Winter Is Coming

We LOVE to hear from our Plum customers, correspondents, friends, and are constantly asking, nudging, and begging people to write and let us know their (martial) thoughts, or tell us what their practice is like these days, that kind of thing. Happily, we just got an email from someone we have known through Plum for many years, Tom Karls, and with his permission, want to share this short, beautiful piece with you all.

I’m taking you up on your last email.  No order this time but a brief reaching out.   What has been on my mind the last couple of weeks is: first, the coming of Winter here in Wisconsin.  We expect our first substantial snowfall here in Madison tomorrow, although Northern Wisconsin has had a couple of good sized storms already.   Second is the advancing of Age.   I turned 68 this year and seem to be feeling my years more and more.  In my head I keep thinking I’m between 30 and 35, but my body reminds me that I’m much closer to 70.  So a different sort of Winter is coming, that of age in the last quarter of life.

Touching briefly on martial arts, my workout partner and I bundle up and continue to work out, even if the temperature is in the 20’s.  We stretch, we breathe, we move and enjoy our time doing hsing-i and bagua.  The fresh air is invigorating and anytime we get to workout together is wonderful for the mutual support and continued developing ideas on the arts we practice.

We also believe that the martial arts are helping us deal with the advancing of age.   We know of many people our age who cannot do the physical things that we can do. Yet, even with that encouraging thought, we also know that we cannot do the things we used to do as young people.   At one time it was not a hard feat to kick head high with no warm up. Alas, that is not something I would even be tempted to try at this stage, even with a warm up.

But I like to think that we are a little bit smarter than we were in our 20’s and a little more appreciative of the arts we practice.  Being a little smarter and more appreciative then carries over into our general life.  To be able to enjoy the company of friends, to sit quietly with a good book or to look at the winter sun or the falling snow and see the beauty of the natural world; yes, Winter is coming and it is not something to be feared.  

I wish you all a Peaceful and Rich Holiday Season, 
Tom Karls

P.S. The only other thing I would say is that at this stage of life, how important it is to continue to practice the arts.   I spoke last week with my teacher about shifting practice emphasis with the change of the seasons.  While talking together I was thinking about how vital he still is in his late 70’s and what an inspiration that is.  (And I think we can all use inspirations whether from a teacher, a good book or watching a 3 year squatting with ease!)


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One Response to “Winter Is Coming”

  1. Michael Babin says:

    Good for you, Sir, I still do forms and a variety of exercises every day, though I sometimes take Sunday off, as well as train with former students a couple of times a week. I’m past 70 and I probably should give-up all pretence of doing a functional martial art… but it’s still fun [especially the two-person training]. When you’ve done Chinese martial arts and taijiquan for almost a half-century it can be hard to let go.

    I would add only that having a wealth of experience still makes us “oldsters’ valuable to the younger practitioners in terms of teaching how to do something but only the fools amongst us think that aging muscles and joints don’t take away from our physical abilities to do and demonstrate techniques or solo forms. The training has to become slower and safer for practical reasons. And, yes, there are always exceptions to this but the exceptional oldsters don’t prove that all older martial artists are somehow exempt from the woes of aging.

    Perhaps this explains why so many teachers of a certain age tend to drift into the sadder expressions of taiji push-hands, much less the nonsense usually attributed to Empty Force.