For an older student after the age of 40 it can become increasingly difficult to keep up with our chosen art form. Especially if it’s one of the wrestling arts such as Shuai Jiao,Jiujitsu or Judo. We want to remain as strong and flexible as we possibly can, however the aging process makes it more difficult. You may have accumulated injuries. Some of the difficulties that we may face as we age involve endurance, muscle strength and flexibility degeneration. The connective tissues such as ligaments, tendons and cartilage become more rigid and less flexible. Our metabolism slows down and ultimately we can become more sedentary year after year. I find the most overlooked muscle groups which are under exercised are the abs and the back muscles. With a weak abdomen there is really nothing to support those big old back muscles and the lumbar area can become injured easily If the body is not strong and flexible you may find it more difficult to get into your stances and postures. As my late teacher Mike Martello explains about keeping fit; check him out !!!!
The back must be kept strong and flexible. Exercises that are designed for martial arts can be found in every style. I recommend the set called Tian Gan (Heavenly Stem) taken from the arts of Baguazhang and Xingyiquan. Tian Gan are unique in that they increase strength and flexibility at the same time and to the same degree. They are a mind and body conditioning practice. The exercises develop torsional power that is connected directly to the spine and legs forming the basis of what are called silk reeling energy which is used during internal martial arts practice.
This is an excertp of the Heavenly Stem Exercises’
Tian Gan can be useful to practitioners of other martial styles which employ similar circular and spiral forces to generate power. The “Heavenly Stem” is essentially the central longitudinal axis or stem that passes through the body. This axis must be free of restrictions of the qi (breath/vital force) to circulate properly. Since strength, flexibility and endurance tend to diminish as we age Kung-Fu is one of the most beneficial things that we can do to keep fit. But for people who are over 40 it will take a bit longer for recovery. The knees and wrists are other joints which can deteriorate rapidly if they are not kept in use.
If you decide that conditioning is not for you, well then eventually your the routine will look like this guy’s………….
It really does not matter whether you practice an internal or an external martial art form. Because all of our bodies age and degenerate in the same way. The above mentioned exercise sets are used to maintain strength, develop power, gently stretch the tendons and muscles in the body. A karate practitioner will find that the Tian Gan is helpful because many of similar movements are found throughout their forms. Fitness routines which focus on the development and maintenance of the joints and spinal column are essential for the aging martial artists. Remember to always stretch before and after your workout.