The question I hear often is, “Am I too old to start Karate?” Another concern people have is that they’re not flexible enough to be able to participate in a karate class.
What distinguishes karate as a discipline from most other sports is its consideration for a person’s current level. A good instructor will be challenged to hone in on each student’s current physical level and challenge them at the same time without injury. The idea is to progressively increase that person’s level each time they participate in a class.
The fact that you think you have to be in good shape before starting a class is wrong, but common. One of the reasons to commit to a karate programme is to get in shape while learning how to defend yourself. Karate classes build strength, flexibility, endurance and cardio in a functional way. Cross training like weight training, and jogging can definitely help, but it is not mandatory. You can get in functional shape by doing the normal exercises that karate provides.
I know this older lady (over 60) that told me a story that she fell on a sheet of ice one winter. She tripped over a wire and fell hard. She admitted that if it weren’t for her karate training (even at her level), she wouldn’t be able to get up from that nasty fall.
Another example is a story about a 39 year old man who had a nasty bike accident with an incoming car. The car hit him so hard that there was a huge impression (bump) on his front bumper. Although the ambulance had to escort him to the hospital, he did not suffer too sever damage. He admits that this is because of his karate training which allowed him to build that “body armour” needed to sustain most of the shock.
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 and compete. If you are of a certain age, e.g. over 35 and you are just starting, than competition should not be your main goal. Your goal is to build a flexible and strong body and mind in a progressive manner that will allow you to age successfully and enjoy life pain free.
I’m forty and practicing karate (both traditional and competitive) for over 25 years. What I love about it is the fact that it is an individual discipline that centers on continuously improving yourself. I also like the fact that there is a partnership and camaraderie that motivates you to do better each time.
No, you’re not too old to start karate training. Now stop thinking about it and just do it!
Luciano Paparella, Sensei
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