When you go to the martial arts school to sign up, it is usually for your kids, unless you are looking to do something yourself. How often do people go in to sign up their parents or granparents? If martial arts are gentle enough to teach children, shouldn’t that same logic apply with senior citizens? I came across a story about a 93-year-old Chinese woman, Zhang Hexian, who practices daily in Kung Fu despite her age. She is a Kung Fu master who showed off in her village of Dongyun. She was excited to be demonstrating her great physical condition in martial arts. So it brought up a curiosity in me. We see the prototypical sensei in Kung Fu movies, they are always portrayed as much older. In the movie though, it is usually a much younger actor that is wearing a gray wig and beard, so the “old” instructor isn’t really that old. I guess I can really look into what may be the best Martial Arts styles for our senior friends.
To start with, martial arts is another way of working out for a lot of people while learning how to defend, how to relax and how to clear the mind.
It can provide a sense of peace in many ways but since there are many different styles, each style is not meant for every person, especially pertaining to age.
Martial arts contains a lot of striking and grappling and certain ones also contain hard kicking and punching, which seniors may have a hard time pulling off. Muay Thai and Savate are two styles that incorporate a lot of these different moves. Martial art styles such as judo involve pins, throws, and submissions. These three different styles are not meant for older adults and instead are meant for younger adults and even children who are more limber and able to take physical trauma.
There are many other options though, and the martial arts above could be practiced with a great deal of discretion. Why not just start with something more “gentle”, though? Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is very aerobic and can provide the intense training that one’s body needs while also helping to understand submission and passes, it too can be a complex style when it comes to seniors because it exerts the hip and through aging, the hip begin the deteriorate after the age of 50. There are a lot of submissions involved and the pace that it takes to make a good run at it may not be what older people are looking for. I guess the point is to help with fitness and dexterity while not doing physical harm to the body. When you’re older, everything is far more apt to harm you in terms of physical activity.
Based on researching and seeing tons of video with a lot of older people practicing Tai Chi in a park, Chinese Kung Fu seems to be a great martial art style for seniors. Kung Fu isn’t just what you see in films, it is a very spiritual art and requires a lot of patience and discipline. Older people tend to have a lot more patience than their younger counterparts. Most of the striking done in Kung Fu is done open-handed rather than through the fist and it focuses less on raw power and more on speed. When the focus is not on power, it automatically causes less trauma. When you punch or hit something, obviously there is trauma to object being hit, but there is also trauma to the instrument exacting the blow. Trauma and high impact are bad for people with less elasticity in their joints and more brittle bones.
As I touched on earlier, it’s important to find a martial art style that doesn’t exert your body to the point of causing pain. Some pain is expected, after all, martial arts is a form of exercise and if your body is not used to exercise, of course muscles are going to get sore. You want to find a martial art style that provides strength, flexibility, cardio, and mobility training. Becoming stronger is the easy part because exercise automatically helps with this, especially if you have been laying dormant for a long period. Flexibility is the number one way to prevent injuries. Cardio helps you live a longer and healthier life. Mobility training is a great way to keep your legs and arms with blood flowing through them, atrophy can be an issue when you just lay around doing nothing for an extended amount of time.
In conclusion, a doctor should always be consulted and a lot of research should be done to see what is best for you or you elderly loved one. It has to be interesting first in order to even be a change in lifestyle, nobody wants to take on a new task and expect it to stick if it isn’t at least interesting to them. When it comes to the different martial art styles there are many choose from and one thing remains the same, not every style is meant for every person. There are so many to choose from and it might take sampling some of them before choosing the right one for you. Having someone else who is interested in the same thing and is in the same phase of their life may be a great way to bond and take on the exciting challenge that is Martial Arts.