5 Reasons Adults Over 50 Should Learn Hapkido

January 12, 2010

5 Reasons Adults Over 50 Should Learn Hapkido

Dr. Ronald W. Stone

American Dragon Martial Arts Academy

Clermont, Florida

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

2.  Obesity

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. 

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Why Women Should Learn Hapkido

January 12, 2010

At least 7 Reasons Women Should Learn Hapkido  

 

Dr. Ronald W. Stone

American Dragon Martial Arts Academy

Clermont, Florida

 

In this day and age making a distinction of the benefit of martial arts training between men and women is becoming less pertinent.  More simply put, as the role of women in the job force increases and with today’s recognition that women are capable of more tasks than previously were allowed in a male dominated society, the more similar will be the benefits that training in Hapkido offer both males and females.

Traditionally one of the first benefits discussed whenever the subject of women in the martial arts comes up is the self defence aspect.  The “women are the weaker sex” argument is always mentioned as a reason for them to consider training in the martial arts.  While it is true that they are typically smaler and less muscular than their male counterparts, modern scientific studies have concluded that in most instances women are capable of more endurance and have a more resilient cardiovascular system than men. 

With modern weight training techniques women can actually train to be more fit.  While statistics as a class indicate they will never equal men in raw strength they often will surpass men in size to abilty percentages.

What doesn’t change however is the basic core hormonanal differences that put women at risk to aggression.  By this I mean that the testosterone driven male will always desire to overpower or dominate his female counterpart. Usually ths is harmless and is either buried subconsciously or manefests romantically which most women can more than adequately handle verbally or with body language.  In a small percentage of males however the sex drive or the desire to physically dominate and control the oposite sex is overwhelming and can result in cases of sexual aggression or domestic abuse. 

Any woman can fall victim to these sorts of predators and things like age or physical appearance are sometimes not factors the predator concerns himself with.  Being old, very young or atypical in appearance does not automatically elimnate a female from the threat of a predator or stalker.

The beauty of Hapkido is that it combines three fundamental principles, the water principle, the circular principle and the sum principle into a martial art that is ideal for female learners.  Since it is both a hard and a soft art it utilizes the concept of not meeting force with resistence but rather being fluid when necessary, hard whenever possible and learning to use the opponents force against himself while concentrating one’s own Ki energy in a focused manner against specific Ki and pressure points, against weak joint angles and using leverage against the opponent.

Instead of meeting hard force with hard force which will always give the advantage to the taller, more muscular oponent, Hapkido teaches its students to avoid, absorb, redirect, and trap the opponents atacks. It demonstrates the areas of the body that are vulnerable regardless of muscular strength and teaches Ki energy techniques to overcome an adversary.  Obviously this is an ideal form of defense for a women to learn (or a man for that matter).

       Women are faced with a myriad of stresses such as the difficulties that arise with raising a family, running a household, working for a living, and simply trying to survive in today’s difficult economy.  Central to Hapkido practice is the concept of Dan Jun breathing, meditation, stretching, and development of self awarness and self control.  All of these techniques have been shown to increase mental awareness by increasing oxygenation to the brain as well as the rest of the body and causing the release endorphins which decrease mental stress. Learning to focus on the physical aspects of Hapkido training and to concentrate on something other than the everyday worries caused by problems outside the dojang will also help relieve stress.  Similarly the social interaction with other students in the class can in effect create a sort of group therapy.  One should never underestimate the mental benefit derived from meeting and interating with new friends.  Often the relationship between friends as well as the bond that develops between instructor and student can be the best form of therapy for life’s worries. 

Needless to say as one becomes more proficient and succeeds from belt level to belt level, the constant positive reinforcement that occurs along with the satisfaction of accomplishing a difficult task will clearly help with self confidence.  This is yet another benefit for many women who often go for long periods of time feeling unappreciated or unrecognized.  This is especially true of the full time housewife who has little time to herself outdise the house, or whose husband is so preoccupied at work that he doesn’t demonstrate as much appreciation as he should.

Today’s western woman also faces nutritional difficulties that were unknown fifty years ago.  The increase in precooked, proccessed, or “junk food” when coupled with the increase in technology has created an environment where less physical activity occurs in daily life (i.e. driving instead of walking) and where faster but less healthy nutritional choices are made. TV dinners started the craze and now we have a serious nutritional problem in our country with extreme consequences in our female population.  Obesity has become a western epidemic and more and more women are having cardiac problems than ever before.  Furthermore, improper nutrition has led to an increase in osteoporosis with the resulting decrease in flexibilty, posture and overall bone strength.

Hapkido study, Dan Jun breathing and the exercises that accompany them will help a woman’s cardiovascular function. Hapkido includes a variety of aerobic and muscular strength exerciss.  Proper stretching and stance development will help with flexibility and posture and the overall training regime helps improve overall muscular tone.      It should be stressed here that simple dieting or fasting without a proper exercise and weight training regime to accompany it can have detrimental effects.  It has been shown for example that constant fasting without proper supervision will actually pull proteins from the heart muscle and weaken the cardiovascular system. Too rapid weight loss can actually lead to an increase probability of cardiac arrest or thromboembolism.  Hapkido study provides a balance of exercise, lung and mental conditioning that are ideal to accompany a wise dietary program.

Whether a woman seeks to improve her figure through weight control, to improve her physical condition, whether she seeks self confidence or worries about self defense, or even if she merely seeks to “get out of the house” for recreation and companionship, Hapkido is an excellent choice.

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