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Alec Corper 03-02-2006 10:33 AM

Training over 50
Hello Folks,

this is a genuine enquiry addressed to a small number of people out there who are over 50 and still training regularly, particularly those with a lot of mileage under their belt (and maybe a little above it as well ;) )
I'm going to be 54 this year, I teach 3 or 4 times a week and always take some ukemi, lead the warming up, wander round and practice with people, and pretty much expect myself to be able to "walk the Talk". However, I can feel the consequences of a lot of years of MA, one gammy knee, an arm that won't straighten any more, and I feel a contradiction growing that just as I feel some understanding beginning to dawn I can't actually practice at the speed and intensity that I would like to. This is not about fighting, but about a deep belief that receiving techniques is, in some ways, more important than applying them.
I see a lot of instructors that demonstrate on their students but rarely allow themselves to be thrown, or work freely with kaeshi waza. Some of it, IMHO, is laziness, some arrogance, but in some cases their bodies just can't hack it anymore.
So the question to some of you old, damaged warriors out there is this:
What is the nature of your training as you get older?
No disrespect intended, but please no wise-ass remarks like "you're only as old as you feel" from guys in their 30's who have no idea what I'm on about.

Nick Simpson 03-02-2006 10:35 AM

Re: Training over 50
You're only as old as you feel.

Sorry, couldnt resist it.

Alec Corper 03-02-2006 11:03 AM

Re: Training over 50
I saw you lurking, wise-ass, whilst I was posting. what else can I expect from a youngster? :rolleyes:

cconstantine 03-02-2006 11:08 AM

Re: Training over 50
This isn't directly advice; just a perspective on older aikidoka (from someone in their 30s.)

In our dojo, there is a wonderful person who began [began Aikido, his only MA experience] at age 55, and continues today beyond 65. (I think he's 67 now.) I started after him and passed him along way in the dan ranks, so he now listens respectfully on the rare cases when I have something I wish to say. But, to me, he still feels like a "sempai". He has some physical issues with arthritis and a slight disability, and tends to do ukemi with one preferred side leading. We don't throw him hard, and he does not perform as uke (as other dans do) during testing.

All that being said, he has a spark and life which show during his training. He can of course lead and throw. (In fact, I warn new students not to be mislead by his "frail" appearance.) His practice is earnest and honest. To me, he provides proof that size is not important in our practice. I hope I am lucky enough to train with him for many more years.

BWells 03-02-2006 11:28 AM

Re: Training over 50
Well I'm 57, started at 45 but dropped out for a couple of years. Am getting ready for my Shodan test so have to have some intensity in training. Have a great example though. My senior teacher Frederic (Rick) Rowell is in his 70's and has been doing Aikido for over 40 years. He still regularly takes roles and sometime break falls. Not as frequent as when I first started but I can only hope I can do the same at his age.

Take care

Mark Freeman 03-02-2006 11:59 AM

Re: Training over 50
Hi Alec,
I just fall into the over 50 bracket, and am painfully aware of the truth of your post. There is not much we can do to turn back the clock, and if the body has been damaged due to earlier hard training, there is little chance ( other than bionics! ) of these old war wounds repairing themselves.
My own feeling is that it is really important for a teacher to take ukemi for students for as long as possible, for one thing it allows the teacher kinesthetic feedback as to where the student may be going wrong. However, it is not absolutely essential. Much depends on the teacher and his/her teaching.
My own teacher is in the latter half of his 70's and has been in Aikido for over 50 years. He no longer recieves techniques or rolls, this does not diminish his teaching ability though, as he has developed his own method over the many years of practice. Not one of his many students feels that he is any 'less' for not rolling. He has two artificial hips, both of which he puts down to his judo practice in his younger years. Many years of hard (sometimes brutal) training has not left him feeling that we should all be doing the same. So our practice is a distillation of all his years of experience 'priceless'
So, my advice is, be the best teacher you can be, despite physical limitations, your students look to you for insight, inspiration, guidance, and empathy, and from reading some of your posts I recon they probably get all of those things and more.
Our bodies may not do exactly what we want them to do anymore, our youger students will find this out soon enough!!
Our minds are what we lead with, this is the area that we must concentrate on, it is our area of greatest advantage. We may not be able to out run the young upstarts, but we can out smart them.


Alec Corper 03-02-2006 12:10 PM

Re: Training over 50
Appreciate the comments, Mark, and I know what i can be for my students. However, I'm also still interested in my own training and curious about how others train as they get older. For example, I am more interested in the mechanics of Aiki taiso than I used to be, viewing flexibility as a vehicle of power, and a way of using muscles differently. I'm also curious about specific exercises for the tendons and joints. I'm busy with Chi Gung and Tai Chi, and have been on and off for many years, so I'm also reexamining what could be called the inner aspects of Aikido. There are a host of other areas that many out there have played with in the years, such as subliminal gestures, manipulation of sen and mai, etc. that make more sense now than they did. I know there are inspirational examples out there, but I'm not lacking inspiration, I'm still busy.
regards, Alec

Mark Uttech 03-02-2006 12:40 PM

Re: Training over 50
My own take on the 'over fifty' question is to just "keep going". I will be 53 in a few weeks, but I continue my personal practice of 1,000 mae kaiten per month. I also take ukemi from my students so that I can feel how they are doing the technique. I study aikido videos of older teachers and try to 'steal their shortcuts', especially regarding suwari waza. Mary Heiny shihan does suwari waza with as little shikko as possible, for example. I hope this answers your curiosity. In gassho.

Alec Corper 03-02-2006 12:45 PM

Re: Training over 50
Thanks mark,
1000 mai ukemi a month, thats a lot! Good discipline though, I think I'll start counting and see what i can do, useful. As for the shikko, yep, had to learn that with one bum knee, economy of movement, glue people to my center, centripetal intention. This is the sort of response I'm looking for.

thank you, Alec

Nick Simpson 03-02-2006 01:12 PM

Re: Training over 50

what else can I expect from a youngster?
More examples of my shining wit? On a more serious note though, their is an instructor in my organisation who has recently had to retire from training/teaching due to arthritis, prior to this though he economised his movement (phone booth aikido, as he called it) which worked well for him.

ajbarron 03-02-2006 01:47 PM

Re: Training over 50

I think this should be split off into a special forum for we semi-centurions who still grace the dojo. :hypno: This forum should really only accessed by certified members, with verifiable birth certificates, so we can pass on all our knowledge to each other. Jun can you arrange this?

In a half century-plus, we have learned so many valuable lessons and skills that how can we possibly communicate any of this with our "juniors". :crazy: Our age experience and deep understanding of life and the art is too difficult for the teens, 20, 30 and 40-somethings to fathom.

Given all this......................................why is it that some days are like the very first day on the mat and migi is hidari and my hair is thinning!!!!????? :uch: If we told all those young whipper snappers the truth, would they still be practicing at our ripe old age.

All these profound thoughts also come on the Eve of my Shodan Test.

Apprehension and questions fire across my brain like water on a hot skillet……………

* * *

HELP. Am I ready for the test? No!

Will I take the test ? Yes.

Will I pass the test, I'll tell you after it's over and the results are posted.

So the question is why am I testing and trying to do what these "kids" are doing?. The answer is the great people and teachers in Aikido, the effort, joy, and time I have put into it: and because Sensei told me to test.

Do I know all the techniques perfectly? The answer to this is no.

Now I'm beginning to figure out that I'm simply starting to understand that this ( aikido and life)is a long term activity and I only have another forty or fifty years to get it right.

I'll go out there for my test,like every test before, do some techniques correctly, some not, and others I will forget. But I'll go down trying/fighting.(What did Yoda say?) I'll also write a big M on one foot and an H on the other so at least I'll have the correct foot forward.

So to all you young guys………….stop reading forums and get on the mat.

Cheers from a teenager disguised as an old guy having fun. :D

Alec Corper 03-02-2006 01:53 PM

Re: Training over 50
Good luck young man :p

Charlie Huff 03-02-2006 02:59 PM

Re: Training over 50
I'll be 55 in a few days, so I think about this a lot too.

Haven't come up with any good answers, other than to keep training and do what I can. So far, I can still take all the ukemi I expect my students to. At some point I may have to cut back on that stuff, but I reckon that's part of discovering your own Aikido.

As I frequently remind my students: Age and treachery are an even match for youth and enthusiasm. :cool:

Michael Zartman 03-02-2006 03:05 PM

Re: Training over 50
My sensei is 58, and he fully participates by taking all ukemi. However, he has arthritis, a bad arm, a bad thumb, etc. from over 40 years in MA, including all 40 in judo and many in aikido. I am nearly 48--so far, the only limitation (if you can call it that) I have is that I no longer feel exhilarated after practice--I now feel just tired. I am reluctant (evil grin) to apply sankyo or nikkyo to him as I would to a younger uke because he winces. On ikkyo, I cannot extend his arm more than 60 degrees or so from his body without obvious pain to him (evil grin). He says he needs to feel the technique to be able to understand what may be going wrong with his student's technique--he says you see alot, but feel much more. It has taken me many years of "perfecting" technique by eye, but I am finally "feeling" the technique too. He is teaching me so much that I probably would never learn if he was not my uke. If he would only stop throwing me judo-style--I might live to be 58 too.

Mark Freeman 03-02-2006 05:11 PM

Re: Training over 50

Cheers from a teenager disguised as an old guy having fun.
LOL, boy can I relate to that description! :D

Good luck on your test Andrew, although it's not luck you'll be needing. ;)


Mark Freeman 03-02-2006 05:33 PM

Re: Training over 50

I'm also curious about specific exercises for the tendons and joints. I'm busy with Chi Gung and Tai Chi, and have been on and off for many years, so I'm also reexamining what could be called the inner aspects of Aikido.
have you ever thought about Yoga, it seems to me to offer much for the lengthening of muscles/tendons, and it has a similar mind/ body /spirit aspect as aikido ( without the dynamic movement ). I did it and really enjoyed it for a while, but went for aikido precisely because it lacked a dynamic element that I craved and happily found in aikido. I am however thinking of re exploring the practice to try and keep my body flexible enough to fully enjoy my aikido for as long as possible.
Has anyone else out there successfully combined the two practices, I'm sure there must be. I would be interested to hear of your experiences?
As for the inner aspects of aikido, I think this is the real challenge for us ageing aikidoka. Once you've enough mat time in, my feeling is that the physical techniques are quite 'easy', they don't get harder the more advanced you get, just the opposite. The inner aspects of aikido (for me) are the work that needs to be done off the mat. Being non-confrontational in the dynamic heat of randori is one thing. Maintaining the same composure when dealing with relationships with teenage kids, your partner, the incompetent service providers, etc etc.. now there's the challenge.

Am I alone on this?


Mike Sigman 03-02-2006 08:12 PM

Re: Training over 50

Alec Corper wrote:
So the question to some of you old, damaged warriors out there is this:
What is the nature of your training as you get older?

Shioda Kancho made a remark in Aikido Shugyo in that he agreed with Ueshiba that you do these things so you will have strength and health in your old age. I tend to limit my practices to the most focused items that will provide me with unusual strength and health as I continue to get older. So, for example, if someone wanted to interest me in a martial art that had mostly aerobic exercise or perhaps was heavily ritual-oriented, or in some other way was not focused 98% of the time on things that would improve my condition, I simply wouldn't do them. Of course, the caveat is that I do my "exercise" (because that's what it is) in the framework of martial arts. Why waste time? ;)


CatSienna 03-03-2006 01:58 AM

Re: Training over 50
[quote=Mark Freeman],
"have you ever thought about Yoga, it seems to me to offer much for the lengthening of muscles/tendons, ....
Has anyone else out there successfully combined the two practices, I'm sure there must be. I would be interested to hear of your experiences?"

First I'm not over 50, but have to say that as a 30+ woman I still benefit a lot from yoga and I imagine it's benefits will increase rather than decrease as the years go on.

My experience is that I have done yoga in the past before taking up aikido. I did it continuously for about a year, once a week, then again for another year or so with some gaps in between. I loved the yoga I did, which is hatha yoga. (I can't speak for other forms simply because I have no or little experience with those). I think it has great benefits for the body and found sometimes its effects very similar to shiatsu, a Japanese form of massage. There were times in particular positions I could literally feel the flow of qi being released if there had been blockages. It has also certainly got strong benefits in terms of improving flexibility and balance as it trains a lot of the smaller muscles involved in balancing the body.

I don't do it regularly any longer though mainly cos I now do aikido :). But I still do it every now and again when I feel my body is too tense, stressed or just needs to stretch and relax more. I do find that doing yoga in the morning and then aikido in the evening makes a difference to my aikido practice. I'm simply more limber right from the start.

SeiserL 03-03-2006 08:14 AM

Re: Training over 50

Alec Corper wrote:
So the question to some of you old, damaged warriors out there is this: What is the nature of your training as you get older?

Started at 44.
Still train 3 time a week for over 11 years.
I train wiser not just harder now.
Have to accept and compensate for injuries (mileage).
My Sensei is 70. Still teaches everyday and throws me around easily.
Now get back to training. ;-)

Alec Corper 03-03-2006 08:48 AM

Re: Training over 50
Ok Lyn,

I'll get back to training tomorrow ;)
Seriously though, I often say the same to my older students, "train wiser, not harder", and I am now reviewing what that means. Simplistic answers like "quality over quantity" don't say much unless we define what quality is. The quality of awareness, subtlety, the degree of intention and attention, etc. I brought this up because it is always said that Aikido is for all, young and old, but the practice is and must be different, and in general this is an untouched area, at least in my experience,
regards, Alec

Rocky Izumi 03-03-2006 11:07 AM

Re: Training over 50
I found that the problems I was having often had to do with the decrease in flexibility that came along with age. That decrease in flexibility also lead to a loss in power. I found that increasing flexibility training (like that comment about Yoga) helps to decrease the rate of deterioration. I have also taken to the use of nutritional supplements and other drugs to aid in recovery from heavy workouts. I have to daily take my 500 mg of Glucosamine , 400 mg of MSM, and 400 mg of Chondroitin 3x a day. Otherwise, I am looking at knee replacement. However, I have found that the drugs are not enough and have had to increase my leg and hip joint flexibility exercises. Another key area that I find I must now work on continuously is back flexibility. Ukemi are harder without that back flexibility. And lastly, is shoulder flexibility. To be able to put power into your techniques requires good shoulder flexibility. (So does my golf swing.) So that is another area that I have to work out. And the last is wrist flexibility required for Kaeshiwaza. The warm-up that I lead in classes now are as much for me as for the students. Oh, yes, back to hip flexibility required power (and swinging the golf club). I find that most people do not do the fune kogi undo properly so as to improve hip flexibility.

As I get older, I am finding out how important all that flexibility really is. You don't miss it until you lose it.

I think that if you want to keep practicing hard and enjoy your practices, I suggest working on your flexibility. Even with damaged bodies like mine, you can regain some of the flexibility of your youth with hard and continuous practice. By the way, my knee problems have decreased substantially with increased flexibility of various parts of my legs and hips. It seems that the rest of the body can help accommodate the loss in knee power and flexibility as long as the rest are more flexible.

I have found that as I age, I have had to increase the number of my practices to maintain my abilities. This increased number of practices is not at the same speed as when I was younger but tend to be more intense for a shorter duration. In other words, I haven't cut down the amount of pounding on my body but I have spread it out so that I don't have to recover so much. I notice this from golfing tournaments. Playing four games in a week is not difficult when spread out over the week but playing four games in three days takes a real toll on my body, especially when partying every night during the tournament. :)

Another thing that helped -- moving to a warm climate. The Canadian winters were killing me and my joints and the driness was murder on my skin. Barbados is wonderful! (As I sit here in the 29 degree warmth.) It's much better for your golf game as well.:)

BTW, most people in my Caribbean dojos are over 40 and many are near 50. :D


Alec Corper 03-03-2006 11:17 AM

Re: Training over 50
Great idea, Rocky, thank you. Sun in Barbados sounds like something I could try to work into my practice!

I agree with what you say, intensity is still possible for shorter duration, and recovery is longer. And, yes, flexibility in knee, hip and shoulder is something I can relate to. Do you have any specific exercises or do you simply pay more attention to the areas as you warm up. I've also found that some light strength training is doing me good, maybe i was getting too relaxed/lazy ;)

I'm a tad jealous visualizing you guys training in the sun prior to a quick dip in the ocean to cool off.

all the best, Alec

dan guthrie 03-03-2006 11:20 AM

Re: Training over 50
I'm 50 and I've been training for two years and seven months as of today at 6 p.m. If I ever figure it out I'll let you be the first to know.
Just be thankful for every day.

aikidoc 03-03-2006 11:48 AM

Re: Training over 50
I'm soon to hit 57. I teach 5 days a week, about 9 hours a week. I still take ukemi, although right now I'm nursing a bad shoulder. I take ukemi mostly when going around and trying to feel what my students are doing or when pairing up with some on odd numbers in class. It's hard to spend too much time doing ukemi and working with correcting technique if the class is big-I'm getting quite a few beginners lately. I don't do much knee work: meniscus surgery on one and need it on the other, hyalgan shots helped. I have assistants that have good knees and I let them do more of it. I can do it but pay a price for several days. I definitely don't take as many high falls although we have been working on soft ones and that helps.

gregstec 03-03-2006 12:16 PM

Re: Training over 50
Hi Alec,

Like you, I will be turn 54 this year as well. I first started Aikido in the mid 70s while overseas in the Navy, but drifted away after returning to the states since Aikido dojos in the US were very few at that time. However, I started up again a couple of years ago and now train two to three times a week and try to do at least two seminars a year. Mostly, I have found that flexibility has diminished as well as stamina. I normally train with a fast paced group in a college Aikido club affiliated with the ASU, and on occasion train at an independent dojo whose Aikido curriculum is actively supervised by Ellis Amdur and is physically challenging as well. At times I find it hard to keep up with the fast pace and feel bad when I have to sit out on occasion just to catch my breath. The problem is not with taking ukemi; falling is easy, but it is the constant picking yourself up off the mat that wears you down quickly. The physical limitations I have are a bad knee and troubled shoulder. With the shoulder, I just watch the ukemi on that side and tap out quickly on the arm bars and pins. However, the knee really limits suwari waza, and shikko is totally out. Sitting seiza is not a problem, but moving on the knees just does not work. Therefore, for suwari and handachi, I focus on staying centered and move uke around me; works well if done right.

As mentioned above, I would feel bad when I could not keep up and had to sit out because I felt I was not giving my partner as much as I was receiving. However, I came to understand that it is the quality of training and not necessarily the quantity that is important. If I could not perform the technique properly due to my exhaustion, it was not benefiting me nor my partner. I found that by sitting out one series, or limiting the technique practice to stopping before the fall, I could regroup and pickup at the next technique and perform as expected - this I feel is more beneficial to the training for all concerned.

I guess the important thing to remember is to be aware of your limitations, perform within them, and stay focused on your training objectives. Oh, the most important thing - have fun!

Greg Steckel

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