I am a 49 year old male who has decided to study TKD. The main reason I chose TKD was because they also have a cardio class. I have had one knee operated on twice for torn ACL and meniscus damage but my doctor says I am okay to exercise, but he would prefer something with a lower impact. My question is in regard to progress to higher ranks. I am doing cardio to improve my stamina but I have no flexibility. What should I do to improve it? Also, any suggestions on treating bruises? My forearms are tender for days after self-defense training.
I’m not a doctor but I have had a few students who had knee operations before starting TKD, and they had no problems performing any techniques (however they were younger). Usually when doctors speak about “low impact,” it is related to compression impact, such as the feet impacting the ground during running or jumping. In TKD, the impact is usually from the joints stopping suddenly after a kick or punch (there is probably a medical term for this). However, in TKD you are constantly on your feet while twisting and turning the body in all directions, which is what medical experts recommend for people as they get older.
As you are experiencing, bruises are the most common injury in TKD. I’m not familiar with any bruise treatments other than the old reliable R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) that is recommended for sprains. There are some Chinese herb treatments but their actual effectiveness if questionable. If it is a deep bruise, you need to wear an arm pad over the spot to protect it from more strikes on the same spot until the bruise heals. Over a relatively short time, the arms will adapt to being struck and the number and severity of bruises will be lessened.
Age certainly has a negative effect on flexibility, but genetics has an even bigger effect. Although anyone may increase their flexibility, extremely flexible people are born that way.
Stretching is actually the wrong term to describe exercises used to increase flexibility. Muscles and ligaments don’t really stretch. What you are actually doing is teaching them to relax them while they are under tension, If they relax, they do not contract to protect themselves when placed under extreme tension, which allows them to lengthen (or stretch) more easily.
I’m over 60 and more flexible overall than my 30 something instructor. However, he is flexible where it needed for performing TKD techniques. Although he is not flexible overall, he is able to perform beautiful, powerful kicks with ease due to his performing the kicks daily.
Sometimes very flexible people are prone to injury since their joints are not as stable as less flexible people (you can’t have it all, with the good comes some bad). Therefore, the ideal is to have a flexible, powerful, and stable body.
Yoga specializes in total body flexibility; just pick yoga poses that stretch the muscles you need to perform the techniques you want to use. One of the best exercises for kicks is to hold to something stable and perform slow motion kicks, concentrating on using perfect form. As the body learns to perform the motions, it will relax and the kicks will naturally begin to get higher. When training, most students try to kick higher, harder, and faster, and they neglect form. A perfectly performed kick to the knee is much more effective than a sloppy kick to the head.
I don’t know of any martial art book for those over 40 but I haven’t looked for one. For any age, the best training method to concentrate on performing techniques with perform form. People who concentrate on perfect form improve in all aspects of TKD. Those who concentrate on one thing, such as high kicking, may get better at it, but they do not improve overall. Concentrating on perfection will not yield quick results, but, after a few years, the perfectionist will be a much better martial artist in all aspects of TKD than anyone else in the class.
You are not getting any younger. Instead of trying to be what you could have been when younger, always try to be better than anyone else your age. Along the way you will find, that as a side effect you will be better than many of the younger students.
As I always say to younger opponents, if I beat you, shame on you for being beaten by an old man. If you beat me, shame on you for beating an old man. Either way, it is shame on you—not on me.