In the articles Training Smarter – Aging and Injury: Friends In Black? and Why Study Forms?, Bob Orlando (kuntao & silat) has some fascinating observations about advancement in martial arts, age, and wisdom.
Believe it or not, at 60+, my technique is much, much more effective now than it was when I was younger and physically stronger. Obviously, 40-plus years of dedicated training has a lot to do with this, but, more importantly, my physical strength no longer hampers my ability to relax through my movement — and relaxation is the key that unlocks speed and power. Despite not being as strong as I was decades ago, I am, nevertheless, significantly faster. I hit harder than ever, but without the effort AND without the damage to myself.
I actually strike faster and hit harder now than I did thirty years ago. And I move far, far more efficiently than I did back then as well.
He sees a parallel between the three internal Chinese martial arts - the linear Xing-yi that meets force with force, the more elaborate Ba-gua, and the ultimate Taiji and its “blending with the oponent” - and the development martial artists go through. Young and strong don’t have the basics and the experience to appreciate the power of the softer approaches. Yet, as they age, that is where they can go on improving.
In fact, beyond beginner level, every technique and principle of movement in the arts I study actually improves in efficiency when executed with less strength.