After running errands all day and well into the evening, I decided to go ahead and watch the tape we made the other night of The Discovery Channel's Extreme Martial Arts
program. On the whole it was an entertaining and interesting show, covering a broad spectrum of martial arts topics via the framing device of following one competitor's attempt to come back to competition after having been out for a few years.
The neat thing about it, of course, was that they digitally-mapped the martial artists' movements and recreated them in 3D CGI as anatomy-studies ... so you'd see a sequence once with the martial artists, then once as if watching it through X-Ray Vision, with all sorts of slo-mo and camera-control jiggery-pokery to break the moves down into physics/motion/artistic studies.
Very cool stuff, but also very instructive. The program talked about the science behind concepts such as "drawing power from the earth" and "iron body" training. It also had lots of footage from the 2002 (I think) U.S. open martial arts championships, which I am entertaining hopes of someday attending. (For that matter, I wouldn't mind someday being good enough to compete in some category or another, although it may very well be in the "seniors" by that stage.) Seeing footage of some contemporary masters in action helped me get a feel for where some of my strengths and weaknesses are -- I'm good at body awareness and precision of motion, for instance, but need to work on developing speed, confidence, and nice, deep stances (which is part of endurance).
It also helped me be aware of just how important a factor age can be. Most of the champions in competition are in their mid-20's and started training in their early teens. There are lots of older (as in, 30's and above) people around, but they tend to be trainers, coachers, and mentors. The people who are older still (as in, 40's, 50's, and above) tend to be judges. On the one hand, this makes me feel not quite so bad about the speed and endurance thing -- on the other hand, it can be intimidating to think about the disadvantage my age puts me at.
In the long run, all this will come out in the wash, so to speak. Even if I never enter a competition, or enter and never win, or any other set of less-than-ideal results, "Gneech the martial artist" is still a lot better off than "Gneech the flabby desk-jockey," by worlds. Like the cliche that a bad day on vacation is better than a good day at work, I'd still rather be a martial artist who never got a trophy, than not be a martial artist at all.