Over 50

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40 - the year of adulthood

Historically, in Asia, an adult was only considered to be fully grown when they reached the age of 41. Everything done before that time was regarded as being in their youth. Kind of takes the pressure off?

Is 50 the new 40?

With many modern people looking after their health, 50 may have become the new 40. There are more women having babies at an older age and many people exercise well past their 50's.
This is good. But how healthy are you personally?

What state are you in?

Reaching the age of 50 is good. But what condition are you in? Are you fit or fat? Do you have back problems? Knee problems? Do you take any form of medication on a regular basis?
Aging badly is nothing to be proud of. You may want to get out of your big car, switch off your fancy phone, your laptop (and all the other devices) and get off your backside. Before it is too late.

Sarcopenia (muscle loss with aging)

Adults over the age of 50 lose approximately 1% of muscle mass each year as a natural consequence of aging.
The only way to offset this is to engage in a strength building regime that can be sustained throughout your natural life.
Qigong, tai chi for health and taijiquan (supreme ultimate fist) all qualify as ideal methods for accomplishing this goal. However, daily practice is a must.

When we are young, we can enjoy lots of external movement. When we are older, we become less active and can't as easily enjoy large movements, speed, high impact, and quick twisting of the muscles. Unfortunately, this is exactly the time our bodies really need good exercise to maintain youthful energy and health. Most of the exercise systems available in our society can't satisfy this need.

(Adam Hsu)

Conventional training

As you grow older, hard-style martial arts, sport and conventional exercise become increasingly difficult to perform. Many exercises promote muscle tension; resulting in a stiff neck and immobile joints.
Injuries are common. The slogan 'no pain, no gain' is often used in conjunction with exercise. Being healthy sounds like an ordeal.

The drawbacks of exercise

Not all forms of exercise are necessarily good for you. For example, running may improve cardiovascular health but is also very hard on the joints.
Lifting heavy weights can cause significant tension to accumulate and - if the muscles are large enough - adversely affect the skeleton. Most forms of exercise have pros and cons; especially sport.

A balanced approach?
For many people, their fitness regime does not take into account agility, mobility, relaxed spontaneous movement, balance, ambidextrous body use, joint health, coordination, emotional wellbeing or psychological flexibility.
Often, injuries arise and bodies are pushed too hard.

Strain is bad

Not everybody wants to sweat and strain their way to fitness.
Conventional exercise has its drawbacks.  
If you damage your body through goal-oriented exercise, you may have to live with it for the rest of your life.

How we move conveys energy and youth – not how buff we are.

(Anne Elliott)

Care for your body

Internal martial arts training is different. It is not strenuous or stressful. You undertake regular training and let the mild exercise build up layers of strength.
Instead of feeling tired, you feel energised and full of vitality.

Mid-life crisis?

There is more to life than working, buying goods, eating, sleeping, drinking alcohol and watching TV. You are more than this. The internal martial arts require the student to expand their horizons.
And to chill out... Contemplation, meditation, settled emotions and calmness of mind are all wonderful additions to your life.
Instead of becoming the violent brute people often associate with the martial arts, you become relaxed and comfortable with yourself, and with those around you.

Martial arts training

Hard-style martial arts have a time stamp attached. You can do them for a certain number of years and then you really start to pay.
Adverse impact work and high kicks can damage your back and your knees.

External martial arts

The external arts are certainly impressive, effective and exciting - yet they usually harm your health. At some point you may be forced to retire.

Ideal form of exercise

According to the book The Blue Zones it is important to think of exercise in terms of what you can reasonably do long-term.
The ideal form of exercise is moderate enough that you can do it for the rest of your life. It needs to be joint-friendly, provide a gentle workout and be sustainable.
This sounds rather like taijiquan, doesn't it?


Taijiquan is a lifetime’s work. You can start aged 50 and potentially still be training for the rest of your life. You do not need to quit once you are 50.

The older athlete regards form as a means of energy conservation and the great athlete saves energy because his extra skill makes each motion more effective – he makes fewer needless motions and his conditioned body uses less energy per movement.

(Bruce Lee)

You must get fit

All martial arts require the student to be fit for combat and taijiquan is no exception. There are many lazy taijiquan classes in the world. This is naive in the extreme.

Cross-training taijiquan
Our taijiquan students train: massage, leg stretches, qigong, neigong, form, partnered work, martial sets & drills, combat and weapons.
The training is done carefully, gently - in a controlled manner - without exertion or strain.

Little & often

Taijiquan advocates moderation; not taxing or tiring the body. Rather than train for a lengthy period of time, aim to practice little & often. 20-30 minute increments, with rest breaks in-between is ideal.
Instead of pushing your body hard and putting it under duress, just do a little exercise. Resting will keep your concentration sharp and offset fatigue.

Motor learning
For many people, their fitness regime does not take into account 'motor learning'. Motor learning is about the process of using the body, rather than simply exercising the body.
Agility, mobility, relaxed spontaneous movement, balance, structure, alignment, biomechanics, efficiency, ambidextrous body use, joint health, coordination, skill, emotional wellbeing or psychological flexibility.
Taijiquan combines exercise with motor learning.

Learning a martial art

When learning a martial art there are essentially 3 stages

  1. Physical fitness

  2. Technical skill

  3. Combat

Most students want to do stage 3 but flounder before they even reach stage 1. The tai chi basics syllabus is an introductory grade. It is not stage 1.

Tai chi for health

Faced with a major health crisis in the 1950's, the People's Republic of China turned to Yang style taijiquan for a solution.
They wanted a form of exercise that could be performed by students of all ages. The simplest way to achieve this was to remove the more demanding fitness component and the combat.
Most modern tai chi classes are teaching an art that an old person could cope with... By definition this cannot conceivably be a martial art.

A martial athlete?

Combat is not easy and there is a risk of injury if the student is unfit. This is true of any martial art. To reach a high level of skill, the student needs to take a lesson from sport.
They must become a lot fitter, but not necessarily a martial athlete.

Intelligent combat

A well-balanced 50 year old usually recognises that they do not really want to risk being injured in combat. They are looking for something milder and more intelligent.
Yes, they want taijiquan skills, and they also want more. They want to feel fit, calm and comfortable in their own body.
A good class can offer a highly-stimulating training experience without the risks associated with conventional martial arts practice.

His ability to take adequate care of himself.
Not a hypochondriac or obsessed with his appearance, but not ignoring things either.
With the result that he hardly ever needed medical attention,
or drugs or any sort of salve or ointment.

(Marcus Aurelius)

Page created 19 August 1994
Last updated 23 July 2022