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When a man over 40 begins martial arts workouts they should have a special name: Kung Old Fool, Tae Kwon Old, Health Care-a-te or Senior Do. If anyone asks about my health I usually reply, "I'm aging too fast to get in shape."
I found martial arts while in my forties. Random events carried me to the gym of my future instructor, Grandmaster Byung Min Kim.
The first event occurred while I was having dinner with an old friend. He revealed that he had studied martial arts since he was a boy and had earned a black belt in tae kwon do. My son was young at the time, and I considered the benefit for him of studying some form of martial arts. Finally, I met the Master of my future school. I work as a retail real estate broker, and happened to offer a store to Grandmaster Kim. I didn't close that sale, but fortunately he sold me on tae kwon do.
The expectations of an adult male, no matter how old, when they begin martial arts instruction is the same as a child's. You wistfully remember David Caradine, James Bond, Bruce Lee or Napoleon Solo in any of the popular movies and television shows of the 1950's and 60's.
I yearned to be deadly...and great looking!
Soon after beginning my new martial arts workouts, I had to go see my general practitioner because I just knew I was experiencing an appendicitis attack. The doctor assured me that it was just soreness from all the sit ups. I was only out of condition.
Although I exercised regularly in my 20's, after marriage and kids, I put exercise on hold. Now in my forties, I was short of breath. I noticed I couldn't breathe doing recreational exercise like tennis and volleyball and I also noticed that I didn't have the stamina to dance with my wife.
It was time to try something new. That very week saw me starting piano lessons and tae kwon do (don't ask, middle age is very confusing).
Tae kwon do has been a seed planted inside me. When I give it what it needs to grow, it takes root. If you have started this journey, you know what I'm saying. But if tae kwon do is new to you, I guarantee you that great changes are coming. Should you be starting later in life, like I did, I want to give you this equation:
Grown Up = (patience + determination)-(suppleness + hair)
Work for the long run is the best advice I can give you. Listen to the needs of your body, not just your mind. I have witnessed many adults in class with the mindset of a 21 year old. They work too hard, push too far in order to get what used to be simple.
Teachers will work to motivate everyone in class no matter the age or skill level. Though your head will say, "you can do this" your body will need more time to get there. In the short run, overreaching leads to injuries and those injuries cause you to want to quit, fulfilling the myth that this sport is only for the young.
You cannot comprehend the journey with a single step; you can only comprehend a single step of the journey, so stick with it.
When you feel your instructor is pushing too hard, remember you're an adult and age has its privileges. A good teacher will realize your limits and help you reach your personal best, this is where trust between teacher and student comes from. In lieu of that, trust your inner voice.
You might be too old for rock and roll, but you're too young to die.
Before you choose if your too old for martial arts, visit Kalynn Amadio's great martial arts website Taekwondo-Network and learn more about men's workouts in tae kwon do when you're over 40. Keep in mind that, age is only a number.