Martial Arts for Over 50’s

By Cameron Cromwell

A commonly asked question is, ‘Can I start martial arts if I am over 50?’ The short answer is, absolutely yes! It is never too late to take up martial arts. This is especially true with the variety of martial arts and training programs available today. Many schools are offering classes that are ideally suited for older beginners.

There are a lot of reasons why someone over 50 might be contemplating taking up martial arts for the first time, or even returning to martial arts after many years away. I have provided a list of benefits specifically this age group. If you decide to give it a try then there is nothing stopping you. However, to help you get the best start I have also provided some advice that you may find helpful.

The Benefits

Fitness

Strength is perhaps the most obvious benefit because martial arts is a physical activity. Any type of resistance training helps to keep the muscles strong and healthy. In turn, this helps you to stay active and mobile while reducing the chance of injury from normal daily activities, such as moving heavy items around. It also helps to keep pain and discomfort away as you get older.

Balance & coordination improves form the strength and conditioning of your muscles and by ensuring your core remains strong. Good balance and coordination help to avoid injuries from falling or not getting out of the way quickly.

Flexibility comes from good stretching of all parts of the body. This is an important part of any good martial art training because flexibility helps you to be more effective with the skills and techniques you are taught. Good flexibility can help you in all parts of your life by reducing the risk of injury from normal day to day activities. Muscles will lose their elasticity over time if we allow it and this increases the chances of pulling or tearing a muscle or ligament. Injuries like this can take much longer to heal as we get older.

Cardiovascular improves when you regularly exercise and get your heartbeat up. This has many known health benefits. By improving your circulatory system, which includes your heart and blood vessels, your body is able to efficiently deliver nutrients and oxygen to the tissues of your body and to remove carbon dioxide and other wastes. In turn, this increases energy levels, makes it easier to sustain energetic activities, and recover faster from exercise and even injuries.

Weight loss becomes more of a consideration for us as we get older. Most of us find it too easy to put on unhealthy weight. Life transpires against us by slowing down our metabolism and getting us to spend more time behind a desk or doing things that require less physical activity on a daily basis. On top of this, going for regular runs or hitting the weights at the gym does not burn off the fat like it
used to.

Excess weight takes a significant toll on our health and ability to enjoy life. This is especially true if weight gain continues unchecked. However, it does not have to be an irreversible trend. It does mean that as we get older we need to exercise differently, and perhaps a little smarter. There is a lot of evidence today that controlled, high intensity, bursts of exercise and muscle strengthening, such as that offered by most martial arts, is more effective for burning fat and reducing excess weight for people over 40.

Keeping active

Simply put, staying active slows down the ageing process and helps you to get more out of life. With better fitness, you will not become tired as quickly. This is important for everyday life, but it can really make the difference of enjoying yourself when it comes to enjoying our precious weekends and vacations.

Some people want to be able to keep up with their grandchildren when the time comes. Why not make it so that your grandchildren struggle to keep up with you.

Posture

Muscle strength, flexibility and greater self-awareness of your body help to improve posture. A better posture makes you feel better about yourself and to look more self-confident. It also helps to prevent neck and back problems that can develop over time.

Self-confidence

It is amazing how much more confident you look and feel when you maintain your fitness and strength with the knowledge that you can do things that many people cannot, even those half your age. It signals to others that you may be older but you should not be underestimated.

As we get older we learn to appreciate the value of not relying on physical strength alone, even if we know we can. Martial arts help to develop an inner strength that can be drawn upon when needed. This, in turn, helps us to remain calm when the situation calls for it.

Self-defence

The martial arts have always been about self-defence. Even non-contact activities like Yoga and Tai Chi owes its roots to combative forms of martial arts.

Do you need to learn self-defence? Well, hopefully not. However, it is a sad fact that some people will try to intimidate and even prey on older people. But, getting older does not mean you have to become more vulnerable.

However, don’t expect to become Bruce Lee. It would be irresponsible to suggest that simply practising martial arts will make you invincible. The truth is that most martial arts today have developed into a sport whereby very specific rules are followed. In the real world, where things can quickly become dangerous, these rules don’t exist.

Saying that, if you train to box and you find yourself in a fistfight you will punch, block and dodge hits better. This improves your chances of not getting seriously injured. Most attacks and street brawls end up on the ground and this is where Judo or Jiu-jitsu training comes in handy.

It is true that you will become fitter, stronger and more self-confident, and these will no doubt help you defend yourself if the need arises. Your posture and body language alone may discourage someone from becoming aggressive toward you.

Mental health

Martial arts are not just about physical abilities. The tradition of most martial arts today, especially those of Asian origins, place as much emphasis on a healthy mind and positive mental attitude as they do on good physical abilities. For hundreds of years, what we have come to call ‘mindfulness’ in recent years, has always been a valued part of martial arts training. The good news is that even a healthy inner self remains an important benefit of modern martial arts.

Social interaction – Martial arts provide wellbeing in lots of ways. For example, just by participating you engage in social interaction and you are likely to make friends. Friends help to keep you going when you are tired or feeling low. As we get older it is easy to allow ourselves to become lonely and isolated. Joining a martial arts class is a great way to prevent this from happening.

Endorphins – Classes with periods of intense training will increase your levels of endorphins. Sometimes referred to as a ‘runner’s high’ this is a natural way of creating a good feeling. Regular exercise and release of endorphins are linked to improvements in mental health in people of all ages. Just because you are older doesn’t mean you can’t participate in the type of training that releases endorphins, even if start gradually and build up over time.

Personal achievement – As you learn new skills and are capable of doing things you could never do before you will enjoy a sense of personal achievement. This is enhanced when you are feeling more physically fit. Once you start training it will not take long to start feeling the boost to your self-esteem and general good feeling.

Cognitive function – Martials arts require learning very precise and accurate movements. Often these movements become a trained response to other stimulation. The more complicated the response and movement the more practice that is needed to perfect it. This training develops a good connection between your brain and muscles. There are studies that show an improvement in the cognitive ability of people over 50 after only 8 weeks of practising Tai Chi.

Reduced stress – Unfortunately, getting older does not necessarily mean you will become less stressed. This is especially true if you have greater responsibilities at work or demands from your family and life in general. Stress, if not managed correctly, can have serious health consequences.

Martial arts teach you to relax as you train to be more effective. Most people find that the focus during training causes them to temporarily forget all the things causing stress in their life. Then there are the physical exertions of martial arts to vent any pent-up, negative, energy. The endorphins that are released help to reduce pain, and they also help you to sleep better which helps
to reduce stress.

Getting Started

If you are reading this then you are probably aware that as you become older your body becomes more vulnerable to injury. Not everyone shows signs of ageing at the same rates, but nevertheless we are all ageing. While there is a lot that you can still do, probably much more than you might think, you will need to consider two things:

1) Your starting point
2) The limitations of your body

If you are already reasonably fit you will find it easier to get started with martial arts, just as you would with any new sport. If you have not been doing any form of physical exercise for a while your muscles will need time to strengthen. Beginner classes are intended to help you gradually build up your fitness while learning basic techniques.

Can’t kick someone above their shins? No problem. If it is a flexibility issue then you will improve. If you have a permanent restriction, such as bad hip or knee, oftentimes it is possible to learn how to safely adapt. Martial arts can even help to improve some injuries. For example, if you suffer from lower back pain then martial arts will keep your core muscles strong which protects the spine. A slimmer belly from exercising takes considerable strain off the lower back.

Still not sure? You can always get a medical check-up. Use the results to help you decide the type of training that is most suitable for you. You can discuss the results with a potential school instructor when looking for a martial arts school or club to join.

Of course, there are some limitations and disabilities that will make most martial arts impractical. You will need to decide this for yourself, but don’t be too hasty in telling yourself you can’t learn martial arts. It is worth exploring the different types to find out if there is one for you. I have recently seen a martial arts program that teaches the use of a cane for self-defence, which included students in wheelchairs.

Types of Martial Arts

This would become a very long article if I attempted described every type of martial art that is practised today. Even the more commonly practised martial arts make a long list. For an idea of popular martial arts that might appeal to you have a look at A Guide to the Most Popular Martial Arts.

Selecting a Martial Arts School

In many ways, the martial arts school, its attitude, its culture, and the available programs are more important than the type of martial art that you choose. When making a decision here are a few things you may want to consider:

  • Ask to join a taster session – these are usually free.
  • Ask to observe a few beginner classes to see what they are really like – avoid clubs that focus on training fighters
  • Find a school that you can easily get to – you are more likely to stick with it if it is reasonably convenient to get to the classes.
  • Take a friend or family member. This can make it more enjoyable to get started.
  • Women only classes – some schools offer a friendly and less intimidating environment for women to get started.
  • Senior only classes – some schools offer classes that provide a training program designed for older participants.
  • Speak to the owner or lead instructor –
    • What are his/her credentials?
    • What is his or her attitude toward training?
    • What is his or her approach to helping older people to get started?
    • Can techniques be adapted to help students with physical limitations?

All martial arts have benefits. The best way to find out how you will personally benefit is to give it a try. Start with one and discover what you like about it. Sometimes it is the type of martial arts, sometimes it is the type of training, and sometimes it is just the class and the people in it that make it appealing.

If you are not sure about the school that you joined, for whatever reason, try a different school or martial art. Lots of people try more than one martial art for many reasons. You can even join more than one at the same time.

What to Expect

There is nothing wrong with engaging any type of martial arts at any point in your life. There are plenty of examples of people in their 70s earning black belts. I recently saw a video of someone in their 80s learning military-style self-defence for the first time, albeit in a suitably structured one-to-one lesson.

No matter how much you want to jump in with both feet and start training like could in your 20’s and 30’s it just isn’t going to work exactly the same. Even if you are reasonably fit, once you are into your 40’s and beyond you need to think differently about your training. This is not to say you can’t be strong and fit, it just takes a different approach. Martial arts can provide ideal training as you get older.

Many schools that traditionally taught the hard-impact martial arts like boxing, kickboxing, and Muay Thai now offer non-contact classes. These are perfect for beginners and anyone wanting to enjoy the physical and mental benefits without the aggressive sparring that could lead to injury. These classes are just as fun and challenging.

 

Cameron Cromwell is the creator of Absolutely Martial Arts, a website aimed at introducing people to martial arts and helping them to get started.



Download Our Sheets – Living With The Seasons in Chinese Medicine


Are You A Practitioner?

Please visit the Chinese Medicine Professionals Shop to get PRO sheets for your clinic that you can share with patients. Yay!

Privacy Preference Center

error: Content is protected !!