When I injured my knee a few years ago and couldn’t do Taekwon-do or my usual exercise routines properly, I didn’t want to lose strength and fitness whilst waiting for surgery, so I decided to try Pilates. After the surgery I continued Pilates during my rehab.
Once I had regained normal use of my knee, I decided to continue with Pilates anyway, as I found it benefitted me on top of my Taekwon-do training which I had returned to. In particular, isolation of different muscle groups and increased proprioception in certain areas. It wasn’t always easy to find the time, but having that routine of a regular class made me continue.
A couple of years down the line and I started to have problems with my other knee and my hip. Having my hip investigated took far too long, 10 months. During this time, I did virtually no Taekwon-do and stopped running altogether, but I managed to continue with Pilates. Luckily my Pilates instructor Amanda Fryer-Harris is very knowledgeable and takes a lot of care in what each of her students can do and how they do it, taking into account any injuries or limitations, she makes adjustments accordingly throughout the class.
Pilates is very varied and there are some movements which I must avoid, but there are plenty that I can do, and I continue to feel the benefit. My Taekwon-do is limited mostly to teaching now, but I’m so glad I decided to take up Pilates when I did, in fact I wish I’d found it sooner. In martial arts we tend to use ‘power’ muscles sometimes at the expense of the more subtle ones, for this reason Pilates complements martial arts well and I would recommend it to other martial artists of any level.
As martial artists get older its important to maintain flexibility and continue practicing and developing. Some things get harder however, particularly jumping and other things that put strain on the joints. Injuries take longer to recover from too so its important to peak at the right times, i.e. gradings!
The 4th Dan grading exam involves jumping and breaking with 360 degree kicks, flying high kick breaks above head height, and flying reverse turning kick breaks all on both left and right legs. Practicing too much too soon may cause an injury which will prevent you grading, but not practicing enough means you won’t be able to perform it on the day, its a fine balancing act.
The grading exam for 5th Dan involves pattern Moon Moo in which strength and control of the legs and core muscles is needed for the slow motion kicks and for balance, as well as breaking with a flying kick over the shoulders of standing volunteers, and flying twisting kick breaks with each leg.
The ITF 6th Dan grading exam involves multi target flying technique breaks a minimum of 3 with the feet.
All these on top of patterns, sparring, self-defence and more. But don’t let age put you off. It most certainly can be done, and some of the people I’ve watched at recent gradings are an inspiration, people who have successfully achieved these requirements in their 50’s and even 60’s through indomitable spirit (and careful ‘peaking’!)
However training must be planned with careful timing particularly working towards 3rd Dan gradings and higher, don’t stop training, practicing, moving forward and most of all believing.
So when people say ‘Am I too old to start at 40?’ the answer is ‘What! Are you kidding?’