It’s hard to believe that we are at the end of November already. In Wisconsin, it seems a little surreal since the temperature is well above normal for this time of year. However, winter and the holidays are upon us whether mother nature agrees or not. As the year comes to a close, many of us are looking ahead to the new year. Often times, that means New Year’s resolutions or sometimes it’s getting back to good habits that you left behind for one reason or another. Starting a new exercise routine is one reason why adults start martial arts. You see, martial arts can give you cardio, strength and flexibility training all at once. It works the whole body, which can be a real challenge at times! However, as adults, sometimes we need more that just a new exercise routine for a fresh start. Sometimes our brains need a new challenge. We are so stuck in our routines, that we get in a rut and we’re bored. Martial arts is a great way to challenge your brain! Learning kata and basics challenges your memory as well as getting your brain to be very specific with your body parts making it move in new ways. As an example of that, when I teach a kata to students, they have to learn the specific moves and what the names of those moves are. Then they have to learn the sequence and pattern of how those moves are performed. They have to memorize a minimum of 20 movements. On top of that, I challenge your imagination by getting you to think about how those movements would be used to protect yourself in an altercation. This step in and of itself can be quite a mind bender.
Stress reduction is an added benefit. First of all, if you are concentrating on learning all these new things, you really have a hard time thinking about all the things that upset you that day. It doesn’t make it go away, but it does give you a much needed break from the turmoil you may be experiencing. Working your body also helps with stress reduction. I can honestly tell you from personal experience that there is nothing like hitting pads or a punching bag to work off anger or anxiety. Martial arts can make you frustrated when you are struggling with a technique, but also give you a sense of accomplishment when you master that technique. Here’s the important thing about that – no one gave it to you. You did it yourself, and no one can take that away from you. No boss, ex-partner, parent or abusive person can take away what you accomplished on your own. It’s yours to keep.
Adults benefit socially from martial arts practice. You get to meet new people and develop new friendships. Strange friendships sometimes – most people don’t get excited about new ways to strike their friends. Since you have to develop a pretty strong trust to let someone throw you, hit you or put you in an arm bar, the friendships that you make are based on pretty solid ground. There’s also a sense of family. The dojo family will rally together to support each other when a member is struggling both inside and outside the dojo.
One benefit that I see in my dojos is a different kind of bond that adults create with their kids when they all train. A lot of my adult students get their start on the sidelines. They watch their kids taking class and eventually decide to give it a try. Even if they don’t train at the same level or in the same class, they have a common interest that they can work on together outside of class. Parents love helping their kids learn self-defense techniques and kids love helping their parents learn kata.
Learning self-defense is important to some adults. (Personally, I think everyone should learn self-protection skills!) Not all martial arts are self-defense oriented. Some are more sport oriented. The difference is in that sports are teaching you to score points to win. Self-defense is teaching you how to get home safely – there is no winner. Know the difference between the two. Both things are good, just understand which one you are getting.
The great thing for adults in martial arts is you can go at your own pace to find your strengths and use those to your best advantage and not be quite as concerned about what you can’t do. You’re never too old to start martial arts and people of all abilities can do it at the level that is right for them. If you’ve been thinking about it, just find a school and visit. (contact me to come try one of my classes!)