I’ve been doing some reflecting over the past several weeks in anticipation of this post. There are so many things I’ve learned over the last 12 months but I wanted to take a shot at writing down the most crucial lessons. Each one of these could be a post unto itself and might end up as one. I just want to at least capture these to provide a recap of the major takeaways.
Bravado at an older age vs. younger age
I recall 25 some-odd years ago when I took martial arts as a teen. After just a few weeks I felt invincible. I walked with such swagger and my confidence at school absolutely went through the roof. I was indestructible. Part of the explanation there lies in the teen mind. Let’s face it, it doesn’t really take too much to bloat a teen boy’s head into thinking he’s Superman.
As I’ve grown older, and I’d like to think wiser, I’ve come to realize that we are all vulnerable. MMA fighters, black belts, weight lifters, macho men, everyone. Everyone is susceptible to smack down given the right conditions, a bad decision, an off day… Take a look at every major fighter. They all go down — no one is perfect.
This extends to the street too. Even if you are heavily trained in the fighting arts and self-defense you are just human. This has stayed with me as an adult, not as a frightened adult but a realistic adult, and applies to my perspective on my training. Yes, of course I’ve increased my self-confidence but it’s always tempered with a pragmatic view of how violence can occur at any time and isn’t always necessarily in your favor.
Injuries can happen at any time, usually when you least expect it
You can make all the necessary precautions, wear all the right equipment, have the perfect attitude and awareness for your safety and still get whacked in the head. I’ve gotten my fair share of injuries this past year — fortunately all minor — and I’d say that pretty much every one of them was completely unexpected. They came from wild partners, slipped gear, a poor grasp of my technique, misjudged distance, slippery mats, you name it.
I still keep my awareness at full strength but realize that this isn’t ballet and try as you might you WILL get hurt. Vigilance keeps it to a minimum and hopefully keeps the extend down as well.
I haven’t lost as much weight as I thought I would
My face is thinner, I’m definitely more toned, weight has been lost but after 40 I guess you can say that intense exercise isn’t a “fat melting miracle” like perhaps it is in your youth.
I don’t know if it was naivete or just plain bad expectations but, despite losing a good amount of weight it hasn’t been as much as I’d hoped. As they say, if it takes a long time to gain it, it should take a long time to lose it. I’m keeping the faith and going in the right direction, which is all that matters as far as this is concerned.
Old injuries can come back to haunt you
Injuries that happen in your youth, even when healed, can still pop their heads up down the line. It may seem like old news but believe me, you are not out of the woods. In my case, as you are maybe aware of, it’s my knee. A dislocation in my youth has manifested itself nowadays as a real pain after nearly every workout. I have come up with ways to deal with it, as everyone does with their various aching body parts. Just comes with the territory.
Someone mentioned the other day that he read in some runner’s magazine article that all runners run with some sort of pain. There aren’t many athletes who are completely pain-free all the time. Especially in intense sports and activities, Krav Maga being one of them, you are going to be in this category more likely than not.
You truly are never too old to start
As I mentioned in a recent Twitter post, I had an awakening recently in class when I realized that there was a man who comes every Tuesday and Thursday morning who is 64 and still going strong. We also have several Black Belts who I’m sure are past 50, one I know for certain is 53 and looks like he could mop the floor with any high school football player without breaking a sweat.
Not swerving for potholes
This one may seem odd. Well, it is. I put it in this list partially as a joke — but partially in all seriousness. Krav Maga increases your body’s ability to take a hit and not flinch. People by design don’t like to be hit, jostled, or jarred. This means avoiding getting bumped on the bus and even swerving to avoid potholes when driving down the road. In the intense drills and sparring that accompanies training your body becomes naturally less sensitive to this rattling. You’re able to endure this with less surprise and trauma.
I learned how to really punch
Like every red-blooded guy I thought I knew how to swing a good punch. Yeah, well.
It took me months to get a lot of the details right. Much longer than I thought it would, to be sure. And I gotta say, even 12 months into it I still find myself giving a lot of attention to the feel and the dynamics to maximize the effect, speed, accuracy, and power of a given jab or cross.
This takes time and it amazes me just how much of a science it is to throw a mean, highly technical punch.
I know more about my physical limits than ever before
It is incredibly hard to keep the body tuned in this day and age. Since there’s only so much time in class and some muscles end up neglected as the curriculum rotates, sometimes we go for long stretches of time without hammering certain muscle groups, abs for instance. This is why I’ve learned that it’s important for me to try to try to extend training outside of the routine classes. I expect this to be even more important as I rise higher up the belt ranks.
So that’s it. Sure there have been literally hundreds, possibly thousands, more nuggets and lessons I’ve gleaned from this past year — all of them invaluable — but these are ones I thought made sense to call some attention to.
Training has been so much more than I had hoped for. I’ve made more friends, learned more techniques, and gotten into much better shape than I every thought I would and I’m very grateful. The school is amazing, the teachers are top-notch, and, of course, Krav Maga is untouchable and completely bad ass as a field of study for self-defense.
As they say, here’s to many, many more years to come. My Blue Belt is just weeks away but I still have a very long way to go. Hope you can stay along for the rest of the journey.