How to take up martial arts: 5 tips

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Doubters say that martial arts is a young man's game. They think that you have to start young to be any good at it. American-born fighter John Williams didn’t agree. Entering the ring at age 70, he became the oldest MMA fighter of all time, as well as the oldest fighter to win a match. But you don’t have to step into the octagon to benefit from joining a martial arts class; you might simply want to improve your fitness or be able to defend yourself from attack.

While John Williams has proved that you can get involved at any age, many people will still be hesitant. There is a certain reluctance many adults experience when it comes to picking up new skills, including sports. The general thinking is: “everybody will be younger than me, I won’t be very good, and it’ll just be embarrassing.” Yep, we’ve all been there. It is very easy to convince yourself that now isn’t a good time to start, but it’ll never get any better. So, if you are considering starting martial arts as an adult, here are five things you need to know before setting foot in the ring.

1. Age Is Just A State Of Mind

It’s cliché but it’s true, age is nothing but a number. Success in martial arts is primarily about your fitness and ability to learn, age need not come in to it.  If you’re in good physical shape, with no major health conditions, then why wouldn’t you be able to do it? The biggest problem adults face when training is becoming bogged down in the idea of being too old. You need to shed those doubts and believe in yourself, worry about nothing but moving up a grade, only then can you reach your full potential.

2.  Swallow Your Pride

Going into martial arts as an adult means you’ll likely have to train with those much younger than you at some point. This can be something that really puts people off, but when it comes to learning how to fight, it’s important to remember that everybody started at the bottom, so kicking a teenager around the room is fine. Everybody you train with was, or is, at the same point you are. Before you go into training lessons, accept that somewhere down the line, you’ll be beaten in a sparring match by somebody younger than yourself, not because they are younger or fitter than you, but because they have been training for longer. If you can handle the thought, then you’ll receive the benefits of learning in large groups with mixed ability martial arts students. You might be embarrassed being beaten by a 15-year-old yes, but embarrassment is temporary, these skills will last a lifetime and you can just use it as motivation to kick his ass next time.

3. Find An Adult Class 

If you really can’t stand the idea of being in a class with kids, some instructors do offer adult only courses in martial arts. You are still going to get beaten in sparring matches, but if it makes it easier them being around those the same age as you, then I would recommend this option. However, it is important to remember that these groups will likely be smaller and the ability range will be different, it might be a tougher training session than a mixed age group, making it harder to progress your skills.

4. Get A Personal Instructor

For those with the purchasing power, sessions with a personal instructor are the best way to make major fitness gains. Some people use a personal instructor to help them ‘catch up’ so that they can join a martial arts class at a similar ability level, whilst others simply prefer the privacy and personal attention offered by a one-on-one trainer (not to mention less chance of being embarrassed.)

5. Stretching and Flexibility

No matter what your age, if you don’t protect your muscles through stretching exercises, you’ll find yourself picking up injuries. Keeping a rigorous flexibility routine is a key component of all martial arts, and one that will help you break past your body’s current limits. As you get older, your body also becomes worse at recovering from injury. While I am not suggesting you throw the towel in after a twisted ankle, just don’t be too rash when it comes to returning to your lessons, take time to make sure your body heals itself completely.

George Atkinson is an MMA fighting expert and founder of