Coming of Age in your Taekwondo Training

Many of us think of ‘Coming of Age’ as turning 18 or 21. While this is known to be true for young adults as a milestone in life’s journey, a similar occurrence takes place for those who practise the martial arts journey long term. To me, coming of age in your martial arts training, takes place around age 40, plus or minus a few years, depending on the individual. At forty, our life experiences and circumstances to date have changed our outlook as well as our physical bodies, compared to what they were in our late teens to mid twenties. So we have no choice but to re-evaluate our values and future athletic direction.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not signing off 40+ year olds as passed it, but hey, let’s get realistic, we’re not the same as what we were physically twenty years ago. But I am glad to say, mentally we are a little wiser! At this point in our lives, many of us have had children, our responsibilities are greater, the time we have for ourselves is less, our jobs and careers may be at their most demanding, or our young family may be at it’s demanding stage if we are looking after them full-time, and it can sometimes seems hard to get that life/work balance.

 I am now age 41, I have always been athletic and as a child heavily involved in sport. When I went to University inLeedsat the age of 18, I was recommended Taekwondo under Master Kim Stones, ITF World Champion. This sounded attractive to me as I wanted to do something new for my fitness. I hadn’t a clue what Taekwondo was but as soon as I did one lesson I was obsessed, and couldn’t get enough training sessions. I was at my peek of competitiveness and entered every competition under the sun. This carried on for about 8 years and eventually I did my final competition at the GTI Black Belt Team Championships, Lemington Spa, where every competitor came out with some sort of injury, in my case a black eye… not really a big deal for martial arts I guess, but for the first time in my Taekwondo career I actually questioned, what was I doing and why? I stopped competing, became more heavily involved in coaching and teaching and this became my passion. I left my original job as a Food Scientist to become a full time professional in the martial arts industry when I joined my husband Frank Murphy, running his Academy in Gravesend, Kent,UK in 1999. Five years later, at the age of 34, I had my first child, and pregnancy and childbirth had a dramatic effect on my body. I didn’t bounce back so quick for many reasons and was out of the scene of training for a while.

At the age of 39, I had my second child. This child, larger than my first, and me being narrow in my core area, caused my abdominal muscles to be stretched beyond their capacity, damage my pelvic floor, and cause my sacroiliac joints to loosen and slide about in pain. I was left with a gap in my abdominal muscles so big you could access my spine from my front. Only surgery could repair this damage which I went through two years later after the birth. So despite liking the martial arts, my chances of returning to a standard Taekwondo class were pretty slim…

My case is a bit extreme, perhaps even unusual. But even on a less dramatic scale, after the experience of pregnancy and birth, it doesn’t surprise me to rarely see a mum take up on standard martial arts classes.

So what now? Initially pilates, gentle stretching, walking, swimming. As soon as my core strength was coming back, I took up the Kaizendo Fitness programme again, to train and to teach.  It is a good workout, it is martial arts and I feel confident doing it.

Now I have returned to Taekwondo, but my expectations are not as high as what they used to be. I enjoy it and I enjoy teaching children Taekwondo. Of course, everybody is different and the reasons for training martial arts is a personal journey.

We would love to hear your stories too and invite you to share them on the comments section after this blog.

In conclusion, many drop out of the martial arts after ‘Coming of Age’, and many who have never done the martial arts before give up on the idea of ever trying. The benefits martial arts can offer are unlimited, and they should not be limited to younger people. Martial Arts is a journey of life long learning for us all.

With Respect to you all

Catarina Murphy

MSc. Physical Education

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