There are a lot of people who harbour a secret desire to train in a martial art, but don’t pursue it in earlier in life for whatever reason. As they age, after years of watching action movies or professional fighting, the notion creeps back into their minds in their 30s, 40s, 50s, even 60s. Most let themselves be talked themselves out of it, citing various reasons like “I’m too old to start an activity like that as a complete beginner,” or “My body just can’t take what it used to,” or “I’m just so out of shape, what’s the point?” Well, I’m here to say, it’s never too late if you approach it correctly.
The thing is that there is some truth behind the cited reasons above, but it can be worked around. Here are 3 tips for on how to approach taking up martial training later in life:
1. Take it slow. You may be tempted to push as hard as you can when you first enter the dojo, to try to keep up with younger, more experienced students, to prove to yourself that you still have it in you. This is especially true for older students going back to martial arts training after having been away from it for years. Don’t do this. Let your body an mind adjust to the new routine gradually, doing less reps, moving more slowly, or taking breaks when necessary. Gradually build on your strength and stamina, pushing your self a little more each week as you feel comfortable so you don’t burn yourself out right at the start.
2. Listen to your body. You may have certain limitations as to what your body can do as compared to younger people with whom you might be training. Don’t expect to be able to do everything the same as other students. Regardless of age or experience, different people have different pain tolerances, ranges of motion, and different histories of injury. If something feels painful or uncomfortable in any way, stop and ask the instructor for feedback. It could be something that your partner is doing wrong, something you’re doing wrong, or it could be the unique limitations of your body. Your instructor should be the best person to make the call, but even then, if you still don’t feel comfortable for whatever reason, remember that you have the last say when it comes to your body and should exercise it as you see fit.
3. Be patient. You may notice other younger students progressing faster than you over time. It can be frustrating. The truth is that muscle memory generally takes longer to develop as we age, as discussed in 4 Factors that Affect Muscle Memory, so you may have to spend more time training to make up for it. Try to focus on enjoying your training at the level you’re at without comparing yourself to others needlessly. With time and a good, patient instructor who’s willing to keep working with you, you will progress. And when you do, you will have earned it.
If you’d like further inspiration on training in the martial arts later in life, read “Can Older People Do Martial Arts? Just Ask Rick!” to hear the story of a 63-year-old who came to our dojo out of shape, overweight and with minimal martial arts experience (he still trains with us now recently having turned 67).
Did you take up martial arts training later in life or have a student who did? What advice would you offer to students in a similar situation? Please share your thoughts in the comments.