Does Age Matter In Martial Arts? Are You Too Old To Start?

It’s easy to assume that martial arts are something that only young people do. After all, they’re the stars of the movies and television shows that promote martial arts and they’re the ones we see in the ring too.

Yet, does age matter in martial arts? Is it possible to be too late and to old to learn martial arts?

It is fair to say that unless you want to be a professional martial artist who competes at an international level, you are never too late or too old to learn martial arts. You can be too old to become a professional but if you want to do martial arts for fun, weight loss, exercise, or self-defense, age does not matter.

In fact, it’s fair to say that there is no bad time at all to learn martial arts. The Chinese say, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best time is today.”

They mean that, of course, there may have been a perfect time in your past to start doing something, but the past is gone – today is always the best time to take action to change your present and your future.

So, let’s look at why you should plant your tree and start studying martial arts even if you are a little older than the standard trainee.

Does age matter in martial arts? -
Does age matter in martial arts? –

5 Reasons That Age Doesn’t Matter In Martial Arts

OK, before we look at which martial arts you might want to take up, let’s see why you might want to study martial arts at all.

There Are Scientifically Proven Health Benefits

Origua Rios et al. in their paper “Health benefits of hard martial arts in adults: a systematic review” found that there were 28 available studies into martial arts and their benefits to the health of adults.

They examined a wide range of health effects from cognitive function to balance, from cardiovascular fitness to metabolic rate and they concluded that not only were there distinct health benefits to “hard martial arts” but that the “Benefits may be obtained regardless of the age of practice commencement.”

They concluded that hard martial arts improve both balance functions and cognitive functions and that these improvements reduce poorer health outcomes in older people.

This is important because the findings are specifically in regard to outcomes for people who are older than the standard martial arts trainee.

These findings were supported by Bin et al.’s findings in their paper, “Effects of martial arts on health status: A systematic review”. Which examined the outcome of randomized trials on health with martial artists.

Martial Arts Keep You Flexible

Do you know which kind of injury causes more deaths in Americans over the age of 65 than any other? Falling.

Yes, reduced mobility in people comes naturally with age and this, in turn, makes it more likely that they will fall. Do you know how to learn to fall and reduce the risks of being harmed?

That’s right, martial arts. Arts like Judo and Jiu-Jitsu, in particular, examine ways to fall safely and reduce the impact of a fall on your body. If you watch martial artists in these disciplines hit the mat, you’ll see how quickly they spring up again.

In addition, all martial arts have been shown to help their practitioners improve their sense of balance. This will help reduce the chances of falling in the first place.

It’s also worth noting at this point that martial arts can also help keep the pounds off and have been demonstrated to reduce inflammation. These two benefits can also help reduce fall damage and offer additional health benefits.

Martial Arts Help You Maintain Focus And Reduce Stress

Stress kills. Well, to be fair chronic stress kills. Some stress in small doses is, in fact, perfectly healthy but long-term continuous bouts of stress? They supress your immune system and have a significant impact on how likely you are to fall ill and when you do fall ill on how likely you are to recover from that illness.

It is a proven fact that exercise helps you reduce stress. It is also proven that all types of exercise, including martial arts, can help you better manage stress.

When you combine this with the philosophy underpinning martial arts of self-discipline, self-respect, and respect for others, you have a powerful way of staying focused in your life while combatting stress which might otherwise cause you harm.

In our opinion, this is a superb reason for everyone to learn martial arts – it can help them reach their maximum potential in all walks of life.

Martial Arts Provide Community

Harvard University published the longest study of human life ever undertaken and its conclusions over its 80-year period are not in doubt. Embracing community is the secret to living longer and to being happier.

The modern age means it can be hard to find community, particularly as you get older. Friends tend to drift away in our 30s and by the time our families grow up and leave home, we can be somewhat isolated.

Fortunately, help is at hand. Training in martial arts isn’t just for the body and mind, it’s also a pre-made community for you to join. It’s a community that will accept and welcome you and as Harvard showed – this means you can be happier and live longer.

Martial Arts Can Be Completely Safe

The biggest worry that many older people have about taking up martial arts is that they worry that they will be easily injured, and they’d prefer not to take part in something dangerous.

Now, it is true that some martial arts are designed to be high-contact in training, but this isn’t true of all martial arts. It’s also true for all martial arts that instructors are schooled to make safety their highest priority.

If training was fundamentally unsafe, everyone would soon be injured, and no-one would be training.

Check out our list of martial arts below that are particularly good for older people.

Three Great Martial Arts For The Older Person

We have three martial arts that we think are the perfect starting point for an older person looking to take control of their fitness and well-being. They are:

Tai Chi

Tai Chi is, essentially, Kung Fu but without the fighting. It is a series of movements which flow together in a start of mindful awareness. It is a meditative art where you bring yourself to focus on the present moment and learn to move your body.

There is no physical contact in Tai Chi. You won’t be kicking, punching, throwing, holding or anything else. It is a graceful art form and one that can help you get in the mood for other martial arts. It is also considered to be a great complement to “hard martial arts” (e.g. martial arts with contact).

Harvard Medical School says there are solid health benefits to Tai Chi practice.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Jiu-Jitsu is definitely more intense than Tai Chi. It is a high-intensity workout and if you’ve not worked out for a while, you will want to talk to the instructor so that they can help you pace yourself as you begin.

It requires less impact than many other martial arts because much of the work done in the sport is groundwork.

Research suggests that there are health benefits to jiu-jitsu and that some additional health benefits may not yet be documented because it’s hard to study jiu-jitsu’s practitioners effectively during a bout.

Wing Chun

Wing Chun is a modified form of karate and it utilizes an “open hand” system which avoids punches. This can be very good for somebody who is nervous about the impact of “harder” martial arts.

Bruce Lee only studied one martial art and that was Wing Chun. In fact, he entreated Americans to “liberate themselves from classical Karate” because of his preference for the sport.

Karate has been proven to improve balance skills, which, as we mentioned earlier, is vital to health in later life.


It is never too late to learn martial arts. You cannot be too old to learn, and age matters only with respect to competing at the top level. If you want to learn martial arts because you want to live a healthier, happier life which lasts longer and is richer in every aspect – then the best time to have begun was 20 years ago, but the second best time is now.

You should speak to potential instructors and ask them if they can support someone of your age effectively and when you find someone who makes you feel safe and secure, you should give it a try. Martial arts are proven to have both physical and mental health benefits and you should not deprive yourself of them because of your age.

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