What Is The Best Martial Art For Older Adults

As we get older is normal to decrease our level of activity. Your mobility and flexibility might not be the same as a few years ago. But there’s no such thing as being too old to start with martial arts. But, what is the best martial art for older adults?

If you’ve been looking for a way to become active, learn a valuable life-saving skill, and engage with a community of disciplined individuals, then you should try martial arts regardless of your age.

Your age should not stop you from trying new things. Once you set foot into a dojo, you might feel like you’ve found your second home. 

Martial arts come in a variety of styles, with some better suited to older practitioners. Your path begins with a single step into the dojo. Then, you build upon the skills you learn.

Are You Too Old To Fight Professionally?

What is the best martial art for older adults

If you’ve never trained any martial art before and you are 40+ years old, you need to adjust your goals. It is not realistic for older people to try to become the next MMA superstar. 

Being a top-level martial artist requires talent, discipline, and years of training. 
That’s why most famous champions start sharpening their reflexes and skills from an early age. 

Therefore, If you want to make a full-time career fighting, then you might be too old. However, If you devote yourself to your training and stay in good shape through the years, it is not crazy that you could land at least one or two amateur fights. But these are rare exceptions.

What Is The Best Martial Art For Seniors?

There are many martial arts out there for seniors, but not all of them are appropriate. A senior should avoid contact sports with a high risk of injuries, such as wrestling, BJJ, or boxing.

For senior citizens, there are many types of martial arts that are excellent for staying physically healthy. Tai Chi is one of the best martial arts for seniors because it focuses more on an internal approach to fighting.

Seniors should practice Tai Chi at least three times a week to increase resistance against gravity, arthritis, or other physical problems. One other type of martial art that’s good for senior citizens is tae kwon do. The movements involve kicking, punching, and blocking.

If you decide to try Tai Chi, all you need to start with is comfortable clothes. You might not need Tai Chi shoes for your first lesson. However, if you like the class is a good idea to buy a pair of shoes. They’re affordable, you can check a good option here.

Most traditional schools might require that you get a uniform to join their class long-term. But nowadays it’s not uncommon to see people practicing Tai Chi with whatever clothes they have that are comfortable enough.

This is what a traditional uniform looks like:

The Health Benefits Of Martial Arts 

There are several martial arts health benefits—for example, your heart rate increases when you practice skills. You will see your balance improve. You also will make friends, which is an unexpected benefit. 

Reversing the Aging Process

Martial arts like Muay Thai involve movement connected to the breath. All of this movement improves your strength and fitness. It builds bone strength and improves the immune system when you’re younger.

You will notice your respiratory system benefits from martial arts exercises. Your metabolism will improve, muscle tone, the fat will melt away and your body will feel younger. 

Building Balance

Older adults often lose their balance. Often the problem arises because of vestibular issues in the middle ear, peripheral neuropathy in the legs, and side effects from medication. Another common reason for balance loss is muscle weakness and unstable joints. 

With martial arts like Tai Chi, you will build muscle and strengthen your joints. It won’t take long before you notice your balance improving because you are moving again. 

Improved Mobility 

If you are worried about being too old for martial arts, you might be concerned about your mobility. With all of the exercises you do in the classes, it doesn’t take long until your body becomes noticeably more mobile.

You will notice that you can do movements with more speed and flexibility. And let’s not forget that there are several exercises you can do to get more flexible, that would work for other disciplines.

Risks Of Practicing Martial Arts As You Get Older 

Old guy boxing - what is the best martial art for older adults

As you age, you might think the risks of practicing martial arts change. Interestingly, adults have the same dangers that teens and children have.

The physical risks include injuries like sprains and strains, contusions, fractures, and hyperextended joints. When you partake in physical activity, you run the risk of falling or having a minor injury. 

Remember, as an older adult, you might not heal as quickly as younger martial artists. You might tweak your back if you move too fast or forget to stretch out before each class.

Pay close attention to your back, neck, and knees, as those areas are easy to injure. 


Most of the seniors I had the chance to train with had previous athletic experience. Some were martial artists when they were younger or practiced other sports like basketball, football, or cycling.

They were used to overcome physical hardship. However, they weren’t injury-free either. Therefore, regardless of your experience level when you were young, if you’re in your late fifties or early sixties, there’s a high probability of injury for you.

Despite that, the two seniors I interviewed for this article told me they were happy in the dojo. They understood the risk but loved the reward.

It is up to you to decide how much risk you’re willing to take to enjoy the benefits of training martial arts as a senior.

What Is The Best Martial Art For Older Adults

If you are worried about being too old for martial arts, you should look at the different types to find one that fits your needs. For example, the best martial arts for middle-aged women might not be the best for men over 50.

Not all martial arts include striking other students or competing in tournaments.

Best Gentle Martial Arts For Older Adults

Tai Chi

Tai Chi is a Chinese martial art with slow, sequential postures. While the practice often includes using a sword, the approach is non-violent and has become a popular art form for older adults.

The small moves are precise and require body control. The graceful movements connect to Taoist breathing techniques. 


Older beginners enjoy aikido because it is not a competitive martial art. Instead, practitioners learn non-aggressive self-defense using restraints, throws, and locks. They do not kick or punch in aikido. 

Kung Fu

Older adults appreciate the choices in Kung Fu. Adults can choose to study the speedy, aggressive form of Kung Fu. Or, they can pick the format that involves yielding rather than attacking.

The yielding form uses the attacker’s force against him, while the defender uses relaxation and visualization to avoid injury. However, older students will often train forms only as they’re safer to train.

Tae Kwon Do

Tae Kwon Do is a good choice for older adults because so many dojos teach it. You should be able to find classes designed for older adults.

Martial arts include kicking, hand strikes, and punches. It is competitive, but competitions don’t just involve matches. Tae Kwon Do includes forms, which are like choreographed dances, and older students might enjoy those

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was created with the purpose of allowing physically weaker people to defend themselves against larger and stronger people.

BJJ uses levers, chokes, and weight distribution to help almost any person, young or old, to defend themselves effectively and stay fit and flexible.

However, BJJ is a very intense martial art. If you have never had any combat sports experience while young, this might not be the best option.

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Tips For Older Adults Doing Martial Arts

To reduce the risk of injury and find a quality program, adults can take advantage of our tips. When you respect your physical condition and the instructors’ lessons, you can spend more time in class and less time on the couch recovering from injuries. 

1. Watch Some Classes

Before you invest in a martial arts program:

  • Take your time and observe some classes.
  • Go to the adult classes to watch what the students do and how the instructor interacts with the group.
  • Watch how the students interact with each other – especially looking for smiling faces and respectful encouragement. 

Notice the belts the practitioners are wearing. Those with white belts are new, and those with brown or black belts are the most experienced. Look at how the instructor and the other students help the new ones. Notice the moves to see if they are high or low impact. 

2. Stretch Before and After

To reduce the chance of injury, show up to class early so you can stretch. Then, stick around after the class to do cool-down stretches after class. Stretching will help your muscles prepare for class and calm down after the class ends.

3. Take Your Time

Remember that you will not go from a white belt to a black belt overnight. Your instructor determines how you move through the belt sequence. As an older adult, earning a black belt should not be your top priority. Take your time and enjoy the process. If you try to do too much too quickly, you could get hurt and slow your growth. 

4. Get To Know Your Dojo

Part of the fun of martial arts classes is taking them with other people. Get to know the other people in your classes. You will look forward to practicing with your new friends, so attending classes will be more enjoyable. 

5. Drink Water and Eat Appropriately

As with any exercise program, you should stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after class.

Your instructor might tell you to avoid eating directly before class, so pay attention to the instructions. If you eat right before class, some moves might be uncomfortable. When you are not in a class, eat a healthy diet so you have the energy for class. 

Final Thoughts On What Is The Best Martial Art For Older Adults

As an older adult, you can still benefit from attending martial arts classes. Physical exercise helps with balance, stability, strength, and self-confidence. When you participate in martial arts classes, you improve your health, make friends, and reverse the aging process. 

Rather than being afraid of being too old to start martial arts classes, defeat your fear by taking a class. Martial arts dojos have courses for people of all ages and experience levels. With a little research, you can find the perfect martial arts program for your physical ability and goals. 

The best martial art for older adults is probably Tai Chi. It is gentle in the joints and muscles, and it is the safest martial art one can train at any age.

If you’re looking for something more intense, you might like BJJ. The “gentle art” teaches how to use technique over power to execute the techniques. It is a great exercise, and it is common for the average practitioner to start later in life.

It is not uncommon to see 40 or even 50-year-old white belts in a BJJ academy.

What are you waiting for? There is no time like now to start your new martial arts program. 

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