In the past two days, I've heard two people voice something I've often thought: "I wish I had taken up martial arts when I was younger."
What struck me about these comments was that they were made by a 35-year-old friend from work and a 24-year-old martial-arts classmate.
Remember, I took up martial arts when I was 44.
The 35-year-old wished he had gotten started younger because, he said, men reach the peak in their capacity for muscle mass when they're 35. (I believe it--one of my orthopedic doctors once said to me, "We've passed the magic age of 35, and things are starting to fall apart.")
The 24-year-old, who was so much faster than me in our punching and kicking drills today, first took up martial arts a year ago at a different school that sounds much rougher than the one we both now attend. I'm not really sure why he wishes he started earlier, maybe just that he would be much farther along if he had.
I don't think I could ever have been a champion karateka, I don't think I was enough of a natural athlete. But I do sometimes wonder how much better I could have gotten if I'd started younger.
That said, I'm glad I did start when I did. I've lost weight; gone off cholesterol pills; lost a hernia I was starting to develop; dropped my pulse rate from 74 to 60; made friends, faced up to fears and had a lot of fun, all the while learning how to kick butt.
Speaking of kicking butt, I went with that friend from work to watch some Muay Thai and kickboxing matches in downtown Manhattan last night. It was a blast. It was interesting to look at the matches with an eye to learning something. It was also, as my friend, said, "a total New York scene." It was held in a very ornate old bank--pillars, vaulted ceilings--that has been turned into a restaurant and event venue (no restaurant the night of the fights). There was a couch and table reserved near our seats, and a well-heeled threesome sat down there halfway into the match with their Veuve Clicquot. Most of the people at the event were martial arts practitioners or their rather siliconed dates. I enjoyed seeing a bunch of friends from my school, and my old and new senseis.