Fort Smith Taekwondo Academy    
Williamsburg Square, 4120 Rogers Avenue, Suite 3-B, Fort Smith, AR 72903
479-522-5885       http://www.fortsmithtaekwondo.com
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When I was in my twenties martial arts training was an outlet tailor made for a young man who was well acquainted with hard exercise. I had a body that recovered quickly after extremely hard exercise.

In my hometown of Fort Smith, martial arts schools were pretty abundant and I was able to work out extensively taking Taekwondo, as well as other martial arts training.

At that age I was graced with seemingly endless energy and felt indestructible. But now, in my fifties, still in my home town of Fort Smith, martial arts training is a whole different world than back in the "good ol days".

In younger adults, the flexibility that exists in large muscle groups significantly diminishes as we age. Not that we can't stay flexible, but just that it takes more time to stretch and the stretching does not yield results as dramatic as when we were younger. There is no reason not to start Taekwondo or most other martial arts at fifty or above.

That said, it should be done cautiously even for those who have maintained an active, healthy lifestyle. An active fifty year old may go into a martial arts class and quickly learn to punch, kick, and block with the same power that a much younger person is capable of. But what that person needs to be especically aware of is the limitation of the range of motion in their limbs. It is critical to not over extend the muscle while becoming acclimated to the dynamic martial arts movements.

I learned a painful lesson entering back into Taekwondo at fifty three, after nearly two and a half decades out of the sport. I quickly found out that I could (satisfyingly) kick with the same power as when I trained in martial arts in my twenties. The difference was, the large muscles in my legs did not respond the same as then.

The result, fifteen minutes into my first class was a sudden, sharp pain and a popping noise in the back of my right leg when I did a left side kick. The hamstring in my right leg had torn in two places leaving me limping around the room, not only immediately not able to kick, but wondering if I would be able to walk. I finished the first class in a good deal of pain, but able to perform with the still warm muscle.

It should be pointed out that the instructor at no time pushed me to the point of my injury, nor did he suggest that I finish the class. That was all me.

After I got home and the leg cooled down, I basically had a disabled right leg, making even walking short distances for the next few days painful. After three and a half weeks of daily therapy and strengthening exercises, I entered back into the Fort Smith martial arts class much wiser and considerably more careful than in the first class. That was over a year before writing this article, and I'm still training with my daughter.

None of this is to convince anyone not to enter into martial arts in their fifties, sixties, or even seventies. Quite the contrary, I know of one gentleman at the Fort Smith Taekwondo Academy that achieved his black belt in his late seventies. The benefits of exercising to good health in seniors are numerous and well documented.

Advances in aerobic endurance, balance, equilibrium, and walking have served to lower the risk of fall and reduce the severity of injury in the event of a fall. An elderly person with increased strength and ability to react quickly can better insure that in the event of an accident they are able to maneuver more effectively to avert serious injury. The psychological benefits of Taekwondo include better mental ability and  self-esteem. These improvements have proven to provide a greater quality of life in the elderly.

Age related studies recorded in The Gerontological Society of America revealed the efficacy of Taekwondo in the elderly. Because of declining abilities to walk and effectively balance, the elderly naturally reduce the dynamic components of walking to keep from falling just moving short distances.

Since Taekwondo exercises are designed to train those very components of balance, done carefully, it is a naturally relevant activity to the elderly.

Hopefully, this article has served to encourage anyone of any age to enter Taekwondo training, and to do so understanding how to progress steadily and safely without injury. But if all the other benefits of martial arts training are not enough, another reason to jump in is because Taekwondo training, whether you're 20 or 70, is serious fun.

MARTIAL ARTS TRAINING AFTER FIFTY

By Mark Rogers