Our Senior class is for people 65 years old and older. Sometimes classes for this age group are watered-down version of “the real thing.” Older people are sometimes treated as less competent versions of younger people. They sometimes think of themselves that way.
New technology makes old technology seem obsolete, and irrelevant, and sometimes ridiculous. It is a mistake to transfer that assessment onto people.
The people in our older group have all had long careers. They raised their families, took on the responsibilities of life. They still have those responsibilities. They deserve more than patronizing treatment and baby talk.
Without thinking too much about it, we might assume that the path of life is parabolic.
You ascend for a while. You grow up, get stronger, pursue your ambitions, get training, find work, achieve successes, you might accumulate property, status, friends, have a growing family. Then the curve seems to flatten, leveling off in mid-life. And then the inevitable decline begins.
For people who see life this way, the end of life is nothing but loss: gradual, then accelerating, then complete.
It is an error.
If we only value accumulation, if we only valorize the things of youth, then we limit the possibilities of life and will fail to mature or to achieve our potential.
Every life stage has serious challenges. Hiding from them brings pain. An over-protected child becomes helpless. An indulged teen becomes angry and fearful. Adults who avoid responsibility feel suffocated and resentful, lost in a life drained of meaning.
In the later stages of life life’s challenges are just as serious as any we have ever faced. We will leave behind athletic competition, academic achievement, courtship, family responsibilities, professional recognition, authority and public position – all the traditional life-passages that have challenged us and defined us and which have given our lives meaning. But we are not done.
We face new challenges and we need to meet them with courage and competence, just like the other challenges we have faced. Losing attachment to the transitory allows us to place our attention on what endures, to what really matters, to what can really sustain us now, and what we will take forward with us.
To do this we need a calm, clear mind, so we can set aside turbulence and uncertainty. We need a generous attitude, to wear away self-centeredness and isolation. We need relationships that foster the good. We can appreciate our body and mind without clinging to them, and see through the fog of fear which obscures our way ahead.
Remember: the deletion of obstruction to the integration of body and mind is essential to high performance martial arts training, at every stage.
The deletion of the obstruction to apprehension of the seamlessness of reality is the essence of profound practice in any tradition.
The release of attachment to the things which obstruct our path to freedom is our next challenge.
A rocket cannot escape gravity without the power of a huge booster stage. Once the booster’s work is done then it can be released. The payload is freed of that weight, free to ascend and continue.
It is the same way with us. This is not rocket science. It is accessible to everyone. The first stage is critical. We have to achieve “lift” and get moving, with focus and purpose and energy, and we need to stay on course.
But when those stages are done, they are done. And we need to do what we need to do next.
Our senior classes are geared to this challenge. We use kata practice to address it. We use partner practice – push hands, mirroring, and others – to bring each moment to life, to integrate the structure our body, to strengthen the body and sharpen the mind, and to engage in a vital way with people and environment.
This is our approach to senior training. It may appear ordinary. For the people who are practicing it, it is not.
We don’t talk about this in the classes. We just train.
Post Copyright © 2020 by Jeffrey M. Brooks and Mountain Karate Dojo, L.L.C.
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