Thursday 24 November 2011

Hello and Welcome!

My name is Marc Howes, I was born on 22nd May 1958. I come from a small town in Wales called Pembroke Dock (Doc Penfro) and I live in Aberdeen, Scotland.

The purpose of this Blog is to inspire, motivate and share information amongst those of us that are in the fortunate position to be training half a century into our lives. For some, you may be on the first tentative steps of learning martial arts, while for others you may have five, ten, twenty, or in the case of myself, nearly forty years of martial arts training behind you. Each one of us has a unique insight into our own particular martial art and how it has changed; to a greater or lesser degree, over the years. Further, we have a unique insight to how we have had to adapt our particular training over the years as our bodies’ age.

Why did I start this Blog?

At fifty three I recently underwent a midlife crisis. No, not the sort that required me to seek out a younger girlfriend, or a sports car, or a hair transplant (or all three!). This crisis was much more subtle. I had found a photo of myself as a younger man; it was a posed picture on the way to a karate competition circa 1984, in the photo I had on a black T-shirt and black jeans, which were held up by a full buckle belt. The universe unfolded itself in a certain manner and the very next day I found the belt in an old storage box. I attempted to put the belt on. Please notice I said attempted. I was genuinely shocked and hurt to find that I could not even fasten the belt on the first hole. I could see, with a historically jealous eye that I used to wear it four holes in, what the hell had happened?

At first I told myself that it was just a sign of normal ageing, that while I might be about four inches bigger (please notice the avoidance of the word ‘fatter’) I was in proportion for my size. OK I wasn’t the svelte-like creature of yesteryear, but I was looking OK for my age and was more than holding my own with ground-fighting and my Knockdown karate wasn’t too shabby either. But I could feel my competitive, rational sliver of my ego shaking its head and making tut-tut noises. And I just knew. I knew that this was a crossroads for me and every bit as important as any other crossroads I had faced in my life. At that point I decided to drop weight, not tomorrow, or on Monday after a binge compensatory weekend, but now. But I decided to take it a step further and become a vegetarian again (I was a vegetarian for many years – but that’s a story for later). I reacquainted myself with Clarence Bass’s superb book ‘Ripped’ and set about drastically changing my diet and training routine.

My diet was the easiest component to adjust; I simply switched onto ‘whole’ foods and stopped eating snack foods like biscuits and chocolate bars. I had done a calculation that startled me; I had about five cups of coffee a day at work and each time would have at least three biscuits with it. That’s fifteen a day, so after ten days, or two working weeks that one hundred and fifty biscuits! Three hundred biscuits a working month! That is excluding any ‘rubbish’ I was eating at home or on the move. So it was in with as much fruit as I wanted during the day, no fried food, no food heavy in calories and as much natural foods as possible. I reintroduced the term ‘Stay Hungry’ into mental monologue.

16 weeks into training 9th November 2011

However, it was the training component that proved a little more difficult. The problem is that I instruct and when you instruct there are certain expectations that come with that role. The first expectation is that you will give your full attention to those who you teach, which often means your Duty of Care prevents you from training yourself, as martial arts are by their nature dangerous. However, I believe that specific endurance is important within martial arts, its pointless knowing two hundred techniques when you gas less than a minute into a fight. Therefore, I have a forty minute endurance routine at the beginning of my classes that I can take part in and enjoy. True, it meant that I could not motivate the more ‘reluctant’ students to the same degree, but hand-on-heart that really didn’t bother me. During the sparring/rolling classes I would take turn-about with one of the other instructors present. However, it was my own personal training that presented the problem and the problem was that of motivation.

I work as a Residence Manager at a Music School, so I do a thirty eight hour week, I teach five times a week (Monday through to Thursday and a Saturday sparring class) as well as some early morning private lessons. I spend about two hours a day in my car driving to work and back and then to training and back. Take into account the important maintenance required, relationships, housing, car, etc. and then you get an idea of the time restraints I have acquired over the years. Sometimes I silently scream for some selfish ‘me’ time. You see, as you age you are drawn back to the Halcyon days of your youth and for me those days were summer filled days during the early 1970s when I was just starting on my martial arts path. Those were days when we ran in our karate gis on the beach, or up mountains on weekend camps. When Bruce Lee and Kung Fu set the world on fire, I remember going to local fairs in Wales and trying to win a Bruce Lee poster. I remember the excitement of going to see Enter the Dragon for the first time, or rushing home to see Kung Fu on television. I wanted some of those feeling back again (a natural human emotion) and resolved to go back to a simpler personal training, such as makiwara training, barefoot running on the beach, all the things that lead to a more intimate relationship with my particular martial art. But where to find the time? There’s the rub!

A third component to look at is the wear and tear on my body as I have aged. As well as the normal ageing problems that humans beings have, as older martial artists we place further strains on our poor bodies. I have two major problems and a plethora of minor ones that come and go according to how hard I've trained them. My first major problem would be my knees. Years of kicking, bouncing, running, blocking and anything else you can think of have taken their toll. Strangely its not during training they hurt, but rather when I go to bed! I've been awoken during the night with one or both throbbing unmercifully. The other problem, which I believe is linked to my knees is my left hip. At certain angles it can twinge like a bugger! But all-in-all I can't really complain, many of my friends have long given up their martial arts arts due to injuries.

I would appreciate some input from other older martial artists. If you have any articles, words of wisdom, stories or motivational tips then email them to me here:


  1. Hello Marc

    I'm not over 50 but I'm interested to see what you write anyway!

    Welcome to blogging and good luck!

    Kind regards


  2. Marc, enjoyed your articles buddy. Keep up the great work - I mean training others and your writing. All best, Thor.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.