starting late, dropping out

Discussion in 'Tae Kwon Do' started by tkd ajumma, Oct 22, 2003.

  1. tkd ajumma

    tkd ajumma New Member

    I started tkd rather late, age 34, in Korea with a bunch of expat women of a similar age, all of us in a similar situation, not particularly fit, returning to exercise after having kids etc. As time went on many of the group dropped out, but a few, including me, really caught the bug and went on to get our black belts. I'm currently attending at least 3 or 4 classes per week, and helping to teach the kids tkd at the international school. I'm much much fitter, more flexible and very serious about my tkd (some might say obsessive...)

    However, I've noticed that when my friends return to their home countries, they try to continue their tkd, but usually end up dropping out fairly quickly. In fact I know of only 2 of my friends who have continued for longer than a couple of months, one in France, and one in the US. I'm due to leave here soon, and I'm determined to continue with martial arts, but based on my friends' experiences I'm wondering how I will fare back home in England as a 39 year old with only 4 years tkd experience.

    Are there many more 'mature' women practising out there? or are most of your clubs full of fit and flexible teenagers/20+ year olds? What attitudes do older martial artists encounter? I want to be taken seriously, but I know that in terms of fitness, speed, flexibilty I'm not going to be a match for a younger person.

    In Korea we are viewed as oddities for wanting to learn tkd. Is this true of clubs in other countries? - one of my friends returned to the south of England, found a club and whilst the members were friendly, she still felt they didn't take her seriously. Another started in Greece, and the master humiliated her in front of the class by pulling apart every bit of her (and her son's) technique and insulting her previous master. He was going round the class with a stick whacking the students legs. She didn't go back.

    This is rather long-winded so if anyone is still reading, my questions are:
    1. Have I started tkd too late?
    2. What makes people drop out?
    3. What experiences do 'older' martial artists have, particularly those who haven't been learning since they were teenagers, but started later in life?
  2. snarg

    snarg New Member

    The issue of being "too old" has been dealt with many times on this forum, but your post struck a chord in me so I'm going to answer with an equally long-winded one. :)

    Yes. You'll find some excellent examples on this forum.

    At my club, 90% of the students started in their late 20s, and some in their 30s and 40s. Teenagers are a definite minority.

    In my experience, they are respected for their courage and dedication. Assuming of course, that they are actually dedicated, and don't demand respect just because of their age.

    Older students might raise a few eyebrows among non-martial artists, who imagine that you have to be able to do handsprings, fly 20 feet and kill people with your pinky finger. But within the community I don't think anyone would be the slightest bit concerned about it. While kids and teenagers still make up the majority of students in any country, there are lots of adult beginners.

    That sort of so-called "master" isn't worth spitting on. It has nothing to do with age, that was just an a**hole instructor.

    No, and deep down inside you know that. :)

    In my humble opinion, in roughly ascending order of importance:
    1. Financial or logistical reasons.
    2. Injuries.
    3. Change in life priorities, e.g. a new flame/baby/hobby that's more fun or exciting
    4. Shattering of unrealistic expectations/illusions about the art.
    5. Not progressing as fast as before, which is natural at higher levels.
    6. Burnout, either physical or mental, due to overtraining.
    7. Fear of change--e.g. starting at a new club with no friends, having to get used to a new style of teaching, or having to restart at a lower belt level.
      Older martial artists usually have a much healthier attitude than teenagers. For example, they're not being forced to do martial arts by their parents. They don't suffer as much from the desire to show off. They're aware of their limitations and will work hard to overcome them. They are usually highly motivated, humble, and in it for the long haul. Because of this, they tend to be well looked-upon by instructors as well as other students, even if they can't compete in terms of fitness (which is not always the case--not all teenagers are fit or want to put in the effort to become fit).

      Of course, when dealing with teenagers, it's important to remember to not to behave condescendingly or "act out" feelings of inferiority. You certainly don't want to trigger the dreaded "teenage rebellion" instinct. Everyone should be dealt with amiably and on terms of social equality, and that works most of the time. For the rest, just ignore the jerks.

      So, in summary, there's absolutely no reason to feel dubious about yourself. It is extremely important to find the right club, and the right instructor. But such places do exist, so don't give up. And when you do find it, continue with the same dedication and spirit that got you this far! :)
  3. Holgate

    Holgate New Member

    Firstly, whereabout in England are you coming back to? and being in South Korea I assume your doing WTF TKD??

    As snarg said, only YOU know if your too old. I started TKD last year at the age of 25 and have found that it has done nothing but enhance me both physically and mentally and it's continuing to do so. If it's doing that for you still then you have no reason to drop out....STICK WITH IT.

    also in the UK 'mature' women/men taking up an martial art isn't an oddity as it would seem in Korea many start because their kids become involved and even when their kids have given up due to boredom the parents continue because they have been bitten by the bug. There is nothing wierd or unusal about being an older martial artist, in fact there is a piece in this months TAGB times about a chap who reached his black belt at the age of 61, 4 years after he started...I say good on him!

    You will also have an advantage only a few have when you return to have learn't and trained in Korea! something which most people dream about doing and which only a few have ever done so in many ways people will want to learn from you as well as you wanting to learn from them. If your going to be an oddity in any way shape or form it's because of your training in Korea.

    In all I say stick with it if you really want to. age is no barrier to TKD training as long as you think your constantlt gaining something from it.

  4. tkd ajumma

    tkd ajumma New Member

    Thanks for the encouraging comments.:)

    Yes, I do WTF tkd. Coming back to North Hertfordshire. I visited a club in Plymouth over the summer, when I was there on holiday; it was great, and the standard of tkd was really high. There must be something closer to home, but I've only found ITF clubs so far, so I might give that a go (although when I told my Korean master that, he shook his head and said it's quote 'North Korean taekwondo'...)

    Holgate, that's me you're describing - 3 kids, all started tkd, all given up, mum still going strong...

    I do feel very privileged having trained in Korea and being able to do 1st and 2nd dan tests at Kukkiwon and I've had some fantastic teachers (some even members of the national demo team). It has been interesting and fascinating, and at times frustrating to see how taekwondo is practised and administered here.
  5. Holgate

    Holgate New Member

    North Korean TKD ITF may be but it is still fun ;)....if you did ITF you would have to start at the begining, I know with the TAGB they don't recgonise black belts from WTF but will recgonise them from other forms of ITF, so staying WTF would be the best move to retain your status. Certinally give ITF a go if you want to learn a new aspect of TKD and with the TAGB I know they encourage people to spar WTF style in competitions so you could bring the two together in a way.

    I have heard many good things about the plymouth WTF club, I must admit I would like to give the WTF style a go even if it's just to improve my sparring for TAGB tournaments (my sparring is shocking, but pattern wise I've won a couple of gold medals) unfortutanly Plymouth is a bit too far for me to go even though I am only in Exeter.

    I'm sure there are WTF clubs in north hertforshire, there are certinally more and more springing up so there should be one nearby.

    Give the ITF a go as well even if they don't recgonise your WTF black belt (check about it though) it can only add to your TKD education in the long term.

    I must admit if I had started with WTF I would have more than likely given up by now because it is highly physical so the ITF way of doing things has certinally given me a taste for trying WTF though a bit more of a 'gentle' introduction :)
  6. neryo_tkd

    neryo_tkd Valued Member

    don't be discouraged. we are all different. so what if some people gave up training???? big deal!

    if they all jumped off a bridge, would u do the same??? of course not.

    so, stop thinking about them. u urself should analyze ur situation. there are no age limits when it comes to training. of course u can't expect kids aged 1 or 2 to start training, and of course u can't expect a 60 year old person to take part in competitions.

    we all have our reasons why we train. u have my full support. DON'T GIVE UP on their account.
  7. Taeho

    Taeho New Member

    I started TKD at the tendor age of 33. They are going to have to pry my training out of my "cold dead hands". :D

    If TKD is as important to you as you say, then you will stick to it. Definitely, go to different schools before choosing one. It could make all the difference. Some schools have programs geared to us elderly folks and some cater more towards the kids. When I go to my belt ceremonies, I feel like the Jolly Green Giant, because I'm usually the only adult. It doesn't bother me, I just feel like one of the lucky few who have made this bold step so late in life.

    Good Luck!

    TKDshane Ÿ
  8. neryo_tkd

    neryo_tkd Valued Member

    Bravo TKDshane

    never give up

    just keep up the good work.

    u see tkd ajumma u r definitely not alone.
  9. flyingblackbelt

    flyingblackbelt New Member

    you know i cant talk about being a woman over 30 taking tkd, seeing as im an 18 year old male, but i can say two things, 1: its not just limited to your demographic, most people give up for one reason or another, commonly reffered to as an excuse and 2: I concur with TKDShane, the only two things thatll stop me from training are death and paralysis.
  10. Thomas

    Thomas Combat Hapkido/Taekwondo


    I think I know where some of your worries are coming from... I also lived and trained in Korea for 4 years, in the countryside (Chungchongnamdo, Nonsanshi and Sosanshi) in Hapkido and Taekwondo. The "wae-gook" (foreigner) syndrome can be very annoying... especially in the countryside where I was usually the only adult student. I just did my best and continued.

    I had started training in the states about 3 years before going to Korea, so I felt a bit more comfortable. The training in Korea was very good, I thought as well. Currently I am back training at my original school in the US. I am 32 years old, and I started at age 23.

    At our school, we have almost all adults, many schools differ but in the west, I think there are more options for adult classes. One of our instructors is a woman quite a bit older than you (impolite to tell her age, but she is old enough to be my mother). She is an amazing teacher and friend and on my top 3 favorite martial artists of all time list. She trains hard and is very respected.

    Of the women in our classes, we are about equally split between young women in their late teens and early twenties who want self-defence and women over 40 who want to get into shape and learn some self defence. In my opinion, our women students tend to be very serious and very respected for their skills. Many of the older students (who start late) tend to stay on to black belt more so than the younger ones... I think it's the maturity and patience.

    People drop out for many reasons... boredom, a sense of having "done it all" by 1st dan (or red belt, or green belt, etc.), new commitments, or sometimes because they realize that the easy part is done and that to continue means a lot of work and practice...

    My advice is to check out the local schools and see which one fits you best and join it. If you truly love it, stick with it, you will find a good school sooner or later. As for style, I would recommned sticking with WTF because of the time invested but I also like ITF. If you find a good ITF school, ask them about converting your rank or if you can be promoted faster. If the school is good, I wouldn't mind beginning again if I really enjoyed the school....
    Nice to "meet" you, by the way.
  11. Kwajman

    Kwajman Penguin in paradise....

    OLD? MATURE? Who you calling mature...? Just kidding really. I feel for you actually. I started TKD at 40, wish I had at 15 instead. But at your age you bring a lot of good things to any dojang. You have maturity and patience as well as skill that most any instructor in his right mind would welcome with open arms. Sure our knees and elbows might not be feeling too great all the time, and Lord knows our hips don't always cooperate with our brain, but if you really love your sport and want to continue, stay with it. Find a dojang that will appreciate you for what you've done, and DO know your physical limitations. We all can't be 18 again and do those acrobatic moves that we see the younger kids doing. And mature? I'll take that one, OLD? NEVER!!!!! :)
  12. tkd ajumma

    tkd ajumma New Member

    Ah yes, Thomas, the 'waygook' (foreigner) syndrome - I could tell some tales about that....!!! For the most part the Koreans are extremely proud and grateful that we want to learn their national martial art, and sometimes this leads to them wanting to 'repay' us by giving us special favours like letting us get away with less than perfect technique, over-complimenting us or promoting us through the belts too quickly.

    I've seen a foreign team at a poomsae competition receive a standing ovation for performing a very mediocre Taegeuk 2 jang, when the Korean teams are doing fantastic performances of more difficult poomsaes and receiving cursory applause. It's like there's one standard for us and another for them. I've had many a discussion with my Korean master about this, but it's not something that we can change overnight. I've tried to get past it by training as hard as I can and trying to perfect my techniques to the best of my ability, even though I could get away with less. For my own conscience I want to feel I really deserve my 2nd Dan status, and I think and hope I do. But it does make me sad when I see foreigners take advantage of the double standard and leave here with their 'souvenir black belt'.

    Anyway, I'm very encouraged by all your replies, and you can bet I'll be doing my tour of the local clubs when I get home until I find the right one!
  13. Kwajman

    Kwajman Penguin in paradise....

    My instructor feels the same way. He believes that no matter how hard they try, Americans will rarely reach the level of the typical Korean in TKD. They are indoctrinated in the martial arts from such a young age, much as we are in baseball or basketball, and as such, they grow up with a very natural feel for TKD. By the time they are 10-12, he feels the typical korean child would be as skilled as the majority of american first dans. I don't totally disagree, but he does make his points. Plus he is an 8th Dan, and very, very, dedicated and skilled.
  14. Thomas

    Thomas Combat Hapkido/Taekwondo

    It really depends more on the school, student, individual and such rather than on nationality. The idea of training from youth sometimes is a myth... Korean kids do have lots of opportunities to join a TKD hagwon early on and train and get rank pretty quickly. Many schools abuse this... because there are many schools and only so many students, so they want money and sell belts fairly easily. Most boys want a black belt because it helps them with rank and pay when they do their compulsory military training... I know kids who got their 1st dans in 6 months. The "natural feel" is a racist myth. Take a look at the Olympic results and the World Championships... do Koreans always win? No.

    The Korean players who compete internationally are very special. They are excellent students and are chosen out by high school. They attend sports high schools and major in TKD. They then go to a University and major in TKD. They will become instructors. They are very good. Not all Koreans are, just a few.

    From my experience, I find US schools much more demanding than some of the schools I trained in in Korea (major exception was the Korean Hapkido school). There are some great Korean schools and lots of bad ones. It can be very difficult to find schools in Korea that teach adults...

    From personal experience, I found a lot off good Korean martial artists and a lot of bad ones.... not much different from the US. However I do find more Americans who CONTINUE to train in martial arts after they reach 1st dan and who manitain their skills. I met few Korean adults (that weren't instructors) who continued martial arts training. Maybe they were 2nd or 3rd dans.... but with no training for 15-20 years, how effective would they be?
  15. Kwajman

    Kwajman Penguin in paradise....

    I agree with a lot of what you said Thomas, you always make good points and back them up very well. I didn't mean Koreans as a race were better at TKD, just that as their national sport, they were indoctrinated into much as our kids are in basketball, brazilians in soccer, are 100% correct tho about the continuing ed as adults!!!
  16. Derrick

    Derrick New Member

    As a 40 year old who just started into the martial arts, I have to say that I get frustrated as hell at the things I can no longer do that I used to, I am pressed for time and get behind on projects by taking 2 classes a week, I have to drive over a half hour in each direction to get my daughter and myself to class, and I HURT every damn day....and I wouldn't stop doing it for anything!!!
  17. tkd ajumma

    tkd ajumma New Member

    It's definitely true that few Koreans continue taekwondo into adulthood. Some schools do now offer adult programs, usually a 'mum's class', but very few. When I did my first dan test there were quite a few Korean women candidates (but interestingly no men) my age (in their 30's or 40's). But when I went for my 2nd dan test there were none, all the other candidates were late teens/early twenties.

    I think the Koreans have to be careful not to become complacent about their taekwondo. As Thomas says, foreigners are winning more and more often in international competition and the Koreans are starting to sit up and take notice.
  18. Thomas

    Thomas Combat Hapkido/Taekwondo

    I don't recall ever seeing an adult male Korean (besides instructors) training at the Taekwondo school. We did have a few adult men and women training in Hapkido though.

    I did my TKD dan testing in Taecheon (beach area, also called Poryeong, in Chungnam)... and don't recall seeing any adults testing besides me.
  19. Holgate

    Holgate New Member

    I think if Korea dosen't pick up pretty soon they will get the England Cricket syndrome, believe they are unbeatable for a few years because they invented the sport, sit back then all of a sudden find everyone else has passed them by and then find it difficult to beat anyone else again. No country should become complacent about their sport or art, they should always strive to be the best

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