Teaching Taekwondo to beginners over the age of 40

lifespantkd

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For those of you who teach Taekwondo and for those of you who practice Taekwondo over the age of 40, what do you think are critical things to know regarding the needs (e.g., physical, psychological, logistical, learning styles, philosophy, ...) of beginning students who are over the age of 40? Any approaches you think are best or that you avoid at all cost? Class structure? Basic drills? Fitness? ???

Thank you!

Cynthia
 

granfire

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How old are you? :)

Old people need a thorough warmup.

Most of us are not as active as the average young person (Teenager)

We also need a it more time to catch our breath in between drills.

:)
 

Steve

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Well, I don't know TKD, but I can share my opinions as a martial artist who is over 40. I appreciate a lack of BS. I don't like having my time wasted, so I like classes that are well structured and that start and end on time. I have familial obligations, so if the class is supposed to end at 7pm, I expect to be out the door at 7:05pm.

At my age, I also appreciate good warmups and an emphasis on stretching.

Beyond this, I think things are pretty much the same as for younger students. I enjoy variety. I appreciate competence in my instructors. I like a little competition.

Also true for older students is to remember that while they may be new to TKD or martial arts in general, they have been around the block a few times. At 40, it's very likely they have expertise that is relevant and can be helpful. Treating them the same way you'd treat a 15 year old would be, IMO, a big mistake and undervalues their life experience and maturity.
 

granfire

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I am young at heart if not in body!

Cynthia


LOL, I was asking because at one time one of the Jr instructors taught class. Sweet kid, but at only 18, his pace was abit swift for most of us middle aged people. ^_^
 

ETinCYQX

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LOL, I was asking because at one time one of the Jr instructors taught class. Sweet kid, but at only 18, his pace was abit swift for most of us middle aged people. ^_^

Hah, I can imagine...

I'm lucky, my oldest student is 31 and he has awesome cardio. I can run them as hard as I want :D
 

ralphmcpherson

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Ive actually found recently that lots of 40+ people have been through their 'off the rails' years and have actually been through the realisation that you need to look after yourself. Most 40 year olds I come accross at training eat well, do a lot of cardio outside of the dojang, drink less alcohol and do less drugs than the young ones. The fittest, best conditioned guy I train with is 42, he leaves the young guys for dead. The younger students tend to party more, eat crap, have a lack of sleep, hate cardio etc. As steve said, the older students also appreciate less B.S, they are there to train and learn and dont need all the 'fluff'.
 

Gwai Lo Dan

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For those of you who teach Taekwondo and for those of you who practice Taekwondo over the age of 40, what do you think are critical things to know regarding the needs (e.g., physical, psychological, logistical, learning styles, philosophy, ...) of beginning students who are over the age of 40? Any approaches you think are best or that you avoid at all cost? Class structure? Basic drills? Fitness? ???

Thank you!

Cynthia
I think there is a greater variety of fitness and abilities at 40 years of age than at 10 years. At 40 year olds, one guy has done weights, jogging, and stretching for 20 years, and the next has done nothing. For the fit guys, I don't think the class should be any different than for the younger adults or teenagers. In fact, I personally like training with the teenagers since I cannot accept that I am old :)

One thing I would prefer, and I have only seen it at one club, is increased independence. I agreed with one instructor who said to us (mostly university students) "you guys are all adults. You know how to stretch and warm up. You don't need to pay me to do that for you. So warm up and stretch at home, then we will only do a quick warm up before we start". I like that because I think 15 minutes of running around is a waste of time and money for me, when I went jogging earlier that evening.

So in brief, consider the individual's body more than with younger classes, and treat them more as independent adults.
 

SPX

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Also true for older students is to remember that while they may be new to TKD or martial arts in general, they have been around the block a few times. At 40, it's very likely they have expertise that is relevant and can be helpful. Treating them the same way you'd treat a 15 year old would be, IMO, a big mistake and undervalues their life experience and maturity.

Good point and that's true even if you're 29. I had an instructor not long ago who liked to raise his voice a lot and order people around. Eventually I was just like, Look, I'm a grown man. You need to treat me with some respect or I'm out of here.
 

oftheherd1

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I got back into MA in my mid-40s. I asked no mercy and certainly got none. In our 40s we probably need to stretch more. Well, actually, I got into Hapkido, not TKD, and we have to stretch more anyway. But in our 40s, if we haven't kept in stretch, we have to work on it more. The cardio part will just come with time. Don't give up to easily, but if you have any doubts about your condition, I would check with a doctor, and tell him what you are going to be doing, so he can ensure you that you aren't going to force a heart attack. Work outside the dojo will obviously help as well. But mostly, you can get in as good a shape as anyone else, just maybe not as quick.
 

miguksaram

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For those who are just starting out, just re-assure them that you are not going to treat them like a teenager. Many of them come in already intimidated with the "I'm too old for this." mentality. It is your job to let them know that they can do this and not to compare themselves with a younger person. No more than you would expect an 18 year old to have the maturity of a 40 year old. Physically speaking, as it has been said, make sure they are warmed up. Good cardio is the best thing. Do not coddle them though. They are there to work out not be treated like senior citizens with one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel. You have to push them to push themselves. Be upfront and let them know..it will not be easy, but it will be fun.
 

Bill Mattocks

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I started at 46, and to be honest (and not to pick on TKD), I do not think I would pick TKD to learn. It has an emphasis on kicking and especially, high kicks. While I have been assured by various persons that 'anyone can learn' to kick backwards over their head while spinning 540 degrees, I do not agree. I know my limitations. Isshin-Ryu has been the right art for me. Low kicks, power, absolute brutality. This, I can do. I figure you have to play to your strengths and not your weaknesses when you get to a certain age. I won't ever be an astronaut, but damn I can dig a pretty ditch to lay one down in.
 

StudentCarl

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First, I think it's vital for the instructor to be at least that age or have regular guidance from someone in that age group. It's important to understand the physiology and psychology that comes with the age.

Second, it's key to the success of the program for the students to develop confidence that they can still be athletic and make significant progress; they are not 'over-the-hill' at all. Many don't try or have low expectations because it's more painful to regain fitness than it was as a teenager. Frequent praise coupled with a patient and progressive curriculum will light up the eyes of adults just like little kids--success is addictive. Adults need to be patient with their bodies, taking the extra time to stretch and warmup.

Third, the teaching process is a little different. When practicing, just like kids, some will want lots of feedback and some just need space to experiment. Kids are more willing to be led, whereas adults tend to have preferences for how they approach learning something new. A good instructor of adults will develop the skill of communicating and reading his/her students so they are given the space they need to grow. Adults communicate much more articulately than kids, so you can talk with them as intelligent partners in training rather than you being the brains of the show as you are with younger kids.

Fourth, it takes a positive and encouraging environment for some adults to be willing to take the risk of looking foolish and have the fearlessness of a child to persevere through the early struggles with coordination. Many adults are happily in the part of their lives where they are competent at what they do. Going back to being a clumsy beginner is a risk for them in some ways more than for their 8 year old. Nobody is looking up to the 8 year old.

Carl
 

Cyriacus

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I started at 46, and to be honest (and not to pick on TKD), I do not think I would pick TKD to learn. It has an emphasis on kicking and especially, high kicks. While I have been assured by various persons that 'anyone can learn' to kick backwards over their head while spinning 540 degrees, I do not agree. I know my limitations. Isshin-Ryu has been the right art for me. Low kicks, power, absolute brutality. This, I can do. I figure you have to play to your strengths and not your weaknesses when you get to a certain age. I won't ever be an astronaut, but damn I can dig a pretty ditch to lay one down in.
And this is also why I will *never* Train such a System.

Im not saying this to do the plain old "But it CAN be like THIS" thing. Im more saying that I agree with Your Reasons, and its more or less why I Train where I do and have.
And Im mostly referring to the Bold part.

Im approving of Your Reasons, namely the Underlined part.
 

harlan

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I have a slightly different take. My 48 yr old sister wanted to start a martial art, and I steered her towards a local Chung Do Kwan school. She enjoyed it immensely (I find that women really like the group ethos in TKD and the feeling of empowerment that kicking provides). It was a good school in every way: affordable, local, a good mix of warm-up, kata, drills, bunkai and reasonable about modifying for one's health limitations. But the one thing that finally turned her away was the lack of an adult class. Probably an ego thing, but after awhile, being a beginner in a mixed class of adults and children, as an adult you will outpace the children and need to practice with adults.

I guess I'd say the adult crowd, after a certain age, is usually targeted about what they want. More focused and self-motivated.
 

Steve

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I started at 46, and to be honest (and not to pick on TKD), I do not think I would pick TKD to learn. It has an emphasis on kicking and especially, high kicks. While I have been assured by various persons that 'anyone can learn' to kick backwards over their head while spinning 540 degrees, I do not agree. I know my limitations. Isshin-Ryu has been the right art for me. Low kicks, power, absolute brutality. This, I can do. I figure you have to play to your strengths and not your weaknesses when you get to a certain age. I won't ever be an astronaut, but damn I can dig a pretty ditch to lay one down in.
Almost exactly the same reasons I landed in a BJJ school. It's very low impact and is something I can see myself doing for as long as I can move.
 

vikings827

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I echo all the above. I am 57, and need a good warm up and even a better stretch prior to class. Without it, injury is more likely. And if tkd'ers around my age get injured it takes much longer to heal. That being said, when I do get the time to stretch properly before class I feel great. The properly part is the catch. I stretch every day for 10 minutes. This has helped to prevent muscle strains. Also, repetition of round kicks or side kicks torque the knee, and older students will geet meniscus tears more easily. So, avoiding 50 consecutive round kicks in a drill is a bad idea.
Also if I see that the class is all kids, I will exit and come another time. It will be too hard for the instructor to cater to one old guy. But, if there are adults, even one, I will stay.

Scott
 
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lifespantkd

lifespantkd

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Thank you, everyone, for the great input! As an older practitioner and someone with experience teaching older practitioners, I can certainly relate to what you've all shared here.

Let me add another question: If you were teaching Taekwondo to over-40 beginners along with their beginner children in a family class (so, everyone there has intentionally chosen the mixed age setting for their own reasons and knowing the pros and cons), what are key issues, approaches, and so on, to best meet the needs of such a diverse age group?

Thank you!

Cynthia
 

miguksaram

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I started at 46, and to be honest (and not to pick on TKD), I do not think I would pick TKD to learn. It has an emphasis on kicking and especially, high kicks. While I have been assured by various persons that 'anyone can learn' to kick backwards over their head while spinning 540 degrees, I do not agree. I know my limitations. Isshin-Ryu has been the right art for me. Low kicks, power, absolute brutality. This, I can do. I figure you have to play to your strengths and not your weaknesses when you get to a certain age. I won't ever be an astronaut, but damn I can dig a pretty ditch to lay one down in.

While that was insightful. The answer really does not have anything to do with the OP's question. It was asked how do you teach TKD to people in their 40's or older. So is your answer to turn away potential clients to TKD telling them they are too old?
 
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miguksaram

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Let me add another question: If you were teaching Taekwondo to over-40 beginners along with their beginner children in a family class (so, everyone there has intentionally chosen the mixed age setting for their own reasons and knowing the pros and cons), what are key issues, approaches, and so on, to best meet the needs of such a diverse age group?

Thank you!

Cynthia

Again good warm ups are the key. The kids can handle it and the adults need it. :) If the adults tend lag behind the kids, just remind them to do what they can and don't get frustrated with trying to keep up with the kids. Some of the issues I have encountered in the past are parents being parents during class. It is natural for them to scold their child if they are misbehaving or try to correct the child if they are not 100% correct in executing the technique. You have to respectfully remind them that it is your duty to handle the kid if they step out of line. That way they won't feel beat up by having two adults correcting them, scolding them, or whatever.

Another issue is to make it a mix of fun with a mix of stern learning. Even though they intentionally sign up knowing that kids will be there, adults still want some serious lessons as opposed to more light hearted fun that you might have in a kids' class. So I would recommend repetition of techniques disguised in different drills. This will keep it interesting for the kids while adults get some good lessons as well and still keep the learning at a normal fun level.

Be sure to switch up partners for drills. Don't feel you have to stick the kid with one of their own parents all the time.
 

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