Many adults labor under the mistaken notion that martial arts are strictly the domain of the movies, television, or children’s entertainment. Bruce Lee breaking fingers for Johnny Walker Red, or selling cars for Mazda. David Carradine’s three minutes per week of network-sanctioned slow-motion violence in “Kung Fu.” The strains of the “Ninjago” cartoon and the kids’ laughter coming from the front room… We usually don’t look at martial arts and think about ourselves and say, “Yeah, that makes sense for me… I could totally be Bruce Lee.”
But a greater number of serious, grown-up Americans than ever are discovering the fact that you don’t have to be Bruce Lee—or even Kwai Chang Caine moving underwater—to achieve important self-defense and physical fitness goals, and look cool doing it!
If you’ve ever driven down the street and passed martial arts studios, chances are there were signs out front or in the windows advertising their classes for kids. When most adults think of martial arts, the first image that comes to mind is a teenage Ralph Macchio in “The Karate Kid,” holding the Crane Stance on the beach.
Not The Karate Adult, mind you. It’s always about the kids.
But if you scratch just below the top layer of Madison Avenue and pop culture, you will find a robust and thriving martial arts industry teaching grown men and women the fundamentals of adult self-defense. If you would rather not have to share mat time with toddlers and teens while learning to defend yourself, you do not have to.
Besides not having to suffer the indignity of stepping aside so 10-year-old black belts can saunter past you in your conspicuous white belt; on a more practical level, adults learn at a different rate and in a different way than kids. Adult martial arts schools don’t have to hire instructors who know how to teach youngsters, too. They can hire instructors whose skills and experience are tailored specifically to the real-world self-defense and physical fitness needs of the ordinary adult man and woman on the street.
Many adults seek out martial arts because they want to take care of themselves in potentially dangerous or uncomfortable situations, even though most adults seldom, if ever, find themselves in a fight-or-flight situation. But in the event that they do find themselves in such a circumstance, most draw great confidence from their martial arts training.
Adult martial arts focus on physical fitness and practical self-defense techniques that apply in today’s world and tend to be more grappling, striking and sparring-based. Learning martial arts at an older age will help you engage your memory by having to memorize techniques and forms; it helps improve cardiovascular health with the regular exercise it provides; and helps maintain or regain flexibility and muscle tone that naturally decreases with age.
Finally, karate for adults, unlike other exercise regimes, doesn’t become monotonous or routine because, as you gain confidence and skill, there are always more challenges to come that will keep you motivated to keep improving.
There are many martial arts to choose from to best suit your needs in achieving the goals you desire. A number of the most frequently-cited goals include:
• Self-Defense: All martial arts classes for adults emphasize combat use of techniques taught, because most people learn martial arts as adults primarily for self-defense purposes. Often, the passion comes later. Every discipline has its own specialty, but all focus considerable attention on defeating, disarming and/or damaging an assailant until the assailant is no longer capable of being a physical threat. This leads directly to:
• Physical Fitness: It’s impossible to separate physical fitness from self-defense, the one will follow the other because without both, neither is possible. In the course of learning forms, mastering techniques, sparring and grappling, the student’s physical fitness will have no choice but to improve to support the added workload. If you’ve ever thought it was too much trouble to get in shape, adult martial arts is a great way to challenge yourself incrementally until you find your physical fitness goals have been met, and surpassed.
• Philosophical/Moral Development: While all disciplines offer a spiritual element, different martial arts disciples have very different guiding philosophies; indeed, even within the same discipline, different academies and organizations operate under rules and regulations derived from a common source, but in their specificity and application are unique to them. It is important to make sure that the philosophy of the form and of the individual academy conforms to the goals you had in mind when you set about your search for an adult martial arts academy.
• Peer-to-Peer Competition: Again, most disciplines offer various forms of competitions and tournaments. Even relatively new disciplines like Krav Maga, until recently used solely as a self-defense regimen, have begun holding sanctioned tournaments and competitions. Competing is not a necessity in most forms of martial arts, but is a big draw among those who would like to test what they’ve learned in class in a monitored, non-threatening, close to real-world environment.
• Creative/Artistic Expression: There is a reason it is called Martial Arts, not Martial Business. Even in the most necessarily brutal arenas of the toughest self-defense applications available to students of adult martial arts, there is a raw elegance to an unexpected spin-kick, or a block that the attacker never saw coming. And within the traditional realms, the beauty is even easier to see, although just as much hard work to attain and perfect. A form executed with grace and precision is as beautiful to behold—or perform—as any work of dance.
Just a few of the more popular examples of martial arts largely geared for adults are Krav Maga, MMA (Mixed Martial Arts), Kickboxing and Brazilian Jui Jitsu.
• Krav Maga: Krav Maga has been taught to hundreds of law enforcement agencies across the United States and is the official Israeli self-defense system for their military forces. It offers a hands-on approach to self-defense that emphasizes personal protection by employing offensive and defensive tactics at the same time. Unlike other martial arts disciplines, Krav Maga does not limit itself to threat neutralization, but also includes methods to permanently incapacitate attackers.
• MMA: Mixed martial arts (MMA) is a full-contact combat regimen that incorporates techniques from a variety of other combat sports. It emphasizes the use of striking and grappling techniques from positions of both tactical strength and weakness. Mixed Martial Arts combines the striking elements of karate, kung fu and boxing, as well as the grappling movements of Jui Jitsu, modern wrestling and submission grappling.
• Kickboxing: Kickboxing for self-defense concentrates on punches, knee-strikes and kicks; fast-moving, distracting, and aimed at every available opening. There is also Cardio-Kickboxing, which focuses more on the physical fitness/cardio benefits and approaches the discipline more as an exercise regimen than a physical fitness one.
• Brazilian Jui Jitsu: Brazilian Jui Jitsu is a Japanese-derived, grappling oriented method of close combat that promotes the teaches techniques that allow a smaller, weaker person to successfully defend against a larger, stronger assailant by using superior technique and leverage, specifically by taking the fight to the ground and applying chokeholds and joint-locks to defeat the otherwise superior assailant. It is not to be mistaken for Japanese Jui Jitsu, which is usually sought out by younger or smaller students for its emphasis on applied leverage over aggressive attacking.
With so many choices, finding the right adult martial arts school for you can seem intimidating at first glance. You don’t want to make the wrong choice; who has that kind of time? You need to find the school that is not only most in line with your goals, but is closest to you, has classes in your age and ability range when you have time in your schedule to attend them, and has the kind of philosophy and quality of instructors that gives you confidence that your first choice will be you’re the right choice, or at least that you will not be penalized if it isn’t. Below are some items to consider when searching for the right school and you can also visit our “How to choose the right martial arts school for you” for additional suggestions.
• Which schools offer special introductory rates so you don’t have to make a big financial commitment while you are shopping for schools?
• Which academies are for grown-ups only?
• What schools send teams to competitions?
• Do any have special programs for students with disabilities?
• Are there classes that are specifically geared for adults ONLY that would work with my beginning level and progress as I learn?
• If there are kids’ classes, are the costs for adult classes different from the kids’ classes?
• Do I receive a discount if more than one member of my family takes classes at the school?
• Is the equipment needed supplied, rentable, or does it need to be purchased?
You could spend an awful lot of time online, bookmarking pages, maybe scribbling down the phone number of likely candidates in your area, working poor Google and Wikipedia to death. Or you could let us help find the right school for you by clicking here. Then just take a moment to answer a few straightforward questions, and based on your responses, we will present you with a selection of martial arts schools in your area that you can learn more about, all of which, already meet your search criteria. That puts you in the drivers’ seat and right away!