Taught and practiced wisely, martial arts training can yield great benefits for students of all ages, even senior citizens with health problems.
Martial arts can be very good for body, mind, and spirit – even for students of middle age and beyond. In fact, it’s not uncommon to find students in their 60’s and much older training, competing, and growing as martial artists. Goals and intensity might be slightly different from karate for kids, but many of the same benefits can be achieved safely and enjoyably.
Some karate schools offer styles or special programs just for seniors, but almost any can be adapted for older students. Many can be practiced without too much time or exertion. Low speed, low impact martial arts can be done by seniors with conditions like obesity, muscle atrophy, joint problems, or low stamina. Here are some things seniors often learn while training the martial arts:
- Practical self-defense moves – unarmed Practical self-defense moves – walking cane, staff, or stick Safety awareness New friendships Exercise for all fitness levels
Leadership skills like public speaking
When searching for a martial arts program that’s just right for seniors, the first thing to do is get information. Call around. Read about local schools and programs on the Internet. Visit karate studios in person to look for other seniors training – and talk with them! Many teachers understand the physical limits that some seniors have, and offer different exercises and pay special attention to their needs.
The next thing to do is consult your doctor. He or she can tell you how to get the most from martial arts training, which activities to avoid (like full contact sparring), and which are ideally suited for your fitness level and health conditions (like doing forms only). Some karate styles are better suited for seniors than others. But benefits can be obtained from nearly all. Some schools will recommend a doctor’s permission prior to enrollment or competition; others may require it.
Here are some of the benefits that seniors can get from martial arts training:
- Age appropriate self defense Sense of community Boost in self-confidence Sharper mental focus Better blood flow and breathing Improved immune system Better balance, posture, and body control Increased flexibility
Stronger muscles and better body tone
Even with a doctor’s advice and a karate teacher’s special attention, martial arts seniors must know to “listen” to their own bodies. This doesn’t mean that sweat and muscle soreness should be avoided. Pain is a reality of life that we all must learn to cope with, regardless of age or condition. But knowing our individual limits is up to us as individuals. A positive mental attitude goes a long way, whether improving our selves through martial arts or doing anything else in life worth while!