends.

Luckily for me I found a friend and teacher that could take me beyond my physical limitations and offer more than just training on the mat. It saddens me though to see old bodies try to match the physical prowess of the young lions and pay the price in injury and worn-out joints. .

I do not like to travel outside the U.S. much so I ask those of you from other parts of the world. It is same where you are at? Where is the

Hi Dennis

Sure - I think its much the same everywhere.

We recently had a celebration event of 50 years of British Aikido - many of the pioneers of our aikido seemed to suffer from the problems you mention.

My personal opinion is that generally there is a recognition that Aikido practice needs to be adjusted to enable it to be a lifetime pursuit rather than a sport that has to be given up once your prime is passed.

The answer is to train smarter...not necessarily 'harder' - this for me is the driver behind the evolution on training methods.

For some this is a touchy subject - many strive to practice exactly as they were taught and frown upon change. Others move on and adhere to principles but not training methods that modern sports science recognizes as harmful.

Maybe there is also some weight in the argument that the original teachers coming out of Japan were not necessarily qualified coaches - simply technically proficient in their chosen arts. Preserving the long term well being of students may not have been high on their agendas.

Just my 2 English pence worth.

Respectfully

D

ian 11-02-2005 07:32 AM

Re: When is long enough to long?
 
I'm only a young at 33, but I've been training since the age of 16. However, my priorities have certainly changed in what I want from training. Although it's still heavily self-defence orientated, it's really just delving more and more into the fundamentals of body movement and psychology rather than becoming harder tougher or faster. I think it's like any activity that is practised for an extended period of time. It should become easier and more effortless because your body just gets more efficient. I try to avoid breakfalls at all times if I can do a roll, otherwise it makes you punch drunk after a while. Also, if I have to put excessive effort into a technique I seriously question what went wrong with it.
Although it must be harder starting at an older age, I think there is no problem doing martial arts until you die, and I can't think of a reason I would stop - it's an integral part of who I am and how I interpret things now. Fundamanetaly I think it should maintain your health (balance, coordination and movement) as you age. It's undeniable that many of the younger fitter and stronger students cannot compensate for good experience with power.

Unfortunately, as we get older, more people get injured and more people die (referring to general problems rather than due to martial arts). I do think if there are serious injuries occuring through training to seasoned practitioners there is something wrong with their training (or they are using it as an excuse to quit).

One of my favourite sayings from our chief instructor is 'just adjust yourself'. It's almost become a mantra for any problem of difficulty, including the necessity to change with age.

Nick Simpson 11-02-2005 01:30 PM

Re: When is long enough to long?
 
This is an excellent thread, I've often thought of these ideas and wondered.

On the subject of training all the time no matter your age, I say thats fine, as long as you adapt your training to suit your pyshical needs. However I do find it quite telling that many of the 'senior'instructors stopped training intensely very early on in their careers.

The other thing about rank, ok, someone who trained with o'sensei has a certain advantage over the rest of us, but, his students, todays shihan, roughly took something like 10 years to reach the sort of 6-9th dan mark. For anyone else it takes about 20-30 years to reach 6th dan and a lifetime to reach 9th dan, training regularly. This is because of time constraints, etc etc. While Im not saying that we should water down the time it takes and embrace the mc'dojo culture, I do find It quite ironic that the people that enforce the gradings are the ones that benefitted from the very quick promotions back in the day. Something to think about huh?

Nick Simpson 11-02-2005 01:33 PM

Re: When is long enough to long?
 
I suppose you also have to consider the differences between the western idea of aikido and the japanese. West: Black belt is a high grade. Japan: Black belt is the start of training. Hence, in japan, I would very probably be a nidan now, compared to a first kyu as I am currently. Not saying I wish I was a nidan, Im just showing the cultural differences as they definately have something to say on this argument.

aikidoc 11-02-2005 02:04 PM

Re: When is long enough to long?
 
Long enough is when you realize you need to modify your training to be able to continue training. When your body says-yes, I can do that but is the price I have to pay and the impact on my future training worth it? What can I do to maintain a certain level of fitness without pounding the crap out of my body?

I think also one has to look at where your aikido is headed. As we age and physically deteriorate and approach our spiritual level, perhaps our aikido should move in that direction as well. Perhaps as a lifetime of training, aikido will serve us well to prepare for absorption into the universal ki. A movement beyond the physical to a more energy directed focus. The physical can only take you so far then you need to move beyond it.

SeiserL 11-02-2005 02:49 PM

Re: When is long enough to long?
 
I just turned 55, been training in some martial art or fighting system for over 38 years.
I was told that I could stop training five days after I was buried or three days if I was cremated.
My question would be why would I want to stop the training, I am still having a great time.

Rupert Atkinson 11-02-2005 05:48 PM

Re: When is long enough to long?
 
Quote:

Nick Simpson wrote:
The other thing about rank, ok, someone who trained with o'sensei has a certain advantage over the rest of us, but, his students, todays shihan, roughly took something like 10 years to reach the sort of 6-9th dan mark. For anyone else it takes about 20-30 years to reach 6th dan and a lifetime to reach 9th dan ...

That shows you are worried about grading, equality, etc. and, well, why? After 20+ years at it, all I can come up with is, So What? It is quite simple to see that the current grading system is as much about money collection as it is about skill. For an org, both, of course, are important, but as an individual, after time it should click that it is not really much of a big deal. Like, how many soccer sandans are there out there and who would care if there were? On the field, everyone knows who is better than who and all settle into their natural place, but in the pub, all are equal.

Incidentally, my highschool in Japan had teenage girls who were Sandan and above at Shodo (calligraphy, and I seem to remember one girl being Rokudan) and several teenage boys of Sandan and above in Go (and Sandan in these arts is not to be scoffed at lightly, they have real skill). Tell them you are Shodan, Nidan, or Sandan at something and it won't mean much to them. Indeed, if you proudly state that you are Nidan after 20 years (me), they'll probably think, What a bafoon!

3girls 11-02-2005 05:56 PM

Re: When is long enough to long?
 
Mr Hooker, excellent question! my personal opinion is long enough is up to the individuals desire and physical capabilities. I liken this to when I had to quit power lifting I was 34 and after multiple elbow,shoulder and chest injuries none overly severe but I realized that I was done. I still lift but only to stay in shape with light weight and lots of cardio. Which brings me to physical condition; I believe that if the aikidoka remains in good health and physical condition he/she should be able to train late in life. The rub is excess
shortens the life of theaikidoka's training.
Smoking,drinking,overeating, and lack of exercise will shorten the life span of any activity especially one that can require some physical exertion. When I first got into aikido I went to a local dojo and a man was sitting at a bench smoking and drinking a beer Thought nothing of it at the time until he turned out to be the sensei, I am not being judgmental but the choices we make in life in general dictate how we age.
BK

crbateman 11-02-2005 07:35 PM

Re: When is long enough to long?
 
The body is a machine, and eventually they will all wear out. But the mental and spiritual training can be continued until they pile the dirt on you. I've been told that those aspects and dimensions can actually become more acute to compensate as the body ages, kind of like what happens to one's senses of smell and hearing if the sense of sight is reduced or lost. I don't know how much truth there is to that, but it will be interesting to find out as I age.

I wish I could say that all instructors were giving the non-technical aspects their just deserves, but it does concern me that many younger students do not get the exposure to the mental or spiritual agenda that will help them continue training along those lines as they get older. There seem to be many who complain "I can't do this and that anymore... NOW what do I do?"

Another thing that doesn't have to slow down is one's ability to teach, and otherwise help others along the path.

Jeanne Shepard 11-02-2005 08:27 PM

Re: When is long enough to long?
 
Quote:

Paula Lydon wrote:
~~I recently turned 49, have been training for 19 years--different arts/lately Aikido--and have been asking myself this very question this past year or two. The answers I finally arrvied at were:

1) No matter the mood of the dojo I'm in, I'll train as I deem appropiate and practical for wherever I'm at any given day.

2) I will train, because I love it, for as long as possible. Just as I will garden, backpack and live my life generally.

3) I train with intensity. Intensity doesn't have to always be physical. Much less, actually, as time goes by and timing, focus and positioning make more sense.

My 2 cents :)



I'm with you. Focussed, intense practice doesn't need to be destructive.

Jeanne :p

Nick Simpson 11-03-2005 06:11 AM

Re: When is long enough to long?
 
'That shows you are worried about grading, equality, etc. and, well, why?'

Thank you for the blinding assumption. I am not worried about grading or eqaulity, I am merely advocating not blindly following what we are told. Revenue generation is obviously the big one, as you said, with a shodan from hombu costing what? 100 or dollars? And getting more expensive as you progress. The other thing I find funny is the people who have the high grades and that received them relatively quickly have put in place a system that stops others from doing so. To be honest, Im not that bothered, Im happy where I am, with my instructors and my grade, so stuff like this doesnt really affect me, but I still like to exercise the old grey matter :)

Steve Mullen 11-03-2005 06:29 AM

Re: When is long enough to long?
 
to people like me and mr simpson grade isn't inportant, we can be content with our sparkling wit ad amazing god-like good looks, can't we nick :cool: :D :D :p

Nick Simpson 11-03-2005 06:31 AM

Re: When is long enough to long?
 
Yes. Yar!


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