My favourite group to observe meets at 7:30 in the morning in a little park on the east side of Hong Kong Island. They practice tai chi together with an instructor: a man, probably in his late 50s, unassuming in khakis and a tee shirt. They begin by moving in unison through the 24 Forms; after, he begins to teach. Frequently, the focus is on one minuscule motion: the transition of weight from one foot to the other, or a turn of the waist measuring only a few degrees. They all listen intently.
It’s inspiring—amazing, even. The source of my amazement isn’t at the teacher’s depth of knowledge—though he is clearly a master—it is at the behaviour of his students. No one shuffles impatiently waiting for the next move. They are pleased to listen, pleased to repeat, over and over again, that one small moment in time in an effort to understand it. No one clamors for something more “interesting”, no one worries that they aren’t burning enough belly fat, no one, at that moment, gives a damn what they look like. They shift their weight and they learn something. He is an excellent teacher, and they are excellent students.
Perhaps the most badly abused word in the lexicon of health is “old.” In the West, to get old means to deteriorate, to wear out, to break down. This is not by any means a universal truth. When I watch Hong Kong’s elderly wielding broadswords, heavy wooden staves and the considerable fortitude that comes from living in a culture of movement, the word “deteriorate” never once comes to mind. The Hong Kong version of “old” recognizes that strength is temporal and that pursuing a balance—instead of a maximum—means cultivating strength every day of your life.
I believe that the very best training advice in the world, no matter your sport or event, is “get old.” Start getting old this very minute. It is the most beautiful directive I know. Choosing to get old means choosing how you get old. It’s easy to think of time as an agent of erosion, like waves wearing down a cliff-side. We rarely stop to consider that time is also how the cliff was built. Approach today’s deadlift, trail run, cross training or rehab knowing that you want to get old and the weight you will have lifted, miles you will have traveled and elevation you will have gained will be, collectively, godlike.
The performance of a single day will never be as impressive as the performance of a long life lived well."
by Kevin Moore of Reembody