5 Reasons Adults Over 50 Should Learn Hapkido
Dr. Ronald W. Stone
American Dragon Martial Arts Academy
This month I celebrate my 57th birthday and my 39th year in the martial arts. I assume this qualifies me to discuss the benefits of Hapkido for adults my age. Like many of my generation I am constantly amazed at the difference between the things my mind and heart are willing to do and the sad ability of my body to perform them. With the passing of time I become more and more convinced of the old adage that a man is merely a boy grown into a bigger body. The fellow who said “the mind is willing but the body’s unable” wasn’t kidding.
After I turned 45 years of age I began to notice aches and pains that I had never experienced before. I can still remember the first time I jumped down off a ladder and felt a strange sensation through my knees. When I was a youngster I didn’t even think about having knees. They were merely areas where my leg bent. Now with the passing of time they are a constant source of discomfort and a reminder the truth behind the aging process. Like many “baby boomers” I lived high and ate well. Perhaps too well. By 1996 I had been diagnosed with Type Two Diabetes. I was never sick a day in my life until then and now not a day passes that I don’t have some physical malady. Fortunately with modern medicine my diabetes improved and is relatively under control. Truthfully though, the single most important recommendation ever given me regarding control of my disease was to reenter the martial arts and to get back into shape. Although I started my studies in 1970 I had stopped training for a few years during which time I gained 95 pounds and grew apathetic.
Apparently I was not alone. Any statistical analyis of those in the population of men over 50 years of age will surely include a dramatic increase in obesity, heart disease and arthritis. Not all of this can be attributed merely to junk food. With modern transportation and an increasing dependence on television and the internet for entertainment, physical activity has decreased to an alarming degree.
Returning to the study of Hapkido has to no small degree been part of my salvation, and I am not referring simply to the benefits of exercise or to the control of Diabetes.
To understand all the benefits of Hapkido study for those over fifty years of age it is perhaps wise to review some of the needs of those in this age bracket. Oten with age comes decreased physical fitness leading to:
1. Cardiovascular weakness
3. Decreased flexibility and ultimately arthritic changes
4. Increased stress and loss of mental acuity
5. Victimology. In orther words the impression exists that the older you appear and the more out of shape you are the more likely you will be target for attack by felons.
Financial and work-related responsibilities unique to those in this age bracket ofen interfer with family life and social interaction. Very few men over fifty don’t wish that they had more time to spend with their children or in the case of the typical working housewife could spend more time with husband and friends outside the house.
Hapkido is more than merely a set of self defense techniques. It is a complete martial art grounded in time tested and proven methods for improving both mental, spiritual and physical fitness.
Dan Jun breathing and meditation usually procede the typical Hapkido class. The benefits of such mental and breathing exercises are legendary. Stress is reduced, blood pressure is lowered and conentration is enhanced. The body is hypoeroxygenated leading to pain control, improved circulation, and a sense of well being. Abdominal and spinal muscule tone is improved, leading to an improvement in posture. This in turn creates a sense of self worth and better confidense, so often lacking in the elderly.
Hapkido training will by its very nature improve the cardiovascular status of any of its practitioners. Hapkido offfers both aerobic, isometirc and isotonic exercises.
Ateriosclerosis, hypertension, excessive cholesterol in the blood, and weakening of the cardiac musculature are conditions that will all be improved by the exercises that are practiced in Hapkido trainng. With proper training there will be a lowering of blood pressure, an increase in cardiac output and improved oxygen interchange, and a conversion of fat tissue to muscle, all benefits for those over 50.
Proper stance and good posture are basic components of Hapkido. This means that in order to correctly perform Hapkido techniques the lower legs, knees and spine must improve. Obviously the stronger one’s support sturcture becomes, the stronger the tendon’s and ligaments that support the joints are, the less the effects of arthritis or degenerative joint disease will be noticed.
With increased Hapkido training, posture and lung capacity, the body’s flexibility will be improved. When the stretching exercises that are practiced at the beginning and end of class are coupled with the basic movements associated with Hapkido throws, strikes and kicks the muscular skeletal system will be strengthened. It has been repeatedly demonstrated that such exercises will slow the natural process of osteoporosis or the deterioration of skeletal bone that often occurs with the aging process.
It goes without saying that almost exercise regime will benefit those who are overweight. Such regimes must however be balanced and appropriate. (i.e. a beginner to weight training should not try to lift too much too quick or do so from a weak stance or injuries wil result). The exercises, stances and technique movements in Hapkido training are all based on tried and true methodologies, such as the water principle. Students are encouraged to learn at a brisk pace, but are not forced to overdo, to stress themselves unnaturally, or to attempt techniques before learning and understanding the fundamentals. Weight loss will occur as it should, in a healthy and gradual manner.
As body weight returns to normalcy, as lung capacity and tissue oxygenation improve and as pain and stiffness decrease the mind will improve. From a scientific standpoint view, beneficial hormones called endorphins are released with exercise. From a spiritual point of view Hapkido practitioners will learn to harness Ki energy in a positive manner. Meditation will improve well being and the mind will be better able to focus. Eventually self confidence and well being will result.
Anyone who is working for a living will admit the irony that adults eventually work to provide for our families but at the very same time that work often keeps us apart from the ones we love. My daughter and I have been practicing the artial arts for many years and it has brought us tha much closer. Often those in the family who don’t themselves practice the art will share in the successes of those who do. This feeling of closeness seems to become more and more important and the years progress.
The exists a certain comraderie among Hapkido practitioners, a willingness to help each other learn and a closeness and pride that creates a bond among classmates. They share each others triumphs as well as setbacks. This is especially true of the bond between instructor and student. Often the friendships that develop during martial arts training will last a lifetime.
Finally one of the sad facts of life is that while the world is filled with wonderful, kind and caring individuals, it is also home to evil doers One pronounced characteristic of felons is that for the most part they lack the courage to attack people who are their physical equals. The older one is the more prone he or she is to be the victim of attack by those seeking an easy victory. Hapkido effectively teaches those of all ages to protect themselves. Since it is based on the water principle and combines both hard and soft techniques it is ideal for those over 50 regardless of their physical status. The concept of redirecting the attackers force and applying ki energy instead of brute strength is very attractive to those whose physical abilities have diminished with age. Even those forced to walk with support will be delighted to master the art of the Hakido cane, which offers some of the most effective self defense techniques in the martial arts world.
Just as it is for the young, Hapkido is a logical and advantagous choice for those who are approaching their golden years.