Whether you identify more closely in age with Steven Seagal, age 63, or the young Irish martial artist, Jesse-Jane McParland, age 9, you’ll have to admit, it appears the martial arts play no favorites regarding age. Perhaps that is why every year, more than 18 million Americans participate in some form of martial arts. Just recently, Steven Seagal demonstrated his mastery of the Russian martial art, Sambo, to a crowd in Russia. In Great Britain, 9 year-old Jesse-Jane McParland wowed the crowd at Britain’s Got Talent with her sword-swinging, pig-tail flipping, bad-guy-crushing martial arts performance. Karate, taekwondo, Brazilian jiu jitsu, judo, aikido, and many other forms of the practice are found all over the world, being taught in dojos, Y’s, church basements, retirement homes, schools, and homes. And of course there are reasons it’s so popular in so many different age groups.
Regardless of your age, movement is essential. With the Information Age, we are encouraged to learn as much as we can whenever we can; be entertained 24/7; stay in touch with distant friends. But the focus on the screen often leaves our rear-ends in the chair far too often. It is estimated that American adults spend 13 hours a day sitting. Human bodies were never meant to be that sedentary, so the choice to participate in a martial art gets kids, teens, adults, and seniors into a culture that values movement and fitness. And once you are in a supportive environment for fitness, you will be more likely to stick to it, resulting in a healthier you. A martial arts studio and class will be supportive in the long run to help people of all ages continue be active.
Accountability is key to the fitness aspect of any martial art, but it also plays a huge role in the level of self-discipline the martial arts can impart. If the instruction is formal and structured, a student of any martial art will learn the value of self-discipline as it pertains to strength, agility, and respect of self and others. A learning community with these values in mind cannot help but impart them to all its students.
Children learn by imitating others. Adults grow by emulating the best they see in others. And seniors thrive in social groups where they can continually be challenged. A martial arts studio is an ideal environment for all these things to happen. Children learn to respect their instructors who will train them in control of their bodies and minds. Teens or adults looking for structure in a sometimes chaotic world can find direction, a path, in the martial arts studio, and a mentor in their instructors. And many martial arts schools or studios offer special classes for senior citizens either at the school or in a more convenient location such as a retirement community center. Participation keeps seniors active and social, both keys to happy and healthy longevity.
Whether you are a 63 year-old 7th dan black belt in Aikido like Steven Seagal, a 9 year-old kickboxing champion like Jesse-Jan McParland, or just an average person wondering if martial arts is something you should try, taking the time to observe a class or two at a local martial arts studio will be worth your time. It may lead to a new-found passion, a new circle of friends, and a whole new you.