seniors learning in Tai chi class

Best Martial Arts for Seniors/Elderly People

First thing first, saying that martial art training is a “young men’s game” is just a myth and nothing more than that. Senior people who are 70+ years old could be often seen practicing martial arts the same as the young ones. Regardless of the age, being active is the only way you can keep your body and mind healthy, agile, and functional.

Of course, you won’t see the elderly sparring hard in a Muay Thai or boxing gyms. But, there are martial arts that suit quite well to this age group. Which ones you may ask?

For example, Tai Chi is one of the most popular martial arts, practiced by millions of elderly around the world. It is also known as “Shadow boxing” because students do a lot of katas, a set of forms that they practice alone. There is no sparring or any hard physical contact, in fact, it is the total opposite as you are about to learn in this article.

Stay with us to discover more martial and close arts to ideal for the seniors. The following list includes forms of combat that are not very physical, hard on your body or carry a high risk of injuries.

5. Wing Chun

elder man practing with wing chun wooden target

Wing Chun is another low impact martial art system that is very good for seniors who are looking to improve their overall health. As a form of Kung Fu, Wing Chun focuses on self-defense and as a concept, it is a mix of striking and grappling techniques. But bear in mind that the majority of schools weigh heavy on the striking aspect. 

Is Wing Chun good for seniors? 

Wing Chun is, in some way, ideal for older people because it is a low impact martial art that is “hard” enough to keep you in good health and teach valuable self-defense tactics. It is not one of those martial arts where students only do katas, learn weird stances and techniques that are not practical in real life. No, Wing Chun is legitimate martial art.

The initial goal is to learn how to keep yourself calm in a stressful situation. Having a clear mind is the only way you can make rational decisions, and above all, apply Wing Chun techniques to protect yourself. Thus, a large portion of training focuses on the “chi energy”, and doing various breathing exercises.

On top of that, throwing punches and kicks will activate all of your muscles, and improve strength and mobility. The focus on precision, posture, and technique will improve your hand-eye coordination along with many other things. Next, there is very little rest and your heart rate will constantly be up in the aerobic zone. In the long run, this will make your heart stronger and improve overall cardiovascular health. 

Is Wing Chun safe for the elderly?

Without a question. Wing Chun is safe because the focus is on timing, speed, and precision, and in most schools, there is no sparring at all. But even if there is, sparring always remains optional and you don’t have to risk your health at all. On the other side, hitting the heavy bag or pads is only beneficial. 

4. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

a man in blue Gi tightening his BJJ brown belt

BJJ is a self-defense system developed in the 1920s in Brazil. It entirely focuses on grappling and ground fighting, and there is no striking at all. Since strikes are often the main cause of most injuries, and BJJ has none of it, the risk of injuries is quite low and this is one of the reasons why you can often see elderly people rolling on the mats.

Is BJJ good for seniors?

BJJ is a great option for seniors because it is safe, you can learn it at your own pace, and it is not aggressive. Or in other words, the focus is on technique, leverage, balance, and coordination of the movements. But bear in mind that BJJ as a system is so complex that people often call it a “human chess match” due to so many variables. 

The main goal is to learn various judo throws and wrestling takedowns to take the opponent down. Once on the ground, the key is to get into one of many dominant positions and submit the opponent with chokes and joint locks. You have to be patient, methodical, and think three steps in advance. 

This kind of workout is great for seniors because of the many health benefits. For instance, BJJ training improves your grip strength and hip mobility which are the two things that decrease with aging. 

Is BJJ safe for seniors?

Absolutely. Unlike most other arts, BJJ does not include punches, kicks, or any other type of strikes that are often the main cause of injuries. If you are careful and approach it according to your physical abilities, joining the BJJ gym might end up as the best decision. 

3. Boxing

senior punching boxing bag

At first sight, boxing might not seem like an ideal option for seniors. It is a very popular combat sport, spread all over the world that carries a high risk of injuries. However, bear in mind that times have changed and that, in modern times, it is not uncommon to see elderlies in a boxing gym having a time of their lives. 

Is Boxing good for seniors?

Boxing is great for people of all ages and genders. Each modern boxing gym has an amateur group where people can learn boxing at their own pace, and without putting their bodies at risk. Yes, it is very likely that the amateur group would be full of younger people and adults. But this really doesn’t matter as you are all there for the same benefits, and boxing has a ton of it for seniors. 

First, boxing is a simple martial art that focuses only on hand strikes. There are no kicks, elbows, knees, grappling, throws and other “complex” things. So, no matter how old or out of shape you are, you will be fit enough to throw punches and move around the bag or hit the pads. Next, boxing is one of the rare activities that simultaneously improves your upper and lower body segments without putting a lot of stress on the joints. It will make you feel young again. 

Last but not least, a lot of boxing gyms have 1 on 1 classes that are usually not that expensive. If you are not sure whether boxing is for you or not, you should at least try it by going on a couple of private classes with your coach. It would be worth, that’s for sure. 

Is boxing safe for seniors?

Yes, amateur boxing is safe for seniors and it is very hard to hurt yourself if you don’t spar on a regular basis. Of course, you must be careful not to go over your abilities and stress your body too much. 

2. Aikido

Portrait aikido master wearing traditional samurai hakama kimono. learning fight with bamboo boken. Aikido Learning Concept

Aikido falls into a group of modern martial arts developed in Japan. It is present in over 140 countries around the world, so it is likely that there is a school in your area as well. Its founder, Morihei Ueshiba, designed Aikido as a mix of martial arts moves, philosophies, and religious beliefs. Is Aikido good for seniors?

Yes, because Aikido is a system where the emphasis is on not on the sheer power and full contact striking or grappling. No, Aikido is more about leverage, technique, balance, and coordination. All of the techniques are designed as counter attacks with the main goal being to use the attackers’ momentum against them. There is no striking as training focuses on various throws, and wrist and joint locks. Senior students also practice with weapons such as bokken, tanto, and jo. 

Above all, Aikido is a soft style and being aggressive and acting tough may only get you kicked out of the school. It is all about respect, honor, embracing strong values, and supporting each other. Training and the exercises elderlies do are safe, but physical enough to keep your muscles strong and body agile and flexible. 

Aikido training is also good for the elderly because it focuses a lot on the mental aspects of martial arts. Students do a lot of breathing exercises, forms of meditation, and katas that can also improve your mental health and prevent various diseases that come with aging. 

Is Aikido safe for seniors?

Unless you try to execute some crazy throws and hard falls, yes, Aikido classes are safe and, in most cases, free from injuries. 

1.Tai Chi

A group of seniors studying Tai Chi

Tai Chi is a Chinese form of Kung Fu that is often seen as ideal for seniors. It is a mix of meditation, fluid and dynamic movements, and martial arts moves that you are supposed to carry out in a calm manner. Many seniors find Tai Chi to be the exact thing they needed because it is not physically demanding, allows you to learn at your own pace, and has many health benefits. 

Is Tai Chi good for seniors?

Tai Chi is a soft martial art where students do various gentle physical and breathing exercises, and with that, it is close to ideal for seniors. Even if you are deep in your 60s or struggling with some disabilities, Tai Chi training is very adaptable. Through soft, it is intense enough to improve your strength, and it also decreases stress, and anxiety and improves the overall quality of life. 

Apart from safety and health benefits, Tai Chi is also great because it is very popular among seniors. While you might have a hard time fitting in a boxing or BJJ gym full of young people, Tai Chi classes are usually practiced by elderlies. This is great because most seniors tend to feel lonely and live a life without interacting with other people that much. So training in Tai Chi might help you find some new friends, improve your social life, and with that, be happier.

Is Tai Chi safe for seniors?

Tai Chi is among the safest martial arts and the injury rate is really, really low. There is no sparring or any type of drills where students exchange hard punches. In fact, it is the total opposite of that as the emphasis is on keeping it all light, slow, calm, and according to your physical and mental abilities. 

Final thoughts

Martial arts training does not recognize any differences and people of all ages are more than welcome in every dojo. Before you make a final decision, do not let the myths hold you back from your dreams. Age is just a number when it comes to improving your mental and physical health and it is never too late to make a change. Just go for it.

That being said, which style suits you best really comes down to your personal preference and your overall fitness level. If you have had some martial arts training back in the past and you still feel agile and strong, you might join a boxing gym and see how it goes. If you have never trained in martial arts before, then the wisest decision would be for you to try some soft martial arts like Aikido or Tai Chi.

No matter which one you choose, be sure to have a lot of fun in training!

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