Rule #1 – Recovery
You need more rest to recover from training than your younger classmates. In your head you may think you’re the second coming of “The Iceman”, Chuck Liddell, but you’re not. Unless you’ve spent your entire life as a professional athlete before taking up martial arts you are going to suffer. You may want to consider only training twice per week to begin with so that the body can adapt and get used to the beating that is involved in constant practice. Once your body is adjusted you can add days as tolerated.
Don’t be fooled into thinking you don’t need more recovery. Ice is your friend, contrast showers (hot and cold) may be your best friend, and you most certainly may need weekly massage or similar therapy. Massage is absolutely vital for older athletes who are still trying to push hard.
Rule #2 – Responsibility
Along with more recovery you’re going to need to spend more time looking after yourself. If you’re about my age then you’ve got responsibilities. In this modern age and given the financial responsibilities and obligations we all bear, one would hate to push so hard that you are unable to perform at your job the next day. If your arm gets broken you may find that your ability to earn money for your family and pay your mortgage is decreased.
To make sure that you’re robust enough to deal with the hardships of martial arts training, you will need to spend about the same amount of time working on your physical self as you do on your combat skills. Some of this time will need to be spent on strength work and some (at least an equal amount) on flexibility. Increased flexibility WILL decrease your chances of injury and many karate practitioners DO NOT stretch enough. Don’t be the old guy in a martial arts class who can’t kick above waist high. As a former tournament referee I have seen numerous levels of martial arts competitors and believe me those with no flexibility sparring, “look like two trees fighting.”
Rule #3 – Relax
Not all of your training needs to be hard. I know it seems counter-intuitive, especially when you start to think that you’ve already given up years of time to all those younger guys around you, but if you start going all out all the time you’re going to quickly wind up hurt. Martial arts is a lifelong journey, not a sprint for the next two months. Display the kind of maturity you’re supposed to have and accept that you are in this for the long haul. Giving up a session this week to make sure you can train for the next four is well worth it. That extra session you’re thinking about right now could wind up being twelve you end up missing. It’s hardly worth the cost.
Putting It Together
I know your mother might think you’re a Navy SEAL, wrapped-in-armour, astronaut ninja, but frankly that’s likely not the case. Deal with it. What you need is a simple plan and some common sense that allows you to get the most bang for your buck in terms of training, recovery, and injury proofing.
by Sensei Rick