Getting too old for this…

8 Jul 2014 by gebhard, 9 Comments »

95c617480bfbd94fe619d1fc3a3ea60dI was recently out with some friends at lunch, and the World Cup soccer games were on all the mega sized LCD screens around the restaurant.

Over the explanation about how kicking the ball over the uprights (or goal as they called it) does not result in a field goal, and the fact there is no two point conversion. Someone mentioned that soccer players are normally in their early 20’s, and by 30 they “become too weak and slow to continuing playing the game” and are forced into retirement.

I’m quite bit a older than that, and I’m very much stronger, thinner and faster than I ever was at 30. The SCA is pretty much the reason why, you get a lot stronger being a warrior rather than playing one in a MMO.

This doesn’t quell my fears, I have made a goal for myself. To become good enough with a sword to win 50 back-to-back fights without being touched, from opponents of all skill levels, from the just-authorized newbie to the most seasoned duke.

I suspect soccer players burn out at 30 because the human body only has the capacity to run so many hundreds of thousands of miles before the joints wear down. The good news is I ran exactly 0 miles in my 20’s. Maybe I can bank those up for the days when I’ll need them?

However as time has passed, I have suffered injuries, and now often experience pain when doing simple things like bending over. I worry as well that I am getting too old to be effective at this.

If maybe I had started the SCA when I was a teenager, similar to Count Cellach (who joined when he was 16), I would have my goal square in my sites by now, instead of having to take a week off squats due to pain in my knee.

One of the best parts of the SCA, among all the things it provides, is an opportunity to learn from the past. In it, I find many examples.

Justinian, one of the better Byzantine Rulers, greatly expanded his empire, united his country, and built the Hagia Sophia, and appointed a number of successful generals:

The very clever Belisarius, who used a small number of troops to overtake vastly superior numbers. Belisarius defended Constantinople when he was in his 50s;

And his rival Narses, in his 70’s, was sent to retake Rome and succeeded. He continued to lead his military well into his 80’s, retaking lost ground for the Byzantine empire.

In a completely different example, William Marshal, dubbed “the best knight who ever lived”, bested more than 500 knights during his tourneying career, served three kings before becoming Regent of England on behalf of the fourth, the young King Henry III. While Regent, he won his greatest victory by putting down a band of rebel barons, one of whom he defeated in single combat, at the age of 70.

Swordsmanship is more than being fast or strong. It’s about timing, placement and experience. Understanding what you can do, and the options your opponent has, then exploiting them. The way of the sword is of timing and grace.

History shows that greatness can be achieved at any age. No matter what your goal is, it’s never too late to achieve it.

Improvement is a marathon, you may not be the first to the finish line, but as long as you never give up and keep working toward the goal, no matter how slowly, you will get there.

This is one of the many things that makes what we do so unique. When most professional players are being forced into retirement in their late 20’s or early 30’s, that is just about the time many people are finding their way into our game. This is perhaps as it should be.  I certainly would prefer to leave all that running around in circles to the kids. It wears me out just watching them.



Learn more:

12 Byzantine Rulers – The History of The Byzantine Empire A very easy to listen to podcast, by Lars Brownworth

William Marshal – The Greatest Knight, a BBC special

Wikipedia about William Marshal:

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  1. Milesent says:

    Ya know, Edward was 43 when he authorized 😉

  2. As someone who starting fighting in the Society two years ago at age 34: Yes!

  3. Mary says:

    I know several folks who joined the SCA in their 50’s and took up fighting. “Old age and treachery” can work. 🙂 Draw from your life experience and fight smart,

  4. Lewys says:

    My friend, I am rapidly approaching 60 (57 currently) and I am in better shape now than I have been in the last almost 20 years. Yes we, have worn bits that creak and ache – I have mild RA that requires a bit of flexing and stretching to get joints to not hurt so bad. And my knees, the end result of not just several decades of SCA combat but years of heavy duty skiing and running, are now much more reluctant to move in the ways they did in my twenties and thirties. BUT, the joy I feel as a swordsman and noble combatant in the Lists, in engaging friends like you in measured combat far outweighs the pains and inconveniences of my age.

  5. Donal Mac Ruiseart says:

    At some point in my life I came to a realization.

    Over the course of life one can become too tired, too sore, too beat up, too stiff, too brittle, too blind, too sick, too weak, or too slow to continue the strenuous life of arms. And age is a factor in many of these.

    But it is not the sole factor. I firmly believe that there is no such thing as “too old” as such. I am a fighter of some renown, and though I am a bit slower at 62 than I was at 32, I still stand to a good fight in the Lists or on the battlefield. And I intend to continue that way until one or more of the other “too’s” overtakes me. Like Gebhard, I credit my participation in SCA heavy combat for my being in as good shape as I am (not the best of shape to be sure, but a sight better than a lot of men of my years).

    And just for the record, I’m in my 63rd year, and have been in the SCA since fall of 1973, and my first fighting event was in the summer of 1974.

  6. Michael Au Cluin says:

    Each day I get up and at 55 years of age – I say to myself in the mirror – one day I shall be too old to defend my honor, too old to smile in victory or defeat, too old to find the desire to master myself and thereby find joy in my opponents skill – but not this day. This day I look to Miyamoto Musashi and his words: Study strategy over the years and achieve the spirit of the warrior. Today is victory over yourself of yesterday; tomorrow is your victory over lesser men.

  7. Richard Campbell says:

    Ok this is going to require a group effort. My coordinator for dialysis wants me to become more physically active. She asked what did I like to do for exercise, I explained that I like to put on armor and hit my friends with sticks.

    She wants to know if anyone under going dialysis presently partakes in heavy. She wants to know what their physician requires of them. Then if we can convince her, we can work on getting a release from the transplant committee.

    I am going to need to rework all of my armour. When I was fitted for it, I was bit larger. I was 384 lbs and am 207 lbs now. We can get my entire family in my old fighting pants and garb. I doubt that the armour would really protect me now.

    So let’s see if we came get me swinging an ax again.


  8. Steve Muhlberger (Finnvarr) says:

    I salute the determination shown here. The other side of this question is what will you do when you do have to stop fighting? And what will your attitude be toward that state of affairs.

    (I’m forbidden to fight for medical reasons; but I put in 40 years before I had to quit.)

  9. Cat Bohannon says:

    Came in late, gentlemen. Like Magnus I’ve got health problems, severe fibromyalgia and lupus, to sum it up they’re pain in the rear, bad enough to put me on disability. My doctors want me to exercise. But the tedium of these classes suggested were awful. However, I used to fight when I much younger – like 25 years ago – now I want to try again. Why? I think watching Vikings reminded me how much fun a melee is or the fun when you zip that shot in that little bitty opening and “kill” someone. I used to want to be a knight, now given that I’ll have gaps when I can’t come to events because of health, my husbands (a disabled Vet) health or just flat out age (takes many, many years to reach knighthood), that dream reluctantly has to be tossed by the wayside. But the sheer cussed joy of battle doesn’t fade … I hope ;-))

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