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Am I Too Old to Start Karate?

I think one of the most commonly asked questions we get is “am I too old to start karate?”


So many phone calls start with “hey, I might be too old, but” - and then they go on to apologize for not starting earlier, like the Karate Police are going to fine them for not starting in diapers.


We have this weird cultural hang-up that you can only start things as a child, or a teen. That unless you start at 5, its too late to start anything at all. I blame the idea of the child prodigy, but also the proliferation of athlete stories that they all started at 3 years of age. Everything is a training montage, and only talented people have the right to do anything at all. What cultural nonsense is this?


We have students that have started in their 30s, 40s and 50s, some even in their 60s, and have made it to black belt and beyond. We have people returning as adults after quitting as kids; many, many of those. Grandparents that tried a class and out-trained their grand-kids. Moms who started with their sons, and kept on long after they quit. It has nothing to do with age, and everything to do with the desire and willingness to learn.


Yudansha training at OGKK International Gashuku Johannesburg December 2023
Plenty of adults in this photo!

We have doctors and lawyers, accountants and actuarial scientists, moms and dads, grandparents and elder citizens all training at our dojo. It is never too late, and you're not too old. In fact, the later you start, the better your chances of sticking it out. Unlike a kid, you have a fully-developed prefrontal cortex, allowing you to make long-term decisions and to stick things out. Kids and teens struggle with long term thinking, and can't see past the difficulties of today. But you, the adult student? You understand that today's hard training means greatness in the future. You understand that things take time, and have so many ways that time will pass. For kids, 8 years (the time it takes to get a black belt on average) feels like an absolute lifetime. For adults, 8 years feels like nothing at all. When your memories start being measured in decades, like being 30 years out of high school, what's 5 years? It's true when Smashmouth said “the years start coming and they don't stop coming”.


“Am I too old to start karate?” Absolutely not. You don't need to be fit, or talented, or agile, or strong. That will come, in time. All you need is the curiosity to learn, the patience to trust the process, and a sense of humour. Because yes, it will be hard in the beginning, especially if you've never done martial arts before. But hard is what makes it great, and you'll never regret the time you spent in the dojo.


Come try out with us. And if we're not in your area, try the dojo that works best for you. Keep trying different dojos until you find the one that makes you happy. Above style, the most important thing is the people in the dojo. It doesn't have to be karate, if you find a great judo dojo, or a TKD school. The important thing is to move, and keep moving. This is one of the not-so-secret ways to age better.


No, you're not too old, and it's not too late.

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I personally live this article. I am one of the adults that thought it was too late in my life to start martial arts, but look at me now....I love it and constantly tell my colleagues at work they should try it out and get active. It is so amazing to call the dojo our extended family, because that is exactly what they are, family. We laugh, cry and train together and friendships (yes in my older years) are made that will probably stay for the remainder of my life. So definitely, you are not to old to start 🙂

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