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Martial Arts at Midlife: How it Changed My Life

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by guest blogger Natasha Spearman-Isip

Midlife martial arts? I can wholeheartedly recommend it! When I decided to try karate, I was 43 years old. That was 15 years ago and has led to a second-degree black belt, my own fitness business and years of taiji (tai chi) practice.

If it hadn't been for one of my twins, who, at the age of 10, wanted "to do karate," I probably would not have given it a thought. Not knowing anything concrete about the martial arts, we decided on a family membership to the local Y and enrolled him in the karate course. Although the philosophy taught in class resonated with me, it wasn't until I saw kata, the series of dance-like movements, that I was hooked. I wanted to learn! Little did I realize the impact it would make on my life.

Karate, taught well, provides a gradual mastery of techniques and consequently, fitness. Regular class instruction is sprinkled with calisthenics and, to my delight, meditation. As I progressed through the belt system, the total package of stretching, upper body technique drills, push-ups, stomach crunches, leg raises, lower body techniques and meditation started to spill over into other activities.

Now, I was doing things I saw young men do. My personal favorite: two steps at a time climbing stairs! I was also on the floor more of time and getting there with the same ease as a child. I kept telling my friends that I had rediscovered the ground, previously seen as a far-away land, friendly only to the young.

I also found that my range of motion had increased considerably. By the time I was an advanced brown belt, my stretching partner could lift my straightened leg completely up to my chest as I leaned on a wall. It was a surreal event. I was watching my leg go up, up, up, without any discomfort whatsoever! The few minutes of meditation in each general class helped grow my interest in attending the 45-minute meditation class given weekly. Over time, it led to the cultivation of a daily practice at home.

Functional fitness has been among the latest trends in exercise science. Through karate, I became functionally fit in a fun way, feeding my mind and soul as well!

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Thank you for a wonderful story. I have known many in the karate field for years and have always wanted to learn. Years (20+) of "wanting" have gone by and now at the age of 55 feel i am just to old. My self confidence is low being told most of my life that I am not good at anything and never will be..
Guess I just want to tell whoever reads this don't waste your life on "wanting" follow your heart. Don't make the same mistakes I have....LEARN and BROADEN YOUR LIFE..

NEVER feel you are too old to learn and grow.

I just turned 54 two days ago, and started Wing Chun Kung Fu a couple of months ago. I have never particpated in any form of Martial Arts before, but can tell you I am having the time of my life!
It was really rough at first, but the spiritual part of the program spoke to me so strongly, I could not quit. I am now getting ready to go for a Green Belt grading, and have more self confidence and physical stamina than I have had since I was a young woman.
Don't waste your time regretting - go get involved now and feel better about yourself - I know you can do it.

Diana, I want you to know that in the martial arts I have found people of great patience and support. We all know that it is such a personal journey. We all have obstacles to overcome. If you feel martial arts are beyond you, please,
reconsider. Try taiji (t'ai chi). It is a martial art, and taught in its full glory will provide areas of growth that will utterly amaze you. Open yourself up to knowing that you CAN find the right teacher or school for you. Your power comes from you, not another!

@Diana: I own and operate a martial arts school and have been in business for 14 years. I have a female student who started training with me when she was 55 years old. This was the first time she had ever stepped into a dojo. It is now 10 years later. She earned her Black Belt several years ago and she still trains with us at 65. Every time I see her husband, he thanks me and says that I made a new woman of her. If it is something you want to do, don't use the excuse that you are too old now. Just do it! You will never regret it.

Beautiful brief story, Natasha, that I know is filled with enough experiences to fill a lifetime! I share your wonder and amazement at how martial arts caught you! I started at age 60 and in the 7 years I have done taekwondo have earned my second degree black belt, several annual state championship, one world championship, first level instructor ranking....oh, and had cancer and an amputation and lived through a grandson being murdered. Somehow the focus and perseverance I'd been practicing in martial arts got me through it. You are never too old to start martial arts!

Thanks for the beautiful and inspiring story, Natasha! I started taekwondo at 60 years old and, now, at nearly 67, I have accomplished 2nd degree black belt, one world championship, several state championships, first level instructorship....and...survived cancer and an amputation and lived through a grandson being murdered. Somehow the focus and perseverance I practice in martial arts has seen me through it all. You are never too old! Blessed Be!

Thanks for this story-- I am now a green belt in taekwondo at age 52. I train with highly skilled instructors and I always put safety first. As many have stated here, the spiritual aspects of the practice are important, as well as the community of people with whom you train. My fitness level is better than it was in my 30's, and is improving still. I started with the attitude that I, like everyone else, has a perfect right to make a fool of themselves trying to do what they'd like to do. However, I never feel the least bit foolish in class-- I'm much too focused and sweaty to allow any self consciousness, and my classmates and instructors see my hard work and good attitude. No one give a crap about how old I am. If I need to take something slowly, I ask for a modification, and it's always respected.


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