There lots of people who really want to take up a martial art, but think they can’t for whatever reasons. In many cases, these reasons hold people back from ever making an attempt or they start their training and then feel they have to give it up because of them. I can’t possibly know everyone’s particular situation, but I can say that there are a few common themes that can certainly be addressed.
1. Too Old. In many cases, people think you have to start a martial art when you’re a child or teenager to be able get something out of it. This is far from the truth. Most difficulties adults face in their training can be overcome, some of which I’ll be addressing in the rest of this post. That’s not to say that everyone is necessarily a good fit for the martial arts. I can say, however, that we had a man in his mid-60s who was overweight and out of shape start training with us over a year and a half ago and he’s now in great shape and is able to do all the same things other people at his belt level do.
2. Not Fit Enough. Sure, it helps to start out a martial art when you’re already fit, but that need not hold you back from embarking on your training. Depending on the dojo you’re training at, you can usually work on your fitness as you train in class, working at a level you can handle gradually building your strength, raising your cardio, and losing excess weight (if necessary). Depending on your case, you may want to add other health practices and fitness activities to help advance the process. A good start is to talk to your family doctor to work out the best fitness program for you.
3. Not Big or Strong Enough. Traditionally, martial arts has always been about learning to apply technique so you need not be big or strong in order to be good at them. This can depend on the school you choose and the style of instruction offered, but for the most part, there are ways to compensate for lack of size or strength when it comes to the martial arts. In many ways, it is a benefit because you are more likely to have to rely on good technique to get things to work whereby bigger and stronger students can get by “cheating” using their size and muscle. While it may be frustrating at times, learn to see your disadvantages as advantages. Work closely with your Sensei to make sure you’re leaning the proper mechanics of the technique. If you stay at it, you could very well eventually find yourself applying techniques at a much higher skill level than average in the long run.
4. Not Flexible Enough. Not all martial arts require a great deal of flexibility to do techniques, but it certainly helps to be more limber in general. Flexibility can be improved over time if you’re committed to it. Try giving yourself a stretching schedule that you stick to. It can be easy to fit it in while you watch your favourite TV shows. Or if you prefer to have a class to keep you at it, try signing up for yoga at a local school or community center. You’d be surprised how quickly you can improve flexibility if you commit to working on it regularly.
5. Not Enough Time. This one is probably one of the hardest hurdles to face, especially in today’s modern world. People often work long hours at their jobs, have families they want to spend time with, and also want time to relax too. It may be that you have to reduce the amount of time you spend at the dojo in order to keep it up. You may have to limit yourself to one class per week, even if you would like to fit in 2-3. The trick is to be realistic about what you can accomplish then structure your schedule to make it happen. It also helps if you get the support from your family by explaining that having this time to work on yourself will make you a better husband/wife, mother/father. But for some it isn’t a matter of balancing work and family commitments, rather it is simply planning their available time better. If this is the case, start by giving yourself a goal, say going in to train at 2 classes per week, then keep yourself accountable to that goal. Tell a friend or family member your goal and celebrate with that person when you stick to it, say after maintaining your goal for one month. When you commit to a goal, it’s easier to “find” the time you need to stick to it. Ultimately though, if you always find other things that are more important or more interesting to do than your training, perhaps it’s not the right activity or school for you, or it simply isn’t a big enough priority for you.
6. Not Enough Money. This certainly can be a stumbling block for some, but not one that’s insurmountable. There are lots of great instructors out there who teach out of community centres, universities, church basements, etc as a hobby outside of their full time jobs. These options can be significantly cheaper if you don’t mind a less flexible schedule. Alternatively, if you train at a full-time professional martial arts school, and you’re facing some temporary financial difficulties for whatever reason, consider asking your instructor if there is some way you can help out in exchange for a temporary reduction in fees. Many instructors would be more than willing to help in some way if you can bring yourself to ask for it.