Martial Arts for Seniors

Retired baby boomers with time on their hand are now considering taking martial arts whether it be karate, tae kwon do, kung fu, or tai chi. Though many have joined the softer and less aggressive arts like qigong or tai chi, a percentage of them are donning cotton white gis and attending karate classes. Some old timers in denial attempt mix martial arts till they end up the emergency room: Mind is willing but the body says no. Many that have decided to go back into martial arts after retirement are those with some experience, quitting, years back as lower ranking belts returning to finally earn the coveted black belt. Some do so after watching their kids through the years take martial arts but didn’t have the guts to take it then. For whatever reason, it’s something that baby boomers want to do now; a bucket list kind of thing.

First of all I admire anyone wanting to take martial arts regardless of age. Being a baby boomer sensei, I still practice both karate and tai chi almost every day. I don’t attend a dojo or teach classes though I’ve been asked to start a school for AARP card carrying members, martial arts for seniors.
Several weeks ago, I helped judge a tournament and reconnected with fellow martial artist who I’ve known throughout the years. Of course, everyone looked so much older, and not as spry in the legs as in before. To my surprise, many of them still practice in a dojo and pride in surviving, arthritis and all. A close friend and sensei, Ron Lok who is now a high ranking black belt, near if not already 60 years old says he still practices this very difficult kata, Kusankudai, and says with “explosive power.” He also mentioned that he trains with a group of others who are not only in their 60’s but 70’s. Before hearing this, for the past five years, I’ve abandoned almost all karate training due to painful arthritis, sticking with qigong and tai chi; but, after hearing all of my colleagues at advanced ages saying that they’re still working out like young kids, I had to resume my karate training. To my surprise, I was able to get through workouts without much difficulty, no worse than lifting weights or running on a treadmill. I’m of course not going full out like I used to when I was a kid, but nevertheless, adequate enough to feel my heart pound out of my chest and sweat heavy enough to soak my uniform. My arthritis pain had not gone away nor got worse a surprise for me since I expected more pain and grief. (On a side note:  For those of you wondering if stuff like tai chi can help you stay mentally fit, click Mentally Fit.)

What I’ve learned at my age is that pain will not go away. It’s something I've learn to deal with and get on with my life. Almost all of us, of course there are exceptions, aren’t as athletic as we were 20 or 30 years ago. We aren’t expected to perform as if we are in our 20’s or 30’s, but our lack of youth or athleticism shouldn’t be a deterrent to take martial arts past our 50’s. What needs to happen is to start smart:  Consult with your doctor. For those of you with serious medical conditions, this discussion is not only recommended but mandatory. Strenuous karate workouts could end up bad, and obese individuals with heart conditions would be best to consider a less dynamic art like tai chi.

I think we old timers know where our bodies are and should listen well to the signals. When I decided to reconnect with karate, I knew I was physically fit to handle the workout: I just had a bad back and two bad knees. I learned to hold back on snap kicks and hard twisting motions.

As you decide which school to attend, recon first, see if gray haired grandpas and grandmas in the class or if the instructor’s like me, a senior citizen. Young instructors think they can teach old folks the same as they teach young’uns. Mistake! If possible, join schools that have classes strictly for the 50+ crowd. There’s a place in Naples, Florida called “Bucket List Martial Arts” that teaches classes specifically to baby boomers.
It’s got a motto: “If you’re a kid or want to learn cage fighting, go elsewhere.” I think it’s such a neat concept that I might do something like that here in California, so a martial arts school for senior citizens just might be around your corner. So to you baby boomer martial art wanna-bee’s; talk first to a doctor, listen to your body, be positive, and find a school with baby boomer sensei’s that share your pain.

And for goodness sakes!  Don't forget your muscle and joint cream!!!


  1. Thanks for the recognition and plug in your blog. If you or any of your readers are ever in Naples, please stop by and visit.

  2. Thanks! When I start my Baby Boomer Karate school, you've got a free pass also!


    Sensei Domi

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  6. One of the central tenets of all forms of the martial arts is an absolute focus on self-discipline. Today’s kids are so accustomed to receiving instant gratification that lessons in self-restraint and discipline aren’t always easy to come by. Kids with a martial arts background, however, are continually reminded of how essential self-discipline is.

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  10. Nice blog BBS.... congrats.... Best regards, James - a Boomer (

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