I’m Over 40. Is It Too Late To Begin Martial Arts Workouts?

by Master Alan Zuckerman

When a man over 40 begins martial arts workouts they should have a special name: Kung Old Fool, Tae Kwon Old, Health Care-a-te or Senior Do. If anyone asks about my health I usually reply, “I’m aging too fast to get in shape.”

I discovered taekwondo in my forties. A series of seemingly random circumstances took me to the school of the Grandmaster who would become my teacher, Byung Min Kim.

When I was out with an old friend at dinner, I found out he studied tae kwon do and was a black belt. He had studied since he was a kid, off and on. At the time, my son was young and I believed he could benefit from a good martial arts school. Then I happened to meet my future Master. I broker retail real estate and had actually offered a store front to Grandmaster Kim. I didn’t make that sale, but he sold me on the value of tae kwon do.

When you practice tae kwon do as a fully formed adult, you don’t necessarily have different expectations than when you start as a child. Expectations formed by Bruce Lee, David Caradine, James Bond, Napoleon Solo and all the TV shows and movies of the 1950’s, and 60’s.

I just wanted to be deadly…and really handsome!

Shortly after beginning to this new martial arts exercise, I went to my doctor with what I was sure was an appendicitis attack. He assured me that I was just sore, from doing sit ups. I was out of shape.

Although I had been an avid exerciser in my 20’s, I had pushed off that regular routine after getting married and having children. But now in my forties, I couldn’t breath during simple recreational tennis or volleyball. The simplest workout found me out of breath. I no longer had the endurance to dance with my wife.

I decided to do something different. Within the same week, I started tae kwon do and piano lessons (middle age is so confusing).

Tae kwon do has been a seed planted inside me. When I give it what it needs to grow, it takes root. If you have started this journey, you know what I’m saying. But if tae kwon do is new to you, I guarantee you that great changes are coming. Should you be starting later in life, like I did, I want to give you this equation:

Middle Aged = (patience + resolve)-(litheness + hair)

Think long term. That is the best advice that I live by. Listen to your body and not your mind. I have seen too many adults come into class and their minds say their body is 21. They either stretch too far, or kick too hard, or try to achieve what used to be easy.

Teachers will work to motivate everyone in class no matter the age or skill level. Though your head will say, “you can do this” your body will need more time to get there. In the short run, overreaching leads to injuries and those injuries cause you to want to quit, fulfilling the myth that this sport is only for the young.

No way!

You can’t see the entire road in just one mile; you must understand each mile of the road, and stick to it.

The next time an instructor pushes you too hard, remember that you are an adult. Age has its privilege. A great master will understand your limits and push you accordingly, that is where trust is built. Short of that; listen to your inner master.

Though I may be too old for Rock N Roll, I’m too young to die.

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