Youth is coveted in today's world of sports and athletics where speed and strength are king. The modern athlete stereotype is a young 20-25 year old male who is six feet tall and has six-pack abs. This it seems is the quintessential athlete. Once any person gets to be 30 years old or older, they are considered "over the hill" and they are no longer competitive. A commonly heard phrase when talking about an aged athlete is that, "The game has passed them by." In the the martial arts, nothing could be farther from the truth.Modern athletics covets speed and strength whereas in the martial arts, we covet technique and experience. In theory, our techniques evolve as our understanding of the techniques evolve. The art doesn't "leave us behind" as martial artists because we are constantly refining ourselves. With this refinement we take into consideration our age and physicality. We understand that we "can't do it like we are young anymore" and thus strive to evolve with life's changes.
I once heard that a true martial artist doesn't begin to peak until they are in their sixties. This might seem crazy since modern athletes talk about peaking in ability at around 25 years old. This is true when we think about speed and strength and where we see them begin to decline in one's thirties. However, speed and strength are but a small aspect of the art. Besides speed and strength, there is timing, spacing and any number of technical aspects of the art not to mention strategy, tactics and the mental aspect of the art.
To be fast and strong is necessary in order to develop a base of skill, but the skill isn't static and many layers. The gift comes as we see our strength and speed decline and that causes us to look deeper into our art. This is where we start to hear people say that what they do, whether it is Aikido or basketball, is a way of life.
Aikido like all martial arts is a do (道) or a way of life. To think that one can only be successful when they are young is to negate life as a journey.
Below I have posted a couple of video from Baki the Grappler, a popular Japanese manga turned anime. In these videos, master Shibukawa Goki shows that strength and speed pale in comparison to technique and experience.