I frequently hear "I am over 50 so am I too old to start Karate" or "Am I flexible enough to participate in a karate class".
Martial arts can be a life-changing experience for any dedicated student - even if that student has already lived a long life.
Karate can be practised at any age as long as a person is relatively healthy. Older people may not be as strong, fast or flexible as someone in their 20's, but they can still practice karate at their own pace and derive great physical and emotional benefit from it.
Martial arts exercises can help people avoid injuries because of the emphasis on balance. The strength training we do also has great benefits for seniors. The experts say that resistance exercise forestalls declines in strength and muscle mass.
I probably don't have to sell you on the benefits of exercise for older students but I do want to warn you about a few things.
Anyone over 40 years, and certainly any new student over 50 years, should have a medical exam before starting a new exercise program. Conditions such as high blood pressure or heart disease, can lay dormant and people won't even know they have these diseases. As an instructor I recommend that any older student get checked out by a doctor before they step onto the mat and start exercising.
Most older people do not want to train in a competitive class or train with Teenagers. They need a class with almost no physical contact, so this is the programme we offer.
BBC News Video of Senior Student
Older adults thinking about martial arts training are often concerned about the physical aspects of the training. After all you are entering into an activity that will teach you how to punch, kick and move properly, and we just don't mend as quickly as we did in our prime. I want to state, right now that training in the martial arts is one of the safest most rewarding activities you will ever participate in. Statistics prove that you stand a greater chance of being seriously injured playing baseball, basketball, or even cycling than you do in the martial arts.
What distinguished Karate training from most other sports is its consideration for a person's current ability. A good instructor will develop each student at his current physical level, and challenge them at the same time without injury. The training method is to gradually increase that person's level each time they train in a class.
The main reason older students join a karate class is to stay, or get fit, while learning how to defend them self. Karate classes build strength, flexibility, endurance and improve cardio in a fun and enjoyable way.
People underestimate the importance of flexibility. The older we get, the more we will depend on our flexibility to do simple things like getting up from a chair, climbing a flight of stairs, and walking with a straight posture without pain.
Make sure your goals are realistic and ask yourself the question if you're in it to improve your quality of life, or are you doing it as a sport.
If you are over 50 the competition will not be your goal. Your goal is to build additional flexibility and strengthen the body and mind in a progressive manner that will allow you to age successfully and enjoy life pain free.
I have been practising karate (both traditional and competitive) for over 40 years. What I love about it is the fact that it is an individual discipline that centres on continuously improving yourself.
In summary, "It is about you"
I also like the fact that there is a partnership, camaraderie and respect in class that motivates you to do better each time.
You will learn to defend yourself; you will become more flexible than you ever dreamed; and your overall level of physical fitness will increase dramatically. And, you will likely experience a significant decrease in your overall stress level.
No, you're not too old to start karate training. Now stop thinking about it and just do it!
Steve Langbridge is a 5th Dan Black Belt in Karate with over 42 years of experience. He is also rated as one the top 10 instructors by
the UK All Styles Karate Organisation, for the 6th consecutive year.