Too Old for Aikido?

by Dennis Hooker

I do not believe that a person can become too old for Aikido. One can become to infirmed yes, but not too old. Even the sick and lame can have a part in Aikido if the teacher and fellow students of a dojo are of the mind to modify their training to accommodate such individuals on occasion.

A few years ago I was teaching a seminar in Las Vegas and at the end did yudansha testing. One of the men testing for shodan was in his 80’s at the time. He did everything the other candidates did except breakfalls. It was I that refused to be responsible for that act. I did not give him any special dispensation otherwise. I was so impressed with him I took off a black belt I had worn for about 20 years and gave it to him right there. I am not ashamed to say we both had tears in our eyes at the display of courage, desire and human nature, he from demonstrating it, and me for bearing witness to it. I believe we could all remain longer on the mat if we could kill the myth of the undefeatable aged godlike creature we create. That myth is the venerable old master who can not be defeated. There may be some out there. Those very old legendary figures that at no age can be beaten, I suspect I have met one or two in my life time of training in these arts. I have no proof of their invariability in actual combat so only my supposition stands. I know I am not one of them and do not intend to continue to train as if I were 25 or 30 years old again. Quite frankly I was then at my peak and would hate to think of myself now stepping onto the mat and training all out with “that” crazy young man.

I think we should all read Ellis Amdur book Dueling With O-Sensei. In that book he gives voice to much that is wrong in many Aikido dojo today, and maybe in Aikido in general. If the really effective Martial Arts Masters were 65 and 70 years old then they would go to the Olympics. How many of you will be around at 50, 60, 70, or 80 and still getting on the mat? You conceivably could like many of us do if you understand what it see you seek and why you are there. If it is physical combat then I submit you would last if the young warriors are intent on victory. That is of course unless you win very, very quickly and probably with a good deal of devious action.