Today’s generation of seniors is definitely not living their childhood’s version of grandparenthood! More active and on-the-go than any generation before them, today’s 50+ crowd isn’t settling for settling down, and martial arts is getting a lot of the extra attention.
The reasons people 50-plus are attracted to martial arts are often the same reasons anyone else is interested; physical fitness, self-defense, mental alertness, and to immerse themselves in the rich traditions and history of most of the popular forms.
What the potential new senior student must take into account that younger prospects take only for granted, are the physical limitations and health considerations that are part of the growing-older package. Fortunately, more martial arts schools than ever are offering workout and self-defense programs geared for seniors’ specific set of needs.
Seniors may not be the first class of people that comes to mind when martial arts are mentioned, but that is old-fashioned thinking! Today’s senior citizen was yesterday’s Baby Boomer, also known in some circles at “the fitness generation,” and they are taking old age by storm. Fitness habits of a lifetime do not simply go away just because your knees may have run their last 10K marathon; but in later years, your workout does change, it adapts, it becomes more age-appropriate.
For more and more people, this means turning to karate for seniors. Unlike many physical fitness regimens of youth, which are often designed to push the body as far as it can go to achieve the maximum benefit, martial arts for seniors focuses on improving stamina and endurance, maintaining physical safety, and even promoting mental acuity. Some studies suggest that seniors who participate in martial arts instruction may be less prone to falls and broken bones due to improved coordination.
For many participants in their later years, one of the most rewarding elements of karate, or other martial art disciplines for seniors is the social aspect. People who have, for most of their adult lives, formed their most lasting relationships at work, find themselves unexpectedly at loose ends in retirement. Many senior martial arts students discover a welcoming, peer-based social environment at the studio similar to that which they formerly enjoyed at the office, or other place of employment.
As people age, we naturally tend to lose a certain amount of strength and elasticity. Seniors can regain some of that flexibility with the kind of regular exercise that martial arts provides. The movements in the forms do not require abundant physical strength, but they do work most of the major muscle groups. Workouts begin with warm-up exercises, and some disciplines include sparring and combat techniques to build stamina along with muscle tone and coordination.
Martial arts is a form of exercise widely used by seniors and the physically disabled because often the instructors have received special training in helping students with physical limitations realize their own personal maximum potential. It has many benefits that could rightfully be described as therapeutic, and can be used to help increase strength, stamina, and flexibility beyond just learning how to defend oneself.
It is a given that there are direct links between mental alertness and keeping active. How much better, then, when your exercise regimen also includes a memorization component, such as the form work common to most popular martial arts? A form is a series of choreographed movements the student must memorize and execute in order to proceed through the levels of the discipline. As the student progresses, the intricacy of the forms increase as well.
As the student’s proficiency increases at their chosen martial art, their confidence increases off the mat as well. Martial arts are not just a set of techniques learned and practiced in a studio a few times a week. As the saying used to go, it’s a lifestyle. It’s a philosophical pursuit. It’s a solo discipline honed within a group setting. There is comradeship without competition—unless the student makes the conscious choice to pursue combat training.
Martial arts training for seniors can be anything the student chooses to make it be because it allows people of all levels and physical abilities to participate up to their comfort level without encouraging them to go past it.
Many of the most widely practiced forms of martial arts for the older student—among which are Taekwondo, Judo, Jiu Jitsu, and Aikido—are the same as for the youngest martial artists, and for similar reasons. These disciplines, considered some of the ‘gentler’ forms, are popular with seniors because of their emphasis on ground work, and using an attacker’s superior speed and strength to the student’s advantage.
The differences between the arts are subtle in some cases and bear closer examination.
As the list above suggests, not every form of martial arts is right for every student, and not every studio or every program is right for everyone, either. You need to find the school that is not only most in line with your goals, but is close to you, has classes specially for seniors, and has the social environment and quality of instruction you’re looking for. You can visit our informational page on “how to choose the right martial arts school for you” that gives you some helpful ideas on what to look for in making sure you give yourself the optimum chance of creating the experience you are looking for, or take a look at some of the questions below to think about when looking for a school for martial arts for seniors.
• Which schools have programs for seniors only?
• What qualifies them to teach self-defense for seniors?
• What are their instructor’s certifications and experience with old age?
• Do any have programs for students with physical limitations?
• Which schools offer special introductory rates so a significant financial commitment isn’t required while other programs are also being investigated?
• Is the necessary equipment supplied, rentable, or does it need to be purchased?
Seniors are discovering that a wide variety of martial arts options are available to them that will engage them both mentally and physically, and take place in safe, supervised, socially supportive indoor environments. The challenge-level is set by the student, as is the rate of progress in the no-stress atmosphere of most seniors’ martial arts classes.
Get started right away! Click here to find the martial arts programs for seniors nearest you.