In his great book and project for National Geographic, Blue Zones, Dan Buettner did an exhaustive study of places in the world that had the highest concentration of individuals who lived past the age of 100. Communities of individuals who weren't just surviving, but they were thriving. The principle was that while the individual certainly had inspiring genetics, there were also practices within their lifestyle that enabled them a long life of health and radiant vitality. It is a great book and you should pick it up if you haven't.
Several days on this blog, I posted a video of Dan Inosanto explaining JKD and in the video he was moving extremely well. It wasn't until a personal trainer friend of mine, Tom Furman, mentioned that Dan was 76 and didn't start training bjj until his 60's that piqued my interest. He has also written an excellent and recent article (check it out on the sidebar) that chronicled the lifestyle and training of his mentor in Silat and life, Dr. Harold Koning, who is also 76 and moves extremely well. Then it got me thinking about several men in "advanced" age. However, they can do things better than most men one third of their age (I have posted several vidoes). Dr. Harold Koning, Willem De Thouars and Dan Inosanto are all 76. Renato Paquet is 79. Jhoon Rhee is 81. There are countless others who are not only practicing into their 70's and 80's, but they are flourishing. Helio Gracie practiced jiujitsu every day of his life for 82 years before he passed away at the age of 95. Much like blue zones, does there exist a set of practices that enable these individuals continue to train and reset the button of what we consider to be "prime." I believe that there is and while my evidence is only anecdotal, it should serve as a manifesto for us, including myself, who want to continue to train for the rest of our lives.
1. They each are lifelong martial artists and have put skill first. Skill training and learning and devoting themselves to mastery of the fundamental and advanced movements of their various disciplines are a priority. They have also embraced the "big picture" and aren't training for the next tournament, but for the long term goals of health and mastery.
2. Each of them are extremely mobile and make mobility training a priority, including practicing ground based movements. Ginastica Natural, Yoga, TCC, etc.
3. Each of them has included a form of internal training as well. Rickson is famous for his kundalini exercises in "Choke". Harold Koning is a highly regarded Qigong teacher. Steve Maxwell has been studying Systema. By focusing on the internal and the external attributes of training, they retain balance, not only of mind, but also in body. Stability becomes an important factor when getting older.
4. They have maintained a healthy bodyweight for themselves and compare themselves to no one. Leaner, not bigger.
5. They strength train, but do not traditionally "lift weights". Ankle and wrist weights, Kettlebell work, bodyweight exercises, isometrics, etc. but rarely a barbell. Interesting.
6. They have diverse educational backgrounds and have fulfilling social relationships. Everytime a person meets one of these individuals, they will always remark how "nice" they are. These men are at peace with themselves and with those around them.
This should serve as a lesson for us all... train for life.