Sifu Rebecca Knapp, Waterloo Kung-Fu Academy

By Sifu Rebecca Knapp

Adult Student’s Corner

Next year (2019) I will turn fifty. FIFTY. Wow. I’ve noticed over the last decade, that my body and physical abilities are changing significantly. As we grow older, certain things become inevitable:

As we age, muscular development is increasingly constrained. Our tissues lose resilience – muscles lose elasticity; consequently, we develop shorter ranges of motion. Our wounds heal more slowly. Our blood carries less oxygen, so we have less overall energy, stamina, and speed. Our reflexes decline as our neurons transmit their messages less efficiently so response time becomes impaired. Our ability to remember promptly and accurately deteriorates as our cognitive functioning starts to decline. Wear and tear on joints causes pain and inflammation.

So as martial artists, we move more slowly and acquire more wounds–if for no other reason that because we get hit more often–and need more time to recover from them.

After digesting all the lovely information I researched, I actually didn’t feel so bad about the tendonitis in my shoulder, jumper’s knee, osteoarthritis in my hands and feet, low back and pelvic pain, and general achiness I experience daily now.

There are benefits to growing older in Kung Fu though: I am wiser, more strategic, more intuitive in my movements and have developed a more holistic understanding of my art. I no longer feel I have something to prove to myself or anyone else for that matter, so I am more relaxed and more confident as a person and a student of Kung Fu. I know my body well and I understand the value of good health, so I honour what it tells me…and although I am still fairly impatient when it comes to rest and healing, I am making strides in that too.

Getting older doesn’t mean you have to or should stop training. I will quit Kung Fu when I’m dead! Hopefully that’s not for a while. There are ways, however, to adapt your training as need be:

  • Emphasize skill and technique refinement over continued physical development.  Efficiency of technique becomes even more important when speed, resiliency, and overall physical potential decrease.
  • Condition for health instead of performance – that means strengthening the smaller muscles and stabilizers more than before, doing stretches specific to those muscles, and incorporating relaxation/regenerative techniques to delay the inevitable physical decay.
  • Focus more on low/no impact training.
  • Take your rest days and give your body time, and permission, to heal when injured.
  • Cross train for more well-rounded physical maintenance, and don’t be afraid of incorporating disciplines such as yoga, and Aikido, where you are using your opponent’s momentum rather than your own strength.
  • Don’t stop stretching, be kind to your joints, and overall, take good care of yourself.
  • Follow medical advancements in treating and managing age related degeneration
  • Finally, just know your body (and your abilities), be kind to it, and honour what it tells you – it’s the only one you’ve got!

Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light!
~ Dylan Thomas