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Am I Too Old to Start Martial Arts Training?

After spending almost two years spectating as my older son trained in Isshyn-Ryu Karate with Oshita Sensei, and after several conversations with my wife about how I was interested in becoming a student as well, I finally took the plunge in January 2015. Although I wasn’t a complete novice at martial arts (I studied Aikido for a short time), I found myself asking,

“Am I too old to start martial arts training?”

Let’s be honest, it’s not a decision to be taken lightly, even by people who are in their physical prime! I mean, there are some pretty serious risks associated with studying martial arts, right? But when you think about it, there is significant risk in many of the things we take for granted: Driving to and from work, getting in an elevator, going to the ATM at night, etc….heck, even eating can be dangerous!!! When you think about it, martial arts training is really no more risky than the rest of life--it only seems that way because people associate martial arts with combat.

OK, so now that I have argued that martial arts training is no more risky than other daily activities, are there advantages to studying them as a grown up? I can say that my interests in Karate extended beyond just learning skills in self defense. As the quintessential hyper-scheduled middle-class American dad, I was experiencing an expanding waistline and diminishing strength. I knew that training would be difficult at first, but it would also push me to train in other ways in order to get better. What I really wanted from my training was to get into better shape so that I could be a better husband and father...And I can say that after 10 months, it’s working, in ways that I had not imagined!

  • Nowadays, old friends ask me if I have lost weight--I have.

  • Others ask me if I’ve been lifting weights--I haven’t, but apparently it looks like I have. (Often, I may stop, drop and do a set of burpees throughout my days so that I can deliver more power in my strikes and kata.)

  • I eat better and drink less alcohol.

  • I sleep better.

  • I can keep up more with my kids and their BOUNDLESS energy and imagination.

  • I am more aware of my surroundings and more confident in my abilities to deal with whatever each day brings.

  • ...I am happier!

I don’t want to make it sound like martial arts training is a panacea that will cure all that ails you, because it is not. However, it is a tool that does so much more than teach someone how to fight. I believe that studying martial arts teaches us about life, philosophy and psychology. It teaches us how to relate to people, treat each other with respect ask to be respected. It teaches us how to focus while under pressure, and that attention to the smallest details can yield some of the biggest gains.

Many people may say that you have to be a kid to start martial arts training, but many of the more nuanced lessons often escape younger students. In many ways, the more subtle lessons in martial arts training only come into focus once we have the lense of experience through which to view them. So I say, you’re NEVER too old to start training and today is a great day to start! I hope to see you in class.

Shawn Matthews ,Yellow Belt

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