The thought that “I’m too unfit to begin a martial art” is something that stops many people from taking their first steps into the arts. And if they are over 40 this may be even more true, because we are usually well outnumbered!
When you first go along to a martial arts class, whether you are watching or participating, you might be easily put off by watching a bunch of young guns with seemingly unlimited energy bouncing all around the place. But you shouldn’t be put off by this at all.
Like anything else, becoming proficient in the martial arts is a slow and evolving experience. You wouldn’t expect to pick up a guitar for the first time and begin playing like Santana. Just the same, you cannot expect to walk into a dojo and become Bruce Lee overnight.
When you begin you might be lacking in cardio fitness, or have terrible flexibility, or maybe you are uncoordinated and trip over your own feet. Whatever it is that you are lacking, slowly and surely your training in your chosen martial art will lead to improvements in all of these areas, and more that you won’t even realize until much later.
This improvement will sort of sneak up on you. One day you will be at training, and suddenly you’ll realize how far you have come. A kick will suddenly go higher than it ever has before, or you discover that a complicated movement has become second-nature. Monitoring your own improvement can be incredibly motivating.
If you are concerned about whether you will survive a martial arts class, be sure to observe one before you join. Watch carefully how the instructor treats the individual students. Is each student expected to be as fit, strong and flexible as the next one, or is the instructor allowing for the differences between the students?
This isn’t to say that the instructor should not be pushing everybody hard, but they should be allowing for the fact that different students are at different places.
Once you start, or perhaps even before you start, you might want to do some extra work outside of class. Even moderate exercise, regularly, will have substantial benefits. You might be surprised at how quickly you improve. Just going for a walk or run, or doing some bodyweight conditioning (e.g. push-ups, sit-ups), or some stretching every day will soon put you well ahead of where you are now.
Don’t go nuts though. Pace yourself. If you haven’t been for a run for 20 years, don’t jump up and do a 5 mile run the first time out the door. Go for a walk instead!
Consistency wins the race here. Soon you will be looking back and marvelling at how far you have come in such a short time.