A Martial Arts Show Gives Me A Little Perspective Shift On Age

The other night I caught a show on the History Channel tracing the life of Miyamoto Musashi, arguably the most well known of Samurai swordsmen.  The show was hosted by Mark Dacascos.  Dacascos is a martial artist and actor who has popped up in a number of action flicks over the years.  I recognized him primarily from the strange but entertaining film Brotherhood of the Wolf (How could a martial arts/gothic horror/romance movie set in 18th century France not be a little strange?).   This show was a film journal of his travels around present day Japan as he explored Musashi’s life.  It was interesting and worth checking out but I was really struck by Dacascos himself.  Near the opening he mentions that he was born in 1964, one year after me.  As of the filming of this show last year he was 44.  That caused me to blink a couple of times.  Dacascos is in great condition.  When he is practicing during the show he is obviously still a very talented and athletic individual.   He surely didn’t look 44.

Maybe he has some fabulously lucky genes in his Japanese/Filipino/Irish ancestry.   Maybe he has had more plastic surgery than a Beverly Hills trophy wife.  None of that would be a substitute for what is obviously a lot of physical self-discipline.  Admittedly, Dacascos came from a family of martial artists and has been at this full time since he was a young boy.  He isn’t sitting on his butt behind a desk 40-50 hours a week.  He does this for a living.  Still, he must not be out partying till dawn and living on fried foods either.  That isn’t really what mattered to me.  For me seeing his birth date was yet another in a string of occurrences forcing me to reexamine my perceptions of my age and what it means.

Recently I took part in a demonstration with my kung fu school.  The event was a yearly banquet in Chinatown for a federation of kung fu schools.  I am not a big fan of doing kung fu demonstrations especially when the audience is made up of other practitioners some of whom are masters from China.  My negative perspective on this may be a little warped because I practice mostly with notably younger men who have been training religiously from an early age.  They just plain ‘ol look better.  It doesn’t help that our uniforms are traditional red and yellow Shaolin outfits.  Young Chinese men look like dashing monks.  I look like a degenerate Ronald McDonald who’s been fired for drinking on the job (remember Billy Bob Thornton in Bad Santa?).  Putting aside self-consciousness and criticism (and fashion vanity) I actually did pretty well.  I demonstrated three forms from our style and received some very encouraging positive feedback.  It wasn’t half bad.  Well ….. not bad for a 46 year old guy I told myself.

We all have to watch out for playing mind games with ourselves.  We come up with rationalizations for not pushing towards certain goals or running certain risks.  There is a part of our psyches that prefers short term goals and immediate gratification.  It will come up with some excellent ways to convince us we really are better off kicking back with a pint of Guinness instead of running a mile or two.   In my case I have sold myself the story that I am getting to be a little over the hill.  Why beat myself up over accomplishing things that are no longer within reach?  It is a seductive excuse.  I can also see it at work in other areas of my life aside from physical training.

This doesn’t mean I’ll now be spouting platitudes like “You’re as young as you feel” or “Forty-five is the new Thirty-Five”.  I am at a different point in my life and my body has indeed changed from fifteen or twenty years ago.  I do not want to replace one fantasy with another.  The Stoics taught the importance and the discipline of seeing things as they are.  My reality is impacted by the passage of time and aging, of course.  But not as much as I have been telling myself.

A lot more is within my control than I may want to admit because knowing that requires action.  It is an awareness I would do well to keep in the front of my thoughts.  Putting that awareness into action however requires the development of habits and that is a subject for another post.

3 Responses to “A Martial Arts Show Gives Me A Little Perspective Shift On Age”

  1. Nice post. Inspiring. I have been feeling older myself recently. Before you guffaw I will tell you why. It is because I am stuck inside a lot. Actually I am feeling much younger these past few days as I am able to bring my son out with me and do stuff again. Then I felt old when I crashed from working my body out in a way it isn’t used to and slept for 14 hours.
    Mentally you will feel older if you limit yourself. Physically you will feel older if you push yourself too hard. Take the middle path. I’ve been doing this by crashing hard off the sides of this middle path.

  2. yes, nice post. thanks for sharing

  3. Thanks to both of you for reading.

    Adam, since I work out of a home office most of the time I know what you mean. If I don’t make sure I get out into the big wide world for at least part of the day I feel like the life force has been sucked out of me.

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