9 Best Martial Arts For Elderly (& Practicing Safely)

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional
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Martial arts can be a very rewarding activity for seniors and the elderly. Learn which martial arts are best as well as how to practice them safely and efficiently.

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As we age, it is important to maintain our physical and mental health to allow us to continue to enjoy our lives. One of the best ways to do this is by participating in martial arts.

But are martial arts safe for older adults? Should the elderly take up martial arts? 

As long as you are generally healthy, have discussed it with your doctor, and take the proper precautions, you should consider adding martial arts to your fitness routine.

Keep reading to learn more.

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Good Martial Arts for Older Adults

Here are some of the more common martial arts that older adults may want to consider trying out:

1: Judo

One of the oldest and most popular martial arts is judo. Judo is a graceful, fast-paced sport that seniors of all ages can enjoy. It’s easy to learn and has many variations to keep seniors challenged and engaged. Judo can help improve balance, coordination, agility, strength, and endurance.

It’s also a great way to reduce stress and promote healthy living habits. If you’re looking for an activity that will keep you physically active and mentally sharp, judo may be the perfect fit for you!

Teen Teaches Karate to the Elderly | NowThis

2. Karate

Karate is a good beginning martial art for seniors because it is simple to learn and can be adapted to many different situations. The typical moves are kicks and punches combined with gentle movements. Karate can be learned easily and offers a system of colored belts to indicate how advanced a student is. As students progress, they can learn more challenging techniques and defenses.

Teen Teaches Karate to the Elderly | NowThis

3. Taekwondo

Tae-Kwan-Do is an excellent martial arts choice for older adults because it is relatively easy to learn and has multiple benefits. Taekwondo is a physically and mentally challenging sport that can help improve balance, coordination, agility, strength, and endurance. It’s also a great way to reduce stress and promote healthy living habits.

Grandma took up taekwondo in her 70s and is now a black belt

4: Aikido

Aikido is an unarmed martial art that uses joint locks and throws to disarm and subdue an opponent. Aikido is a great way to build core strength which helps older adults with stability and balance. It is considered gentle enough for older people but effective enough to protect older adults against attacks.

Aikido For Seniors

5: Jiu-jitsu

Many benefits of practicing jiu-jitsu for older adults include improved balance and coordination, stronger muscles, and better cardiovascular health. Additionally, jiu-jitsu can help seniors defend themselves against physical aggression or theft. While there are a few specific jiu-jitsu techniques best suited for older adults, the art can be practiced by anyone of any age.

Starting Jiu-Jitsu at Over 60 years-old…No problem!!

6: Krav Maga

Krav Maga is a self-defense system developed in Israel in the 1940s. It is known for its punches, kicks, and throws to defend against attackers. Krav Maga is a fast-paced martial art that can be used by elderly people who are physically fit.

Self Defense Academy Teaches Senior Citizens How to Use Krav Maga | New York Post

7: Tai Chi

Tai Chi is a form of Chinese martial arts practiced for health and relaxation. Tai Chi, also known as shadow boxing, has been shown to improve balance, flexibility, strength, and circulation. It can be an excellent exercise for seniors looking to keep their minds and bodies active.

Daily TaiChi with Don Fiore - 20 min

I have a separate guide to Tai Chi for seniors you can read here if you want to learn more.

8: Wing Chun Kung Fu

Wing Chun Kung Fu is a style of martial arts popular among elderly people because it is easy to learn and does not require a lot of strength or agility. Wing Chun is a very fast-paced style of kung fu that can be used to defend oneself against an attacker.

Wing Chun vs Karate In Street Fight | Why Wing Chun Is Good For Elderly To Learn

Is Martial Arts Good For Older Adults?

Martial Arts can be an excellent way for older adults to stay fit and active. Martial arts can help seniors improve their balance, coordination, agility, strength, and endurance. They can also learn self-defense techniques to help them if they are ever attacked. There are many different types of martial arts, so there is something for everyone.

While martial arts can be a great way to stay active and fit, it is essential to note that not all martial arts are appropriate for all seniors. Older adults may want to avoid ones that require fast spins and sudden choppy movements.

What Are the Benefits of Martial Arts for Older Adults?

Martial arts can benefit older adults, including improved balance and increased strength. Martial arts can also help older adults stay active and reduce the risk of falls. In addition, martial arts can help older adults build self-confidence and a sense of accomplishment.

Increased Strength

There are many benefits to incorporating martial arts into one’s life. Still, one of the most important is that it can increase strength and flexibility. This is especially true for older adults, who may have lost some muscle mass and flexibility. Martial arts can help restore these abilities, making them more able to defend themselves or stay mobile in their daily lives.

Improved Balance and Coordination

As we age, our balance and coordination can suffer. This can lead to falls and other injuries, so it’s crucial to find a martial art to improve these skills. Some of the best martial arts for elderly people include taekwondo, karate, judo, and tai chi. These disciplines focus on improving balance and coordination through drills and exercises.

Improved Cardiovascular Health

Martial arts can improve cardiovascular health by teaching seniors how to maintain proper posture and breathing, which can help prevent heart disease. Additionally, martial arts can increase strength and flexibility, essential for preventing falls and other injuries.

Increased Flexibility and Range of Motion

As we age, our range of motion decreases. This can make it more challenging to perform specific martial arts techniques. One way to increase flexibility and range of motion is by practicing yoga or Pilates.

These exercises help improve the range of motion in your joints and muscles. Additionally, martial arts can be a great way to stay active and keep your mind sharp as you age.

Enhanced Agility and Speed

As we age, our muscles may not be as strong as they once were. This can impact our agility and speed, making it harder to move quickly and effectively. Luckily, many martial arts offer exercises that focus on enhancing these abilities.

Martial arts like tai chi and qigong are known for their enhanced agility and speed, which can help improve your balance and coordination. Additionally, many martial arts also teach techniques that can be used to defend yourself from attackers.

Improves Self-Defense Skills

Many elderly people find that martial arts training improves their self-defense skills. Martial arts can help seniors stay agile and mobile, which can help them evade an attacker if necessary.

Additionally, martial arts training can teach seniors how to use their bodies strategically to defeat an opponent.

What Are the Risks of Martial Arts for the Elderly?

There are several risks associated with martial arts for the elderly. 

The first is that they may injure themselves while practicing. Older adults are more likely to fall, and they may not be as agile as they once were. This can lead to severe injuries, including fractures and spinal cord injuries.

Another risk is that older adults may have less flexibility than younger adults, making it challenging to maintain proper form while practicing martial arts. If an older adult cannot correctly execute a move, it can put them at risk of being injured.

Finally, older adults may have less stamina than younger adults, making it difficult to continue practicing for an extended period.

Some specific risks include:

  • A fracture or medical emergency caused by falls or other accidents
  • Injury from blows to the head or body
  • Risk of developing arthritis from overuse or improper techniques
  • Possible spinal cord injury from improper techniques
  • Risk of developing joint pain from improper techniques
  • Risk of developing a concussion or other head injury
  • Risk of developing stress fractures in the bones due to physical activity

9 Safety Tips for Seniors Participating in Martial Arts

Martial Arts can be an excellent way for seniors to stay active and healthy. However, because older adults are more prone to injury, it is important to be safe when participating in martial arts.

Here are some tips to keep seniors safe while practicing martial arts:

1. Make sure you have a doctor’s clearance before starting martial arts. 

Martial arts can be a great way to stay fit and active as you age, but be sure to have a doctor’s clearance before starting. Many martial arts programs require participants to have a doctor’s approval before beginning class. Some even require that the participant see a doctor before every class. Make sure you talk with your doctor about whether or not martial arts are suitable for you, and be sure to check with your program beforehand about any specific requirements.

2. Always wear protective gear, including gloves and head protection.

Many martial arts are great for elderly adults, but always wear protective gear, including gloves and head protection. Older adults should also consider wearing elbow, knee, or hip pads for additional fall protection. When practicing any martial art, it is vital to use proper techniques and avoid injuring yourself or another person. Always be aware of your surroundings and use common sense when practicing martial arts.

3. Choose a martial arts program appropriate for your age and level of experience.

Many martial arts programs have different experience levels, so choosing the right one for you is crucial. Check with your program about their specific prerequisites before starting class.

4. Never hesitate to ask an instructor for help if you feel uncomfortable or unsafe.

If you feel uncomfortable or unsafe in the martial arts class, never hesitate to ask an instructor for help. Many instructors are more than happy to assist a student with difficulty. In some cases, the instructor may be able to give you specific guidance on how to improve your technique or how to alter it based on your abilities.

5. Allow your body to adjust to the new physical challenge before pushing yourself too hard.

A good rule of thumb is to be patient and allow your body to adjust to the new physical challenge before pushing yourself too hard. Don’t overtrain or injure yourself in the process. If you are experiencing any injuries, please see a doctor.

6. Be patient with your progress, and remember that practice makes perfect.

As we age, our muscles may not be as strong as they once were. That doesn’t mean that we can’t learn martial arts! The key is to be patient with your progress and remember that practice makes perfect. Even if you don’t see results right away, keep practicing, and eventually, you will see improvements.

7. Practice regularly and gradually increase your intensity level as you become more comfortable with the practice. 

The best martial arts for elderly people to practice should gradually increase over time as the individual becomes more comfortable with the practice. Too much too soon can lead to injuries.

8. Always be aware of your surroundings while practicing martial arts.

Martial arts can be a great way to improve your fitness, learn self-defense skills, and build camaraderie. However, always be aware of your surroundings while practicing martial arts. Pay attention to where your arms and legs are moving so that you don’t accidentally hit others. If you feel unsafe or someone else in the class appears to be dangerous, please leave the class immediately.

9. If you have any questions about practicing safe martial arts, please contact your instructor or a local martial arts organization.

If you are elderly, it is essential to be aware of the risks of practicing martial arts. There are many different styles of martial arts that can be practiced safely. Still, it is always important to consult with your instructor or a local martial arts organization to ensure you practice safely.

10. Finally, remember that no one is invincible!

The martial arts can be a great way to stay active and safe. However, it is essential to be careful if you are an elderly person participating in martial arts like anything else. Just because you are older does not mean that you are invincible. Being injured in martial arts can lead to serious health problems. If you are considering starting or continuing your martial arts training, make sure to talk with your doctor first to make sure it is safe for you.

How Older Adults Can Get Started in Martial Arts

1. Look for a local class to start learning your preferred martial art.

If you are interested in learning a martial art but are afraid that it will be too strenuous for you, don’t worry! There are many different types of martial arts, and not all of them require a lot of strength or cardio. Many popular martial arts like taekwondo and karate can be very gentle and easy to learn for older adults.

If you’re looking for a local class to start learning your preferred martial art, there are plenty of options. Many studios offer beginner classes that will teach the basics of the art while also allowing you to ask questions and get help if needed. If you’re unsure where to start, try searching online or contacting your local gym or community center to see if they offer any beginner classes or classes designed for older adults.

2. Talk to an instructor about the program and determine what is required to join.

If you are interested in learning martial arts for the elderly, talk to an instructor about the program and find out what is required to join. Many programs require a minimum age or experience level, so it is vital to research what is available before deciding.

3. Make a list of the equipment needed.

Elderly individuals need an excellent martial arts program because it can help balance, coordination, and strength. To get the most out of a martial arts program, it is important to have the proper equipment. Some of the typically needed equipment are a helmet, mats, sparring gloves, and protective gear. Consider protective pads for your hips, knees, and elbows

4. Learn the basics of martial arts, including stances, footwork, and punches.

Martial arts can be a great way to stay active as you age and learn some basics about self-defense. There are many different martial arts styles to choose from, so find one that is comfortable for you and fits your needs. Some basic stances to start with include:

  • The basic stance (tao).
  • Bow stance (seol).
  • Ready stance (gung fu dae).
  • Eagle stance (taekwondo gyeong).

Footwork should be fluid and straightforward, using the whole foot rather than the heel or toe. Punches should be aimed at the body parts that are most vulnerable – the head, chest, stomach, and groin – to avoid getting hit in those areas.

5. Practice regularly with a qualified instructor to improve skills.

As we age, our muscles may not be as strong as they once were. This can make it difficult to defend ourselves or perform specific martial arts techniques. It is important to practice regularly with a qualified instructor to improve your skills. You will build strength and stamina, which will help you in any situation.

6. If you experience any pain or discomfort while practicing, stop immediately and consult your doctor.

Many elderly individuals find that these martial arts are physically challenging and offer a sense of personal empowerment and self-defense. If you experience any pain or discomfort while practicing these martial arts, stop immediately and consult your doctor.

Conclusion

There are many benefits to martial arts for older adults, including improved balance, coordination, and strength. Martial arts can also help seniors stay active and reduce the risk of falls.

To get the most out of martial arts training, finding a tailored program for older adults is essential. Some standard features that may be important for older adults include shorter classes with more repetitions, modifications for those with disabilities, and instructor certification in geriatric martial arts.

If you are interested in starting martial arts training, consult with your doctor first. Many injuries while practicing martial arts can be severe and require medical attention. If you experience any significant injuries, stop and contact your doctor for further instructions.

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional

Scott Grant has spent more than 20 years serving seniors and the elderly in the home medical equipment industry. He has worked as a manufacturer's rep for the top medical equipment companies and a custom wheelchair specialist at a durable medical equipment (DME) provider in WV. He is father to 4 beautiful daughters and has three terrific grandkids. When not promoting better living for older adults, he enjoys outdoor activities including hiking and kayaking and early morning runs.

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