Read an old posting on a martial arts blog, one of those at which you must be a member to make comments and I was too lazy to go through the steps necessary. Basically, the teacher was addressing the notion of what happened when you got older, and therefore weaker and slower, and how you might deal with that, if you had students who wanted to learn -- essentially -- how to be strong and fast.
Guys who want to learn that don't want to hear some old fart talking about it, they want to see him do it.
I suspect that the teacher, who is getting up there, but who is considered really good at what he does by folks who know, wanted to stir up some thought, but he didn't get any responses.
Might be other folks didn't want to jump through the hoops to be able to post, either.
So I thought I'd address this here, being the oldest guy in the room and all.
My teacher believes that there is a window in which you can teach beginners. This space is bracketed by your abilities -- what you know and how well you can do it -- and that there is both a beginning and an end to it.
The beginning is when you have enough skill to understand and demonstrate what needs to be shown first. The end? Martial artists tend to refer to this time -- whether they believe it or not -- as when your circles start to get smaller.
What I take this to mean is that as your physical abilities wane, vis a vis speed and power, your technique has to advance to replace them. If you are going to stay in the art and deal with those who are younger, stronger, and faster, you must become more efficient, based on your ability to select moves that require more skill but less speed and power. Your timing has to be better, there will be less room for error, and you can't fall back to cheating with muscle like you could when you were the fittest and strongest guy in the room. You make it work because you have a lot of time in grade, but you can't teach somebody that time in grade.
That outward block that smashed an arm off track by a foot and left a big bruise, driven by hours in the weight room every week, gives way to the soft snake block that deflects the punch just enough to barely miss. Both can work just fine. They require different abilities.
If you have been training properly, this will be coming along naturally, if the art permits it, and you'll already be thinking of easier ways to get the job done. That old work-smarter-not-harder business.
One of the problems of an art that depends largely on speed and power is that you don't have anything if you aren't fast and strong. (Or if you run into somebody who is faster and stronger.)
This is going to vary from teacher to teacher, of course, as well as the kinds of art being taught, but at some point, you will of necessity have to be moving less and doing more, and such skills are not those that can be taught easily to people without a foundation in the art.
One fine morning, you are going to wake up and be over the hill. A fit eighty-year-old simply can't run with a fit twenty- or thirty- or even fifty-year-olds. This doesn't mean you can't defeat them; it means that have to play your game -- not their game.
Doesn't mean you can't stay in as good a shape as you can manage, either. There are plenty of fifty and sixty-year-old guys who can run circles around men half their ages, but however long you stretch it out, you will eventually get to that place where you can't run with the young dogs.
The joints start to creak, the endurance fades, and gravity is always waiting.
Once your circles get small, the window for teaching beginners closes. Who you teach are the advanced students who already have the foundation and skills to do the art fairly well. They are the ones who can benefit from the instruction because they have the capability to grasp nuance that beginners simply cannot.
At this stage one of the students teaches the beginners, because they are still close enough to relate. Doesn't mean you have to stand to one side with your arms crossed nodding sagely and being the wise old master, but it also speaks to the notion that everything has its own season, and when it is passed, you can't go back to it.
Doesn't have to be all or nothing, though.
Beginners learn the simple stuff first because that's the way of things. Easy to show, easier to learn, and the circles are big, the movements broad. They can cheat it with speed or strength or stamina and get by.
As they become more adept, they can begin to learn more subtle stuff.
To those teachers who leap up and cry "Bullshit!" -- and there are some -- I simply point out that you don't take a first grader who has just just been exposed to addition and subtraction and hope to teach him the calculus necessary to work out planetary orbits. Before you can learn higher math, you kinda need some lower math.
So, the window. There is a time to teach. Before it, you don't have the ability. After it, you have, odd as it may seem, too much ability.
I was talking to a newbie once, working on a simple attack and defense sequence, when I realized that he didn't know how to make a fist. No biggie, I showed him a couple ways, we moved on. After that, I made it a point to ask newbies. You did a year in TKD? Fine, you know how to make a fist. But if you have never taken any kind of fight training, you could damage your hand worse than the guy you punch. Boxer's fracture, a limp and crooked wrist when you punch a heavy bag -- somebody needs to let you know why these are not the best ways to do it. At some point that kind of thing gets to be so automatic you don't think about it any more, and if you don't think about, you won't be able to teach it.
One window closes, but another one opens.