My quest for good health and martial arts longevity may have started as young as the age of five. I vividly recall my childhood hero, John Kerns, seven years my senior, demonstrating leg trips in the back yard of my home. I was totally fascinated by the ease with which each of his peers and my older brother were sent swiftly to the ground. I begged John to show me the move. After a great deal of nagging, he did just that and my leg snapped. The fracture placed me in a cast for six weeks and it was likely the start of my fascination with athletics and martial arts.
I was quite clumsy as a child however ironically surrounded by athletic individuals. I was the kid that was never selected at baseball try-outs, stunk at basketball, and generally speaking, was void of athletic prowess. I was also one of those kids that was unable to defend himself and therefore the victim of a number schoolyard and neighborhood assaults . The one thing that I possessed was an insatiable desire to succeed in spite of my physical limitations. I admired super-heroes and particularly those that possessed strength and confidence. Steve Reeves, Mr. Universe, was one of my idols. I use to love to watching him in the movies portraying Hercules at the and dreamed of having similar strength and power. I spent a large part of my formative years weight training, running and working diligently to overcome the barriers that prevented me from succeeding in sports. I was able to make the junior high and high school football teams, and actually was a starter on the defensive line. Unfortunately, the most memorable part of my high school career was recovering a fumble and running in the wrong direction after being one inch from scoring a touchdown.
That perseverance and insatiable thirst to achieve have served me well. Unlike those with natural talent, I’ve had to work very hard for every kick, strike and throw that I’ve developed in the arts of Jin Pal Hapkido and Brazilian Jujitsu. I have never tired in my quest to improve. In essence, I am in competition with myself. I have instructed martial arts for over thirty years. I firmly believe that the interaction that I have with chronologically younger students encourages me to maintain a high level of fitness in order to challenge them and be their leader. Routinely, I lead my students in hundreds of crunches, medicine ball drills, kicks and strikes during an average week. I perform all of the exercises with them; therefore, I am able to derive the benefits and feel what they feel. For aerobic conditioning, I have found few things better than squaring off with a partner and throwing kicks at a focus mitt back and forth with speed and precision. I love basic hard core training without the frills. My students expect me to lead them in workouts that challenge them. I try not to let them down. I push them and myself to the brink of exhaustion. This type of hard-core conditioning has allowed me to maintain and improve my cardiovascular efficiency, strength, and tenacity. My resting pulse rate is typically in the low fifties and I keep getting stronger.
In order to strive for longevity, it is imperative that you do not compare yourself negatively with youth. It is almost daily that I hear someone make the statement in my presence, "What do you expect from someone my age?" My response is usually, "Excellence." We often make excuses, using a wide variety of variables, as to why we cannot improve or perform. Age seems to be one of the top ten on the list for aging athletes and martial artists.
I’ve always trained with weights, but in 2005 after working years to rehabilitate a significant knee injury which required two surgeries, I set my sights on powerlifting and, with gradual improvement, entered the Pennsylvania State Powerlifting Championship. I was able to win that event in the Masters II – 220-pound Division for three consecutive years and each time, my overall performance improved. In 2008, I was able to capture three Pennsylvania records in the Masters II 220 pounds 55-59 age group division. Those records include squat, deadlift and total pounds lifted. I perform the basic whole body movements of bench presses, squats and deadlifts that are part of powerlifting one day a week. I increase the weight on each lift until I hit my maximum. My muscles scream for mercy but I refuse to listen. This type of training is as much mental as physical and KI (Power) evoked during those excruciating maximum attempts. Powerlifting seems to complement my martial arts endeavors. I am able to jump higher, kick and punch with more force and throw with more as a result of lifting.
I also began learning Brazilian Jujitsu in my late forties from the Yamasaki Academy in Rockville, Maryland. This required seven hours of travel round-trip for one hour of instruction, which I’ve done on almost a monthly basis for years. It is exhilarating to grapple with experienced individuals who challenge you to improve or submit. I have found very few activities that test your physical and mental prowess more than grappling.
In essence, to maintain physical longevity and stamina, you must have a mindset of continued growth and fulfillment. You must fight through those mental and physical barriers that currently prevent you from reaching your goal, and you must never feel that you’ve reached the top of the mountain. You need an honest commitment and respect for your continued physical and mental growth.. Furthermore, you need to have a sincere appreciation for what you have learned and want to share your knowledge with others. Never look back or make excuses. Instead strive for improvement in all of your endeavors. Hard-core training and mental discipline will allow you to prosper and succeed in your quests until the end of your days