Monday, June 20, 2011

America - Land of the Sports Silos

In business, the term "silo" deals with business units, departments, or product lines that have been segmented apart from each other. It's not usually a good thing - there's little or no communications, knowledge-sharing, or exchange of resources across an organization that's been silo'd.

I'm not talking about business here, though. I think we're a culture of silos here in America - everything is "for ____________, not for ___________," For instance, baseball is for boys, not for girls. Actually, all but a handful of sports seems to fall into that pattern, and the ones that are open to girls... nobody seems to care about except for the players and their families. It's not just a gender issue, though. Since getting re-involved in the martial arts at Five Star Martial Arts, I've noticed that it transcends all aspects of our society. For example:

Karate is for little kids, not adults.
Yoga is for women, not men.
Tai Chi is for old people, not young people.
Zumba is for women, not men.

What's strange about all of these, is that they're demonstrably, historically both untrue and actually backwards. Karate, for instance, was practiced exclusively by adults (primarily men) for most of the last 100 years. In some dojos, and especially in Japan, no one under 16 can even achieve a full black belt rank. Yet in the U.S., Karate is seen as being for little kids, and adults seem to dismiss it as something to keep the kids entertained rather than a true combat art.

Yoga has been around for hundreds of years, and throughout that entire time, the leading practitioners, teachers, and masters of Yoga have been... say it with me... MEN! That's right, Indian guys were the creators of Yoga and its primary practitioners for centuries.

Tai Chi is, of course, Chinese. And in China, freaking EVERYBODY does it. Young or old, male or female, it makes no difference. In China, 1.35 billion people all recognize the benefits of Tai Chi, but in the U.S. I've literally see classes where nobody under the age of 50 was welcome. Seriously? What the hell!?!

Oh, and Zumba? Zumba's easy. It was created by Alberto "Beto" Perez, and the company's senior managers are all guys.

I was a teen when I started karate - so was my wife. Now I'm middle-aged, and I'm back at it harder than ever. I'm getting a lot of benefit out of Yoga practice, too. I'd love to learn Tai Chi as well, and hope to at some point. What I don't get is how to break down the silos? How do you convince Americans - who love to engage in the game of "it's for ____________ not ___________" - that they're missing out on some amazing fitness because they perceive it as being for some other demographic group? I'll have to work on that one. And I'll rely on all my various fitness options to help put me in the proper frame of mind to figure it out.

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