This question often comes up in emails I receive and phone calls from adults who are interested in getting into the Martial Arts.
People often associate Martial Arts – such as Karate, kung fu, and jiu jitsu – as activities for young adults and kids, but that’s really not the case. Over the years I’ve had a pleasure of teaching many adults from different age groups the art of Hapkido. My students range from college ages in early 20s looking for an activity or a way to work out to busy executives in their 30s & 40s looking for stress release or a way to stay fit, all the way to students in their 70s looking to stay fit!
This Black Belt Started Training at 65 Years Old
For Martial Arts, it really doesn’t matter what your age is. I’ve even had several students begin their training in Hapkido in the late 50s and into their 60s. My oldest student, Dr. John, started classes with me as a white belt when he was just 65 and he’s still currently training with me today at the age of 76. He does everything our younger students do at every class.
John was always interested in martial arts growing up and as a college student he took some jujitsu classes and loved it. Unfortunately, as he progressed into medical school, life got in the way and it was just too hard for him to continue training. As he progressed in his career throughout his life, he often thought of continuing his training but never seemed to have the time to do it.
After he retired, he walked into my Dojang with the same question, “Am I too old to start?”
My answer was, “Absolutely not, there’s no better time than now!”
Now, Dr. John wasn’t able to do things right away as quickly as, say, a student in his early 20s could. But with determination and perseverance, he was able to do everything they were able to do. Check out this video where I interviewed Dr. John about his journey in the Martial Arts and starting at an older age.
Dr. John’s Experience Taking Hapkido Classes As A Mature Adult
Master Brian: “Welcome to the Masters Link. This is your master, Master Brian McCann. We’re located at Inner Power Martial Arts. Anyway, I’m interviewing Dr. John, one of my students. Please introduce yourself.”
Dr. John: “My name is John Marino. I’m an Emergency medical doctor. I’ve been with Master Brian’s Academy here for about four and a half years.”
Master Brian: “Wow! Dr. John, How old were you when I started training?”
Dr. John: “I was 65 years old when I first started and I just turned 70.”
Master Brian: “Wow. You just got a black belt?”
Dr. John: “Yes, I have a black belt. It took me a little bit less than four years to get from white to black.”
Master Brian: “You were really dedicated. How often did you come to class?”
Dr. John: “Well, I only work part time so I probably was able to come to class more often than most other people. Three, four, sometimes five times a week.”
Master Brian: “What would you say was the biggest obstacle starting martial arts when you were coming in for the first time?”
Dr. John: “I think what I did was that I came in and I observed the class. And my intention was “Let me see what these guys are doing and what this is all about.” And after I observed what was going on in the warm up exercises, I said, “Yeah, I think that I’d be able to do that.” Otherwise my only training exercise was riding my bike and I still do that I’m an avid bike rider I ride 10 miles a day on my mountain bike.”
Master Brian: “That’s awesome. Now I remember when you when you first came in, you know, for those of you that do martial arts like judo, Aikido, Hapkido, some forms of grappling arts grappling arts, we do rolls – rolling exercises. How did you do with that?”
Dr. John: “Well, when we first started to do the rolls the first couple of times, it was not easy. I got a little dizzy. I it was the same experience that I would have gotten if I was on a rollercoaster ride where you went around pretty fast. But then after a while my brain became acclimated to it. I actually did quite well. So much so that now I could go on amusement rides that used to make me dizzy and I have now I have no problem. So that was a benefit of doing the roll that helped me. I remember going on the Aerosmith ride at Disney World and I didn’t get dizzy.”
Master Brian: “That’s cool. You spent a lot of time on the mat, on the side and we work with you. We got you through that.”
Dr. John: “Right I think that everyone here has been very, very friendly. Very helpful and very accommodating. Every time that I came I didn’t I didn’t have any obstacles as far as my training is concerned. Everybody has been quite helpful.”
Master Brian: “Now, being a medical doctor, what do you think are the benefits of training martial arts?“
Dr. John: “I think there’s some very positive benefits including muscle strength, balance and coordination. I think that when you when you take martial arts, the warm up exercises and the drills that we do help you maintain your balance, help you with your coordination, and help you build strength. And that’s very important to people they get on in years because you’re a fall risk when you get older because you don’t have balance training.
People like championship ice skaters know how to negotiate slippery surfaces because they have their balance perfected. Okay, it’s not magic and so it’s the same with the rest of us. If you come in and you practice enough, it improves your balance, your coordination and your strength.”
Master Brian: “So the break falling that we do in class can also help if you were to slip on the ice or something like that.”
Dr. John: “Exactly. That’s right. I mean, of course you can just fall because you’re plain clumsy but yes, knowing how to fall properly, it might minimize your injury.”
Master Brian: “Wow, that’s that’s really, really interesting. What about cardiovascular health?“
Dr. John: “I think that’s my blood pressure has come down quite a bit and I feel that my endurance and toleration for exercise is improved considerably.”
Master Brian: “And you don’t think that age is a barrier for someone starting Martial Arts Classes?”
Dr. John: “I think the only barrier that you have is within your own head. And what I like to point out is that people that come here from all walks of life, but one thing that everyone has is motivation, they have determination and they have perseverance. If they’re, if they’re willing to persevere, and if they’re willing to accommodate what’s necessary to advance – they’ll do well.”
Master Brian: “You say it good, Doc! Something that I want to ask about is that we often talk about self defense situations and you said something to me that really got me, it was that wherever the mind hasn’t gone, the body can’t go.”
Dr. John: “Your body cannot go with a mind has not been. In other words, you have to have the proper mindset. You know, in all kinds of situations that might be encountered in life and, you know, if you’re studying martial arts, you need to say to yourself, “What would I do if I was outside and I was attacked? Am I going to run? Am I going to try to talk my way out? Am I going to fight? You need to iron out these things before they happen. Not after they happen because you won’t have enough time.”
Master Brian: “Right. So kinda have a plan ahead of time.”
Dr. John: “That’s right. You have to have the proper mindset. And I think that coming to class and learning how to defend yourself, gives you much more self confidence. Believe me, my friends here, very few of them I’ve ever gotten in any fights because they just reflect that type of personality that says, you know, don’t bother with me because I’m not the person you want to mess with. But they will not get in any fights. Very few have gotten in any fights, but they know how to defend themselves if they need to.”
Master Brian: “Well, I’m really proud to have you as a student, Dr. John. I’m glad that you stuck around when you came in. Any other words of encouragement? You know, I get a lot of emails from guys in their 40s and 50s saying, “Master Brian, am I too old? I haven’t done anything. I haven’t exercised in 15 years.” How would someone whos life got in the way with their job, maybe they were commuting a lot and now maybe they have time and they want to do something. How would you encourage them to get started?”
Dr. John: “Now, I would tell them that that no matter what journey you go on it it takes the first step. And if you’re motivated and you’re determined and you want to try it out, I think that’s the best you could do and you could do it if you try. I don’t like to say I can’t do something. I like to say – I don’t want to do it – or I’m not gonna do it – but I don’t want to say I can’t do it.
When I first came in I said “I need to keep up with the rest of the guys.” Now I know I could do that but I just come in and do the best I can. So I say to other people that are older you can do it if you try. Don’t compare yourself with somebody else. I don’t expect to be able to have the physical strength and endurance of somebody half my age, but I’ve been pretty well. You could do it if you try but you got to be determined, you got to persevere.”
Master Brian: “That’s great. Thank you so much. You’ve been definitely an inspiration to a lot of guys here.”
Martial Arts is for People Of All Ages and Abilities
Believe it or not, occasionally I’ll receive a phone call from somebody in their 30s asking if they’re too old to start. I guess that’s a good question if you have been too busy working and haven’t been active since high school. Even so, no matter what your age is, you can start Martial Arts!
In my school, Inner Power Martial Arts in Howell New Jersey, we welcome everybody with open arms. There’s no judgment on your physical appearance, physical ability, whether or not you’re a beginner, or how old you are. We even work with people who have injuries, such as a bad knee or shoulder. People with injuries may have limitations, but that’s OK. Everyone goes and learns at their own pace, following their own journey.
If taking a traditional martial art is something you’ve always wanted to do, there’s no better time than now to get started. Your future self will thank you for it.