Friday, May 04, 2012


Garry Smith at the Academy of Self Defense in Sheffield (UK) has started a blog.  I added it to the Links down on the right.  If he writes regularly, it will creep up into the blog roll list.  Garry will be one of my hosts in the UK later this month, and that's part of the connection, but he wrote something brilliant that spoke directly to me.

I don't like the idea of getting old.  I doubt if it's the years as much as the mileage.  Old breaks ache, old dislocations click and catch.  Weird tremors, vision blurry in the eye that wasn't gouged...

Whining.  Sorry.

A big part of my fear of growing old is that I don't know anyone who came from my background who did so successfully.  'Growing old gracefully' always looked like something rich people with peaceful lives could do.  The ranch country where I grew up, the loggers and ranchers just worked (and drank) until they died.  None of the extraordinary fighters that I know are transitioning well.  Either still trying to play like a young man and racking up serious injuries or collapsing in memories of the days when they did something 'more real' and all too often that descends into alcohol too, a way to time travel and deal with what seems like boredom.

The best way to solve many problems is to find someone else who has solved it... but fighters growing old gracefully appear to be rare as purple pearls.  Greg Jones of San Soo appears to be doing the best, but his early life was pretty hellish and he really appreciates the relative peace.

Anyway, I've been trying to figure out how to grow old gracefully, and that might be the problem.

Garry wrote:
"I intend to grow old disgracefully..."

Yeah.  That right there.  Needs to be on a T-shirt.


Kai Jones said...

I don't think you need to worry about the disgracefully part.

Mike Panian said...

I went through this a number of years ago. I had to admit that feeling myself decline in certain ways bugged me and then get over it.

Some thoughts about growing old and practicing that I have had:

-Yes...everything does take longer to heal now. Consequently, its just a waste of time to get injured unnecessarily.

-I don't want to get hit in the head any more. So how can I practice realistically and not take shots now and then?

-I think I am getting slower! Dang!

-Some of the younger guys make better teachers now because they have this vibrant dynamic energy that other young people are attracted to. My role as a teacher is changing. Maybe that's good because I was getting tired of repeating things anyway!

-Hold on now... there are lots of people who practice who have not been as fit, as strong, as competent, or as powerful as I was in my youth. Are they in fact more mentally tough than me? They did not give up. How do I compare to people who because of some infirmity will NEVER be all that strong and yet they still practice? What motivates them?

-Focusing on techniques that you can do even when you are weaker, slower and smaller than the bad guy is not just something you say. What are those techniques? Do any really exist? I think so but none of them are ever surefire and

-there are lots of reasons to practice martial arts. The defending yourself aspect is part of it but not all of it. It feels good when things come together. It feels good to have a certain kind of optimism and alertness. It feels good to be healthy and agile relatively speaking.

-The older I get the more practicing is about staying fit and healthy.

-I think fighting with weapons and armor is a way to keep feeling some semblance of "real" while minimizing the inefficiency of getting injured. Different kinds of sparring emphasize different aspects of real.

Ironically, my determination to alter my practice and still keep going is what led me to your blog and your courses, to becoming eclectic and sharing with others, and stimulated me to look at things with fresh eyes.


Charles James said...

I am not even close to your league but taking a lesson from meditations, go ahead and give yourself permission to gain wisdom (entering the winter years of life ;-).

Ymar Sakar said...

For a fighter to continue the Way into old age, they must learn an internal fighting system.

Xingyi, bagua, Taiji Chuan.

As one grows older, one's physical abilities decrease at the same time one's mental abilities increase. Internal Chinese arts thus solves the problem by honing mental abilities to the point where they act as physical abilities would in a younger individual. Rather than meeting force with force, one finds a more energy efficient solution that does the same job in less time.

Dennis said...


I read your blog on occasion and you openend a big door for me and I truly appreciate your insightful writing. I've just begun with training and I'm 31 years old, not that old should you say. The first few times I was going full on in training and the days after I walked with wobbly legs, due the sore feeling of my muscles not used to training. I've asked myself the same question: How can I train realistically and prepare my body for fighting and not injure myself. I connected with Matt Powell, a early adopter and head student of the Kadochnikov system. He evolved his knowledge of the Kadochnikov system (that's designed for biomechanical efficiency purposes) into his own system for survival and protection Pramek, a western understanding of combat. Although he is, just as me, a relativly youngster he came up with the same question: why are most Martial Artists past there 50's 60's not capable doing what they used to do? Efficiency is the key. You should check him out. He is a very knowledgeable guy with a extensive background and good understanding of violence.

Bob Patterson said...

Turning 40 really bothered me. However, I'm mostly over it by now.

Two ideas?

- Learn to work around (and with) your limitations

- Know when to hang it up (applies to many things in life)

My former boss stayed in higher education until he was 70. Because of his ego he became a sad parody of himself.


Mac said...

At 62, after a mere 46 years of martial arts, a stint in the military in the late 60s-early 70s and 32 years as a corrections and enforcement deputy (and Librarian - they used to call me Conan the Librarian), I have so much joint pain that it takes extreme, constant focus to, not just endure, but do it with a positive attitude and a smile for others; to not be a high-maintenance whiner, constantly sighing over who I usta be and what I coulda usta do; to not feel like a has-been. Exit the 'physical' years - my toughest of the tough guy, accept any challenge, triathlete ability self-image to the 'mental' years - a time of teaching and mentoring; THE person who was looked to for skill development, safety and success. After an all too brief time, though, the youngsters no longer seek you out because you can't show (demonstrate) what you know - "talk is cheap."

So, now what? A talented few of us write and go on the lecture circuit, some of us go fishing; some open bars or run gas & groceries in small towns or along the long, lonely stretches of interstate highway. A few drag their time out with blogs, others - don't make it to this age.

For me, this is the time of introspection, meditation and tri- brain collation. The time of turning inward in a search for meaning, legacy and (spiritual) longevity.

And then -

Mister X said...

Shit man, just do everything you can, every moment, to be as happy as you can and make the people you care about happy, too.

What else can we really ask for in this life?

Mac said...

You right about that, Mr. X - as cliche as it sounds, helping others, investing in others, seeing our family, friends and students prosper, rising beyond where we leave off, IS success and happiness. Thx for the reminder - and for caring.

Steve Perry said...

Compensate, dude. Figure out a work-around. You don't need to worry about letting it go, because you can't hold onto it, that's the nature of the game.

I never was a fighter, so I don't have that to lose. But I was faster and stronger and had more endurance. I could party all night and then work all the next day.

Twenty is not forty is not sixty is not eighty.

I feel sorry for the handsome boys and pretty girls who got by on their looks; who got asked to the party just because they were eye candy. That goes away, and if there's nothing else there? Sad.

Read Housman's poem: "To An Athlete Dying Young."

The guys who were the bulls-of-the-wood, the hard and tough and fast and strong don't get to stay there.

We're a great youth culture. The reason we remember James Dean and Marilyn Monroe and Bruce Lee is because they checked out early, they get to be young forever in memory.

Growing old gracefully is realizing what the ultimate reality is and finding ways to deal with and accept it, because anything else merely wastes your remaining time.

It's a terrible system. When I get to be in charge, I'll change it. Meanwhile? You got to know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em ...

Mac said...

Spot on. I may whine and sigh occasionally but I will not go quietly into the night. As Conan said, I want to see the blood of my enemies, and laminate their women!

Anonymous said...

I am a 35 yr. old male, who's closer to 36. I recommend to males who are involved in the world of physical violence and who are worried about, growing older, or, being too old for this sh*t, to watch or re-watch the movie, "Unforgiven", starring Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, and Morgan Freeman. Take what you can from this movie. LEARN TO LOVE YOUR PHYSICAL SCARS! Every physical scar that you have, has a fascinating story behind it, and a special meaning to only you, and you alone. Your physicals scars made you who you are today. A human being is CONSTANTLY evolving (changing). As you accumulate physical injuries, your martial arts training should include working around your accumulated physical injuries. That, to me, is "evolving". Some of the younger guys may not, as of yet, realize what the older guys have to offer. However, I am of the opinion that the "silent majority" of the younger guys love and admire the older guys. Think about it: The younger guys are desperately, very desperately, trying to achieve what the older guys have already achieved. Commonsense should tell us that if someone has already achieved something that you wish to achieve, you're going to try to learn absolutely everything that you can from that person. There is confidence in feeling that you're, "young as Springtime". There is equal confidence in feeling that you are connected to something that is, "older than Time, Itself...". It is your right to refer to yourself as, "old" or "too old". IT IS NEVER ACCEPTABLE TO ALLOW ANOTHER HUMAN BEING TO CALL YOU "OLD", OR, "TOO OLD", UNLESS YOU HAVE IN SOME WAY, GIVEN HIM/HER PERMISSION TO DO SO. Calling someone old, could be seen as an observation. But to my way of thinking, calling someone old is often "subtly" intended as a serious insult, and should be treated as such. If you want to refer to yourself as old, or too old, that is your right. But again, never allow someone to refer to you as such unless you have given the person permission to do so. Because, in my opinion, those are "fighting words,...'boy'..."

- Azar

Josh K. said...

Thank You MS outlook 2010 for reminding me to delite your ass from mt computer.

Josh K. said...

Some days you can't win for loosing.

"Thank You MS outlook 2010 for reminding me to [delete] your ass from m[y] computer."

Silly brain.

Wayne said...

I've been nowhere near the life experiences you have been through Rory, and many others here. I do know growing old does tend to suck in some aspects but what I lose in one area I figure I gain in another, somewhere. My job is to balance out the loses and gains (ideally more gains then loses) in my life and keep moving forward.

I do love the t-shirt.

Gwynn said...

I haven't learned much but I have learned this:

Advil is not actually your friend if you want to keep training. It tells you all the lies you want to hear.

Alcohol tastes better when it is not used as pain medication.

I'm still working on the rest of it.

TomF said...

The people I admire as they age are exceptional at what amounts to a version of "situational awareness," turned inwards.

Our roles change as we age - the lack of grace comes from trying to keep an inappropriate role for your current state - often because it's too tied up in a person's identity. If I'm not this anymore, where I was excellent, what am I instead? Will excellence still be a defining part of my identity?

Excellence always is a reflection of accepting limitations ... and subjecting yourself to the discipline of specialization. I think grace in aging is specializing in recognizing when a role must be put down before becoming a parody, and picking up the next role with the same vigor and ferocity.

Kai Jones said...

Thanks, TomF, this is a useful and true-to-my-experience explanation.

Anonymous said...

First off, get a medical checkup with a reputable doctor. Years do not determine the real age of the body and its condition. We suffer a lot of unnecessary aches and pains and setbacks because we refuse medical treatment. You cannot figure out how to age gracefully because you cannot think your way there. It has to be lived. The way will open up over time. Right now, you are successful living your life. There is no reason why you would suddenly stop living successfully in the future.