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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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