Am I too old to start learning karate?

learning karate

As with many sports or other skill based hobbies, many people often associate learning karate with children or teenagers. Competence and mastery of certain techniques takes time and practice. However, there are an abundance of karate and other martial arts classes aimed at adult beginners.

In short, it is never too late to practise karate! There is no age limit and it has been shown scientifically that karate demonstrates numerous health benefits, both physical and mental. In the circumstances we currently find ourselves in, there is no better time than now than to start learning karate! 

Benefits for Adults

Karate has many tangible benefits for adults and if you have an interest in taking up karate or other martial arts should not be deterred by age. In fact, karate training may help you overcome some of the barriers which you may perceive due to your age.

For example, you may be concerned that you are not athletic enough to take up karate, especially if you have not done regular physical exercise for some time. However, karate is known to improve flexibility and co-ordination with time. 

If you are finding the movements challenging, this simply means that the exercise will have an even more dramatic effect on your fitness! It is especially important to remember that when starting to practise any form of martial art that technique is not necessarily the priority.

Mastery of technique will come with time and practise. Instead, the crucial aspect is building a routine. In Daoist philosophy, it is said that it takes 100 days of routine practice to build a foundation in meditation, martial study and sub-sequentially good health.

You Are Never Too Old to Start Karate

It is never too late to start learning karate. If you have never practised any martial arts before, some of the movements may be new to you and challenging. However, as with all exercise and movement this will help you burn calories and stay in shape. Other key reasons to start learning karate at any age include:

Increasing Your Physical Fitness and Flexibility

Physical inactivity is one of the leading causes of ill-health in the world. Physical activity participation tends to be lower for adults, especially those over the age of 50.

Sports scientists tend to categorise martial arts as either ‘hard’ or ‘soft’. ‘Soft’ martial arts such as tai chi improve fitness by utilizing purposeful and relaxed movements aimed at regulating posture throughout the movement process.

Karate can be considered a ‘hard’ martial art, with emphasis on faster movements. Training in hard martial arts such as karate have been demonstrated to improve cardiovascular fitness in all age categories.

This is crucial for our health in later life, especially in our increasingly sedentary lifestyles. Several scientific studies have also shown that karate also has a positive impact on muscular and skeletal health meaning that it is an excellent way to maintain physical fitness and stamina.

Improve mental well-being. Karate and other martial arts are excellent stress relievers!

The benefits of karate are not limited to physical health, but also extend to mental well-being. For many practitioners, martial arts training has a positive effect on self-confidence and self-discipline. Skills improve over time and with practise. 

No prior experience is needed. Many karate schools are willing to build technique from the ground up. Any form of physical exercise reduces anxiety and depression, increases self-confidence and enhances self-esteem.

Many also find karate to be an effective stress reliever. The human body begins to feel a number of physical and psychological consequences due to stress. By introducing karate to your life as a positive technique to improve mental health, the effects of stress in one’s life may also begin to be alleviated. 

Studies have also shown that not only is karate beneficial for our mental health, but it may also improve our cognitive function. Practitioners of martial arts tend to have greater ‘visual acuity’.

This means that martial artists develop over time a greater ability to recognise and describe shapes quickly, especially in their peripheral vision. This skill can translate to many walks of life and may even help in the workplace.

Socialise with others outside of the workplace

Whilst karate can be practised individually (though ideally with the supervision of a certified instructor or master), at many dojo’s or sports halls it is a group activity with an enthusiastic community.

Humans are social animals and social interaction is a key component for our wellbeing. Martial arts training can be an excellent way for adults to socialise with others. Karate classes are much more social than simply running through a routine in the gym! 

Learn self-defence skills and improve your ability to deal with anxiety in stressful situations

Karate is also valuable self-defence training for adults. Basic understanding of self-defence is becoming increasingly important in the modern world. Through learning basic kicks, punches and blocks, a practitioner of karate may learn specific combinations of techniques that may be applied in particular situations. 

Karate also teaches an individual to develop an inner awareness for avoiding potential threatening situations. It has been demonstrated scientifically that adults with some martial arts training tend to perform better under high-anxiety situations than those without. Whilst these results are directly applicable to self-defence training, they may also translate to other aspects of our lives.

Spiritual development

As with other martial arts, karate classes may often begin with some form of meditative breathing or movement which acts as mental preparation for the training session. These meditative drills may also be practised at home or in other settings and can be applied to other scenarios in our day to day lives. Often, focusing with a calm mind can help us complete tasks more efficiently. 

Whilst modern martial arts focus more on self-defence and physical fitness, the ancient Japanese concept of Bushido (the way of the warrior) underpins karate and other Japanese martial arts. Bushido is built upon ideas from Confucianism, Buddhism and Daoism.

By practising karate in a dojo, one also practises elements of the Bushido code emphasising among other things character development, loyalty, truthfulness, courage, respect for others and simplicity in our day to day lives.

The cultivation of these traits is deeply beneficial in the modern world which is increasingly becoming more materialistic and self-centred, providing a framework which allows us to grow as humans and is relevant to us all through every stage of our lives. 

Encourages a healthier diet

Karate, as with other forms of intensive exercise will encourage you to eat more healthily. You may find yourself changing your diet to provide extra calories and nutrients for your body. For example, physical exertion results in the body requiring more Magnesium which is required for protein metabolism and Iron which is required for the production of haemoglobin.

Magnesium can be sourced from many vegetables and Iron is present in both animal products and certain vegetables. Benefits of a healthy diet include weight loss, improved mood and better heart health.

Considering that many of us in adult life find ourselves spending more time sat behind a computer screen for work, rushing to meet deadlines and eating convenient but unhealthy food on the go to sustain our stressful lifestyles, the benefits of a healthy diet can significantly improve our physical and mental wellbeing. 


In short, you are never too old to reap the benefits of karate. Seek out a local gym or dojo which offers karate instruction, improve your physical and mental wellbeing, make new friends and cultivate your character.

Karate should not be considered an activity accessible only to children or young adults. Adults can accomplish a great deal when they put their mind to it, especially if the conviction and will to succeed and improve is strong.

You won’t be a world champion from day one, nobody expects you to be and nobody else is when they start. Instead, focus on learning new skills and developing a new, long lasting routine which will be with you for life. Use karate as a springboard towards a new, healthier way of living.

Whilst you may feel anxious or apprehensive about joining a karate class, many schools offer beginner classes for adults or at least accommodate a wide range of abilities. One of the most valuable elements of martial arts is that it promotes a sense of continuous self-improvement.

So why wait? Don’t let your inhibitions get the better of you and take up a new challenge. The rewards of practising karate, especially in later life, are too great. Dive in there and show those kids how it’s done!  

“A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.” 

– Bruce Lee

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Span Chen

Span Chen

I have been practicing karate for more than 6 years, and now at the sixth level (green belt) of the Okinawa Goju-Ryu Karatedo Kugekai. Though I haven’t earned my Black Belt yet, I am deeply passionate about my training.