Am I too old to start learning martial arts?
This is a common question a lot of adults have that wish to start studying martial arts but feel uncomfortable with going through with the decision due to insecurities regarding their age.
Maybe you’re afraid of injuring yourself in class.
Or perhaps you’re worried that you won’t be able to keep up with the class of younger adults and adolescents.
Whatever it is, let me start by telling you that no, it’s never too old to be learning martial arts.
Now while you won’t become Jackie Chan by studying martial arts at a later age, there is still a tonne of benefits for studying martial arts.
In this article, we’ll go over several reasons why you’ll never be too old to start studying martial arts.
As we age, we become more and more weak and fragile, which in turn makes us more susceptible to a whole host of health problems.
However, we can prevent or at least delay these health issues through physical activity and exercise.
Physical activity and exercise have been shown to help reduce the chances of developing a whole host of cardiovascular diseases, strokes, diabetes, delay the onset of dementia and even protect against some types of cancers!
In addition, it has been shown to improve the quality of life and wellbeing for older adults.
Furthermore, exercise, especially resistance training has been shown to have a positive effect on bone health and mineral density.
Martial arts training is a great way of participating in physical activity and exercise.
Several studies that looked at the effects of martial arts training on bone health and the prevention of osteoporosis found that martial arts training improves your bone health, bone mineral density and helps to prevent the onset of osteoporosis in older adults
With some many health benefits associated with studying martial arts, why on earth would you not give it a try?
Improves Your Fitness
It’s no secret that martial arts training will improve your overall fitness levels.
In one study that looked at the fitness levels between middle-aged martial arts practitioners vs a sedentary group, they found that the martial arts practitioners had significant improvements in their aerobic capacity, balance, flexibility, muscular endurance, and strength, as well as lower body fat levels compared to the sedentary group.
All of those punches, kicks, and throws that you’ll be throwing in class on a regular basis will have a profound long term effect on your overall fitness levels and body composition.
While you may look older on paper, your body and fitness levels will rival that of a younger individual.
Both your aerobic and anaerobic systems will be conditioned in a martial arts class through the various cardiovascular drills that you are expected to partake in such as punching mitts or kicking pads.
In addition, depending on which style of martial arts that you choose to study, you may also work on improving your strength and muscular endurance through performing push-ups, sit-ups, crunches, squats, and other exercises.
If you’re looking towards feeling younger and better then you owe it to yourself to learn martial arts.
In addition to its health benefits, martial arts training improves your ability to defend yourself.
Punches, kicks, throws, joint locks, sweeps, are all common techniques taught in martial arts classes depending on which style you choose to take.
Furthermore, you get to practice and apply what you learned in a controlled environment at a school with sparring partners and an instructor there to correct any mistakes you make with your technique.
Now while you shouldn’t go outside looking for trouble, sometimes you have no choice but to defend yourself or your loved ones.
Being an older adult you have the element of surprise to your advantage as most people probably would not expect you to give up a fight in these situations.
That’s exactly what happened for this 72 year old former boxer who had a burglar break into his home and threaten him and his wife with a knife. Luckily, his boxing skills saved him and his wife.
Learning a martial art that teaches you self defense techniques could be the difference between life and death in those situations.
Its never too late to learn about self-defense for anyone.
Stress and Mental Health
An inevitable part of being an older adult is that you will need to deal with a lot more stress in life compared to someone younger.
You got to bills to pay and therefore work in a crappy job that you hate with a D-bag boss or coworker.
Maybe you’re dealing with some issues at home with a spouse or child.
Or perhaps some idiot neighbour just moved in next door that is blasting music nonstop each day annoying everyone in the neighbourhood.
Whatever it is, your stress levels no doubt are at an all-time high.
Now, this is where martial arts training comes in handy.
When your punching and kicking the crap outta that heavy bag or kicking pads, you’ll feel a huge surge of adrenaline coursing through your veins and the daily rigours of life will a thing of the past as you release all of your pent up angry on that poor heavy bag.
In one study where researchers examined stress levels and cognitive function among other things between karate practitioners vs a mindfulness-based intervention, they found that karate helped improve stress levels.
Furthermore, martial arts training has been shown to improve cognitive functioning in older adults.
In another research study that looked at the effects of karate training on cognitive function for older adults, the researchers found that after 5 months of karate training, subjects saw significant improvements in motor reactivity, stress tolerance, and divided attention. The effects were even more pronounced if the training period was 10 months long.
As you get older your cognitive function decreases which also leads to a whole host of new mental conditions that you will need to contend with such as Alzheimer’s disease.
However, with martial arts training, you can delay the effects of this and even improve your cognitive function.
Worried About Getting Hurt?
This is also another concern a lot of adults have that decide to start training in martial arts at a later stage in their life.
They fear getting injured while in class due to their age.
While there’s no 100% full proof way of making sure that you don’t get injured, most martial arts schools are actually quite safe learning environments.
Padded floor and wall mats usually encompass a training studio.
People lose the egos at the door and never train at 100% power during sparring sessions in class.
Sure you might get the occasional bump or bruise here and there, but you probably won’t get a ligament torn off or have someone shatter your shins in a sparring match in class.
Remember a school has a reputation to maintain.
They can’t be having their students all end up in the hospital, otherwise, they would soon close up shop.
Instructors and owners of martial art schools take safety very seriously!
Feeling out of Place in a Martial Arts Class Due to Age
This is another reason why a lot of older adults are hesitant to start their martial arts journey due to a fear of feeling out of place in a martial arts class full of kids or youths.
But here’s the thing, most martial arts schools offer separate classes for both adults and children.
You most likely won’t be stuck in a child’s martial arts class unless you decide to take one with your own children.
In the adult classes, the age range can be anywhere between 15 to 80 years old.
I’ve been in martial arts classes before where more than 10% of the class where aged 50 and over.
In addition, there is no need to fear being out of place in a martial arts class.
Most people are generally quite welcoming and friendly towards newcomers that join.
I remember in nearly every school that I attended, upon my first day in class, I was always greeted and introduced to other students and soon made friends.
So if your afraid that you won’t quite fit in as an older adult, know that this is a silly worry and that there are in fact plenty of older adults that study martial arts as well.
Competing in Tournaments
Now when it comes to age, this may be the only category whereby your age could work against you.
It’s no secret that youthfulness is a great asset when it comes to competing in tournaments.
Youths are less prone to injuries, recover quicker, have fewer responsibilities in life, and have longer fight careers compared to someone more mature.
Also finding a manager and coach that is willing to train you to fight in amateur or even professional fight organizations will probably be tough.
And if that isn’t bad enough, trying to get a license to fight professionally as an older adult is an uphill battle with the organizations that issue these licenses.
However, do not let this deter you.
There are still plenty of older adults that compete professionally.
Take for example:
George Foreman, the former world heavyweight boxing champion, who by the time he was 45 years old, an age where most other boxers would have called it quits became world champion again!
And then there’s Randy Couture who currently holds the record for being the oldest person to win a UFC title. At the age of 45, he managed to once again become the UFC’s heavyweight champion.
Other fighters like Maurice Smith, didn’t even start mixed martial arts training until he was in his 30s and he too managed to become a heavyweight champion.
While the odds are lower that you probably won’t become a world champion as an older adult just starting their martial arts training, it’s definitely not possible either.
Furthermore, if your well past 50 years of age and still would like to compete in martial arts tournaments, just know that there are in fact a lot of tournaments out there still for older adults.
John Williams was still competing in mixed martial arts tournaments at the age of 70!
Despite being an older adult, that shouldn’t stop you from having the opportunity to compete in professional or even amateur fights if you so choose to.
Things to Keep in Mind When Training at an Older Age
You won’t have the body of a 20 year old guy, therefore you can’t train as if you’re 20 years old.
You need to be mindful of that.
Your body is much more fragile and easier to injure then someone younger than you.
If you injure yourself, your body will require more time to heal.
I know a lot of guys out there will try to shrug it off and act like its nothing if they get injured, but would you rather take 1 week off or 6 months off of training?
Also If you feel out of breath, it’s a wise decision to take a break. It’s much better to slowly ease yourself into it rather than going all out.
Lastly, if you suffer from any sort of joint pain issues such as arthritis or any other health-related issues, perhaps studying a less strenuous martial arts style may be more appropriate for you such as Tai Chi. You’ll still get most of the health and fitness benefits without aggravating your current conditions.
A lot of adults have a fear of starting martial arts at an older age.
Some fear injury, others fear not fitting in, while still others feel that they missed the boat when it comes to the more competitive aspects of martial arts.
However, a lot of these fears are groundless and not reality, as most martial arts studios are safe and welcoming of newcomers.
Furthermore, there is still lots of opportunity for those of you to compete in tournaments despite your age.
Beginning your martial arts journey now rather than later will provide you with a wealth of benefits such as improved health and fitness, improved cognition, decreased stress, and self-defense techniques that can come in very handy one day.
Remember age is just a number. What matters more is the amount of time and effort you put towards studying martial arts.