Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Reflections on Age,Size & Injuries in the Martial Arts

There are many misconceptions of the role that the numerical age, physical size as well as injuries sustained affects their ability in Martial Arts. Many people act as if once they reach a certain age, their skills in Martial Arts somehow completely cease. Age does take it's toll on everyone of us, but it is a gradual fading, not a drop off like many think it is. The reason people have such views are because they make a correlation between age and physical ability through the lens of sport. In boxing for example , someone may be a World Champion,but once they reach a certain age & perhaps lose some strength & speed, they start getting overcome by opponents that they could have beaten only a few years earlier.Their skills didn't suddenly "go away", they merely have "faded" to the point where they are no longer able to be "the best"against other's also at the highest level .
That doesn't mean they aren't still very good,but there are very slim margins separating individuals once you reach the highest levels of professional competition.Mike Tyson is considered a "has been" by many since he probably doesn't have the ability to be Heavyweight Champion of the World again,but that doesn't mean an average fighter could now beat him just because they are 25 years old just as a Community College basketball player is not going to beat Michael Jordan in a game of one on one now that Jordan is a little older.It's all a matter of relativity & percentages. Mike Tyson is now better than 99% of boxers rather the 100%,which you need to be to be World Champion.You "fade"(go down in the percentage you are better than as you age),but the better you are to start off with, the longer you remain higher up in number and the greater the number of those below you.
Many view the physical size of a person as the sole indication of that persons fighting ability. Size does matter,but not to the degree than many think it does. Mike Tyson was actually very small for a Heavyweight boxer yet he destroyed every opponent he encountered despite all of them being much taller & usually heavier than him.Mike Tyson at his prime was 5'10-5'11 tall(listed 5'111/2, but many reputable sources say that was with shoes on) & weighed in at 215-220lbs in fighting shape. Not small compared to the average man,but indeed small compared to some of the behemoths that he fought.Rocky Marciano(5'10 190-200lbs) was even smaller than Tyson,but he is still the only undefeated Heavyweight Champion in history. Rickson Gracie remained undefeated while taking on all comers despite being only 5'9 & 185 lbs.Even current MMA champ Fedor Emelianko is not a huge man at 6 foot tall even & a doughy 230 lbs. Size makes a difference just like any other attribute if all things are equal,but when is anything in life equal.Yes,they do have weight classes in sports for a reason,but the sporting model is designed to have individuals of relatively equal ability compete.This is even more pronounced once you get into high level professional competition.And understand there is a HUGE difference vs Combat Sports & actual Combat or Defense,where size is even less of a factor due to the endless possibilities and diversity of techniques,tactics & tools.
Lastly,INJURIES WILL ERODE YOUR SKILLS. Let there be no confusion about that statement and everyone involved in Martial Arts, Defense training or Combat Sports should look at how safe their training methods are & give serious thought as how to make them safer. You break your hand & you reduce your punching ability(possibly for life). A finger jab to the eye may damage your vision permanent, not a good thing to not be able to see well when trying to deflect fast flurries of punches.I think you get the idea.Bottom line is train safe,train smart & leave your ego at the door.