Wednesday was Katherine Macey’s 50th birthday. This came as a surprise to me because, as I told her, I wouldn’t have been surprised to hear she was turning 40. This is partly because martial arts keeps us physically healthy and looking good. More importantly, this is because our practice keeps us mentally and emotionally healthy. Martial arts after 50 is possible when we remain healthy in all aspects of our life.
Katherine is a great example of a student who enjoys all of the benefits of what we teach here. When I asked her what she wanted for her birthday, she asked for a private class. I don’t teach many privates, but I had a great time spending nearly an hour sparring and grappling with her. She, like the other students who have been here for many years, is getting really good. This flies in the face of what most people think life is like after 40, let alone 50. Yet the dojo is a place where time seems to stand still, and in some ways even go backward as we get stronger, more flexible and more coordination.
Masters of Martial Arts
Many of the best martial artists of all time were in their prime in their 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. They had probably started to slow down a bit physically, but they were so mentally sharp and had such vast experience that they were unbeatable.
Meditation obviously plays a big role in our ability to continue getting mentally stronger. Our physical practices of Kung Fu, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and T’ai Chi also act as a moving meditation and give us infinite ways to grow inwardly.
When I asked Katherine what she was going to do with her next 50 years, she replied “have fun and share fun with others.” Having fun is of the highest importance. We seek a balanced consciousness that is both laser focused and childlike. An infant plays with a wooden block as if nothing else in the universe could possibly be more exciting. This is what we call beginner’s mind.
Fun and happiness can only exist in this moment. This is one of the reasons we practice mindfulness and being present. Being with others and having fun is a great way of living in the moment. It’s a given that practicing martial arts in this dojo will be fun, but more specifically it gives us plenty of opportunity to have fun practicing with others. Focusing on helping our partners is an easy way to live in the moment and let go of whatever is dragging us down in our own practice and life.
Martial Arts for Life
When I was still a teenager, Sifu Brown asked us if we would keep practicing martial arts even if we knew we would never get better. He said that there would indeed come a time when we would hit a final plateau, when we would stop progressing, at least in the way we are used to. I thought of this for about 2 seconds and, perhaps naively, answered to myself that of course I would keep practicing. Partly this is because I had (and still have) never done anything more fun than practicing and teaching martial arts. Another reason is that I am a martial artist. I could never stop practicing. Even if my back aches, I slow down, I can’t kick as high, can’t punch as hard, this is what I do. I will be definitely be practicing martial arts after 50. I believe that for Katherine and many of our students, this is their truth as well.