Those of us that are still somewhat active at this age know that being a Grandmaster isn’t so grand. A lot of age and injury accompany us to these exalted positions.

In between sets. Back and forth in my home gym, stereo blasting gospels. Wondering why I do this to myself. Just finished my last set of bench presses. About to start on curls and tricep presses. Will probably do some rowing and lat pull downs before I’m through with the days masochistic routine. So, why do I do this to myself?

At a few months shy of seventy I’m probably not going to put on a whole lot more muscle. I remember  less than a decade ago that I had a physique that many young men envied. My thighs were as big around as my waist. My calves looked like bricks. My stomach was hard enough to shrug off a full powered front kick. I was a yard wide in the shoulders and my arms were massive. A prime case of ‘back in the day’.  Obviously I’m not that man anymore. I’m still a pretty good sized fella and I still carry a good bit of muscle but it’s hidden under a plush layer of padding. I look pretty decent when fully dressed but my beach body is a thing of the past. Pumping all of the iron and abusing all of the martial art students in the world won’t change that. My days of launching myself in the air in devastating flying kicks are safely behind me.

Excuse me. Gotta do a set of curls before I cool off.

I’m back. Man that hurt. I’m not trying to build a beautiful body. I’m pretty sure that that isn’t going to happen again. Maybe I’ll manage to get rid of a bit of this winter fat but I won’t be winning any physique contests anytime soon. I’m just trying to maintain; maybe slow down the onslaught of advanced age a little. It’s like putting a bandage on a cancer. It won’t stop the inevitable. In the end, regardless of how many bench presses I do or how many times I punch my heavy bag age will win this battle.

This is about the age when most martial artists retire and hang up their beat up black belts. Those of us that are still somewhat active at this age know that being a grandmaster isn’t so grand. A lot of age and injury accompany us to these exalted positions. By the time we are able to achieve this advanced rank we have been practicing for fifty years or more. Every joint hurts. Arthritis makes every kick or punch painful and many of us couldn’t punch our way through a wet Kleenex. By this time, if we are able to achieve such rank we are masters more for what we know than what we can do. We’re probably teaching more by precept than example. Still many of us muddle on.

The martial arts are just that; martial. They were designed for combat whatever other benefits we may derive from them. For about five minutes I can probably be one of the most deadly opponents you’ll ever have to face but if you can last for longer than that you’ve probably won the fight. Fortunately most fights, contrary to what kung fu movies may convey, last only a few minutes so we old octogenarians have some small chance.
The point I’m trying to make is that though our bodies age, and they will age, we do the best we can to maintain. We may not be what we once were but we try to be the best we can be. Even when we can’t do what we can now our minds will hopefully still know what our bodies can no longer do. When we can no longer perform well we can teach. When we can no longer teach we can inspire. We can be the voice of reason or a word of wisdom. We may not be able to walk the path but we can illuminate the way for those that can.

I’m slow on the keyboard. In the time it took me to type these few words I’ve abused my biceps and triceps. My arms are suffused with blood and I’m feeling that elusive pump. I no longer sport the eighteen or nineteen inch arms of my youth but I still have some respectable guns. No longer beating off hoards of miscreants. Haven’t leaped a tall building in a single bound in quite some time. Heck, I do well to bound onto the curb. Still I do what I can. I’m too stubborn to do otherwise. Just trying to maintain.

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Donald Miskel
Donald Miskel started his training in 1959 at the Jiu Jitsu Institute in Chicago and trained with several well known and respected martial arts instructors in a number of disciplines. He has attained black belt ranking in six different martial art disciplines. Sensei Miskel taught at several locations in and around the Chicago area for many years. His focus was self defense instruction for civilians and specialized, individual, training for law enforcement personnel and security officers. He worked in several areas of law enforcement, mental health and personal security as well as performing Pastoral duties at several churches and ministries for a number of years. e helped to create the Black Lotus Combative System and he founded the Dante Ryu Gojute Kenpo karate/ Ju jitsu fighting system. Dr. Miskel is an original member of the Black Dragon Fighting Society.