I’ve seen a few articles lately that convey the idea that quitting martial arts is akin to quitting life. That to quit martial arts is to give up, to crap out on your training, to abandon your passion and your art, to let everyone down from your training partners to your Sensei. You might as well curl up in a corner and die, because you’re a loser if you quit.
Well to be honest, I think that’s a really dumb attitude. It smacks of all or nothing, and it feels like an elitist club that ostracizes anyone who doesn’t sacrifice their all for their training.
Martial arts is a lifetime activity – something that can be done forever (supposedly) and something that always has things one can learn. I get that.
But reality says the body isn’t always willing. The injuries accumulate, the desire to be hit or dropped on the floor wanes, recovery takes longer and longer, and the body just doesn’t always show the same desire as the mind – or vice versa.
The assumption seems to be that once the physical ability is no longer there, the karateka naturally transitions to the role of teacher. That’s nice and a compliment and all that, but for those like myself who don’t want to teach, where does that leave us?
I’ve never enjoyed teaching or even training my new employees. It’s not my gift, and it never will be; I don’t have the patience for it. And I tell people what to do all day at work, so I don’t want to go to the dojo and tell people what to do. That’s my time to refresh and renew my energy. A time to give my bossy, decision-making head a rest.
So the people who say you can still train regardless of your age? Maybe it’s true. I know of one 60+-year-old who still gets on the mat as a student during clinics and warrior weekends. He sets a great example for the rest of us and I admire him! But in my experience, he is in the minority.
And even if someone says you aren’t expected to keep up with the younger, fitter students, the majority of drills and classes are geared towards that demographic. And often times those are the students who are promoted faster, because they are more dynamic and they “look” or sometimes just “sound” better.
Most of those I know who claim you can train forever regardless of age or injury are either younger and don’t really know, or they’re older and not actually running up and down the mat doing drills, or being tossed on the floor, or doing 40 minutes of kata. They are the senior instructors, those who are passing the baton.
As a 54-year-old Nidan, I don’t see myself ever becoming an instructor. And my body protests more often than I’d like. So where do I fit in? Or maybe the question is do I fit in? If I don’t want to teach and my body can’t keep up with the younger students, is there a place for me?