One of the things I often hear from older students is “I can’t compete against the young ones because I can’t remember things as well as them.”
“Can’t” is a horrible word and one that I learned from my teacher should never be in the vocabulary of a Martial Artist. “Can’t” defines boundaries and often they are artificial boundaries which limit what we can accomplish. So one of the first lessons I learned is to erase “can’t” from my Martial Arts vocabulary. Any time anyone in class used that word, we were subjected to the dread monkey jacks.
Furthermore, Martial Arts isn’t a competition. It’s hard for people not to place some competitive mode on everything we do, but it’s important to know when that competitiveness generates negative instead of positive energy.
Reality is though that for older people, it does feel like it gets harder and harder to remember things. The younger students pick up things like sponges and leave the rest of us in the dust. While there is some level of memory skills you may never be able to attain, the brain is a muscle and with all muscles, proper exercise will make it stronger.
A good exercise that can easily be incorporated into any class is to play a Round Robin type game:
- Line everyone up either in a circle. Forming a circle helps to make everyone feel on equal grounds and be able to see everyone else in the circle.
- Start with one person and proceed to go in a counter-clockwise or clockwise direction.
- Start with one opening movement.
- Have the next person repeat that movement and then add either a punch, kick, or change of stance to the sequence.
- Keep repeating and adding to the chain until you’ve gone completely around the circle.
- Either keep going or start a new chain if you do not feel it challenging enough.
This exercise is a great way to incorporate basic Martial Arts into extending one’s memory. It also helps students begin to think about how movements chain together and don’t stand in isolation of one another. Having this like a game makes it a friendlier environment to share and work on the problem together, helping one another out. As this exercise becomes simpler for students, extend it from just one movement to a small series that they need to develop. Also, if the movements flow well, it can be named and developed into a set that the students have developed, thus creating a sense of ownership in what they’ve created.
Hope this helps. Train hard and have fun!