There is such a wide range of martial arts available to choose from that it can be near impossible for a beginner to know where to start. When you are older and looking to start there are also other factors that you might want to take into account.
Honestly, the best way to decide on the martial art that’s right for you is to firstly do some research on the types of martial arts that are available to you, and secondly just jump on in and give it a go! You absolutely cannot decide on the best martial art for you by sitting in front of a computer!
And on top of that, one martial art school may be completely different from another martial arts school of the same name. So just because you decide that, say, Karate is “the one for you”, you will then find that there are many different styles of Karate to choose from.
Whether a particular martial art is going to be the right one for you is largely going to come down to the individual school/instructor rather than the art itself.
Your first question to yourself needs to be “What do I want to get out of a martial art?” There are as many answers to this question as there are people on the planet, but some of the most common ones are: to get fit, to learn self defence, to increase confidence, and to have fun while learning something new.
Truth is… just about any martial art will give you all of the above. (But let’s just dispel one myth while we are here… no martial art is going to make you an instant self-defence machine overnight!)
What got you interested in the martial arts? What martial arts have you seen in person, on television or on YouTube that piqued your interest? Perhaps you saw some dynamic Olympic competition, or maybe a demonstration by a local club. Maybe something on a movie caught your eye? What was it about what you saw that made you investigate further?
Was it the dynamic striking or kicking technique that interested you? Or maybe you saw some fascinating joint locks or throws that made you sit up and notice. Determine what it was that interested you and seek it out. Visit your local martial arts classes and see what you like. You don’t have to join in – sit at the back and watch. You will soon work out what you like and don’t like.
As someone 40+ considering getting into the martial arts there are some things you will need to consider.
Firstly, when you visit a martial arts class, or even while you are doing your research, don’t get discouraged by seeing people do things that you can’t possibly dream of doing yourself. You will be surprised at how far you can progress through regular training. Techniques that look impossible to you as a beginner may not be unreachable. (Obviously a good grounding in reality is needed here!)
Secondly, when you look at a martial arts class take note of the demographics of the other people in the class. If the group is composed entirely of teenagers and children you might want to quiz the instructor on their experience teaching older students. Have they had more mature students before, but they’ve all left? Why are there no older people training? This doesn’t have to be a show-stopper, but at least understand the reasons why.
Thirdly, take note of the class structure. Is there time set aside for a proper warm-up and cool-down? Do they incorporate flexibility into the class? Are students treated appropriately for their age, rank and ability? On this last one.. I’m not saying that the instructor should be going easy on people, but they do need to be aware of the differences between their mad-crazy super-fit teen blackbelt, and their brand new, somewhat nervous and out of shape beginning 45 year old!
And finally, make sure you get a feel for how the members treat each other. Do they respect their fellow students? Are they encouraging and supporting each other, regardless of ability. If these things are not happening then this is a big warning sign!
Ultimately, as mentioned earlier, the best way to decide on a martial art is to try some out. Either watch from the back, or even better – join in and see how you go.
You’ll know pretty quickly whether it’s right for you or not!