What is the best martial art for older adults?

Martial Arts are an excellent way to keep fit.  They provide a complete workout, helping to tone every muscle in your body.  Training will improve your strength, flexibility and endurance; these are the three components of fitness that you need to maintain as you age.  Outlined in this article are some thoughts on the the best martial art for a middle aged man.

As you move into your 40s and 50s it’s easily to say to yourself that you’re too old to play sports or practice a martial art.   Yet this is the route to rapid decline.  The body operates on a ‘use it or lose it’ operating framework.  For example, muscles are expensive for the body to maintain using a large amount of energy and nutrient resources.  The body will waste no time shedding muscle if it’s not used regularly.


Whilst the amount of exercise is reduced, there isn’t necessarily the same reduction in calorific intake.  People maintain the same dietary habits; eating in the same way they have for years.


The result?  Since calories are no longer being used up in an athletic activity, a calorific excess is created.  These excess calories are stored as  fat within the body.


The double pronged attack on the body:  decreased muscle tone and increased fat reserves, radically alters the appearance of the body.  No wonder people can look like they’ve aged dramatically once they hit middle age.  Typically, men develop a paunch with reduced muscle mass and women gain weight on their hips and arms.  Posture too is also affected: a lack of exercise and a sedentary lifestyle can lead to the appearance of a stooped arching stance.


The question is how do you stop the rot so to speak?  The answer is to take up a physical activity.   This is where martial arts really excel.  A lot of sports can be ruled out for more mature adults.  Many involve high impact, twisting movements that can be tough on the joints eg football, squash, tennis.   It’s not uncommon for beginners to these sports to end up injured as their bodies have not built up a sufficient tolerance to the strains these activities put on the body.

Possible Martial Arts for Older Adults

Martial Arts, if practiced correctly, is an excellent way to keep the body in shape.  There are a range of possible martial arts for older adults available:



However, as the body ages there is an inevitable decline in reaction speed and to an extent strength (even if you engage in regular weight training).  It remains difficult to maintain an adequate standard in any art which involves striking.  Your declined reaction speed will mean that opponents will be ‘quicker to the draw’; they will be able to land hits on you before you have a chance to block them.  Your reduced strength will mean that your strikes won’t have the impact you hoped.  As a result, the striking arts should be ruled out when choosing from the list of possible   martial arts for older people.

Martial arts for older adults


This leaves Judo but this involves trying to throw your opponent to the ground.  Whilst learning how to ‘breakfall‘ is a part of the training of this martial art, inevitably the body’s ability to bounce declines as the body ages.  Sooner or later you’ll end up with a injury from being driven into the floor.


There is a martial art that is ideal for the older individual looking to keep fit:  Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.   This is a grappling art involving arm locks, chokes and pinning moves.   What makes it so good?


  • it relies on technique rather than pure physical strength to overcome an opponent
  • typically older practitioners have the patience to wait for the ideal moment to deploy a technique
  • it is mentally stimulating and has been compared to a game of chess:  every move has a counter move, counters have counters to them and so on.
  • it is ground based meaning you’re not going to fall over and injure yourself.


“But isn’t it one of the more dangerous martial arts for older adults?” I hear you ask.  Of course, there’s an element of risk with any physical activity.  BJJ does involve deploying painful chokes and locks.  However, it also features the “tap out”: people can literally tap their partner to get them to stop.   This means techniques can be practiced but with minimal risk since they are stopped before injury can occur.

BJJ – a relatively safe and effective martial art

BJJ is an excellent way to maintain your mobility as you maneuver into a more favourable position against your opponent.  Whilst technique trumps brute strength it is useful to have a little muscle to use when required, particularly at the beginning when your technique isn’t completely correct. One of the best ways to develop your strength is through the use of a Bullworker.  This device has been around for a while and develops raw strength extremely quickly.


How do you start?  All you need to do is find a BJJ school near to you.  Have a couple of sessions to see if you enjoy it.  After a few sessions, you’ll want to buy a Gi.  That’s all you need; that and a willingness to learn and you have a sport that you can enjoy for the literally the rest of you life!

Finally, here’s a video in case you need a bit of inspiration:

Hopefully you’ll agree that BJJ is one of the best martial arts for older adults!

Happy rolling.

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