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March 25, 2024

Am I Too Old To Start Martial Arts?

Kara Wyers

Am I Too Old To Start Martial Arts?

It’s winter and my bones are cold. My creaky joints snap at me as I try to stretch a little. My muscles scream in soreness. “My body sure doesn’t move the way it used to,” I think to myself, reminiscing on my high school athlete days. My whole identity revolved around my sport, and I was strong. But that was then, not now.

I’m 31 — not “old,” but certainly not young. My body isn’t as malleable or adaptable as it used to be; agility and strength don’t come as easily as they used to. These challenges all come along with aging and bearing the physical and emotional weight of change and maturity.

I have to put a lot more effort in to keep my body healthy and to train martial arts safely. If I’m being honest, my body aches purely from existence. It’s incredibly easy to make excuses.

“Training is expensive.”

“What if I get hurt?”

“So many people started young…I’m so far behind.”

“What if I embarrass myself? Will people laugh at me?”

“What if I can’t keep up? Will people judge me?”

The excuses are endless and the more I marinate in self-doubt and fear, the higher my anxiety climbs. If not today though, when? If I wait six months to start something, that’s six months of growth I’ve lost.

Once I overcame the initial fear of starting, I quickly realized that I was not too old to start martial arts. Plenty of folks start in different seasons of life. That’s factual. Once you stop comparing yourself to others or to where you think you “should” be, you get to enjoy the benefits of martial arts and the community it brings.

[Getting Comfortable With Discomfort]

Okay, so you’re finally past the mental blocks stopping you from showing up to your first class. That’s great, but what about safety?

What about injuries?

Remember, everyone’s journey is unique. You know yourself and your limits better than anyone else. When it comes to training safely, you must advocate for yourself. If you need a break, take a breather – it’s okay, I promise.

I have on countless occasions told my partner I need a moment to catch my breath, and I have never been judged for that. Similarly, I occasionally sit out positional rounds in Jiu Jitsu, and, again, nobody has ever made me feel bad for doing so. I’ve found support and encouragement time and time again. Most recently, I’ve had knee pain, and my coaches and partners have no problem making adjustments for me.

Training partners are responsible for keeping each other safe. Inform your partner of any injuries or sensitive areas. Take care of your partners. We are here to help each other grow. Knowing your body and knowing your limits is paramount to training successfully.

Above all…

Don’t compare yourself to others! I can’t keep up with the extremely flexible 14-year-old who also happens to wrestle…that doesn’t make me any less welcome to train, nor does it make me any less of a practitioner for not being able to move the same way.

Things I recommend for people 30+ starting martial arts:

  1. Have a growth mindset. Fixed mindsets are only going to create barriers to your success. You have unlimited potential and that doesn’t change as you age!
  2. Hydrate. Drink plenty of water – trust me, you can prevent some of your cramping and other physical challenges if you make sure you are hydrated.
  3. Stretch. Whatever works for you whether that’s yoga, dynamic stretching, or something else, improving your flexibility will help build your strength and make training a little bit easier on your body. This is something I need to work on, but small progress has already helped me immensely.
  4. Set goals. I take notes after training, and that helps me remember what I’ve learned and reflect on where I can grow. From that, I’m able to set goals. I recommend SMART goals, especially if you’re looking to accelerate your learning.
  5. Talk to your coaches and training partners. Ask questions, get their advice, learn from them. Everyone has a unique perspective.
  6. Know that it’s going to be hard, but it’s going to be worth it.

It’s scary to start something new. It’s even scarier to start something new later in life. But the physical and mental benefits of starting martial arts far outweigh the anxiety and fear of starting. 

Martial arts academies seek to build community through a supportive environment. Coaches and mentors can help adapt drilling and training to fit your needs. Speak up and advocate for yourself. Above all, don’t compare yourself to others. Everyone’s journey is different; just enjoy the ride.

Improve at Any Age with Better Sleep, Diet and Stretching


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