Karate As We Age And Into Old Age

Third Dan Thesis

By Terry Monksfield

Most people have probably heard that karate can be done into old age and many people are doing just that as they get older and I, for one, believe it to be something we can do as we age, unlike other arts or sports.

It may be time we addressed some of the training techniques and ideas we need as we get older.
Maybe the following information will help the older students train and continue to train.

After a fairly hard sparring session these days you may be sore for two or three days and injuries take so much longer to heal and bruises don't seem to fade. To try and prevent some of these, you may want to attend training early when possible and do a bit of extra warming up.


First and foremost is a good attitude, a mental attitude to yourself and what you are doing, and that attitude needs to be positive.
If you believe you are too old to do it you will be. I believe it was Henry Ford who said "whether you believe you can or can't, your usually right."
Some things are harder to do as we age but we also get some benefits.
Try to focus on these benefits, the positive instead of the negatives.
You know your body better now, well you would do, you have had it a while. Concentrate on your strengths rather than weaknesses.
As we age, although cardiovascular fitness is a bit harder to keep up, you can get away with it as you age. Your tendons and ligaments harden.


When I was younger I would train all day and any day. Being young meant I didn't think of injuries, even if I got them. They disappeared very quickly, and burnout lasted a fleeting moment, but it is not the way forward as we age. We might be tempted to train extra hard to get the edge over the younger guys, but I don't recommend it as I believe it takes longer to heal.

Instead of going to excess in your training, try to make your training more effective by using your intelligence acquired with age.
If you are in a warm up and are asked to do an exercise that you find painful or uncomfortable I would strongly recommend that you ignore it.
Everyone is different. You should do your own searching for what works the best for you. Take your time. Slow down your kata and kumite. I, for one, am still guilty of this but I continue to slow it down and get so much from it.
Not only is it harder but it helps build your core. Try to do a kekomi very slowly! When you think you do a kata fairly well, do it very slowly. Speed won't disguise your technique.


As we get older and know the importance of technique, sometimes all one wants is to practice one's technique, slowly, safely and over and over again. This is fine when you are alone but every now and again you need a partner. In an ideal world, you need to partner up with an excellent opponent to practice with.
You can do that sometimes and enjoy it but when you are there to train and learn you need a good patient partner. In every dojo there are a few very good karateka who are always willing to help you. find them and ask for their advice and help.


Keep an eye on your own health. You don't have to bore everyone with the news of your latest bowel movement but be honest with yourself. If you ache, acknowledge it and ask the reason. Rest more. If your joints are sore or ache add exercises for joints and mobility.
You will want to take the joints through the full range of motion, and keep doing them.


A lot of things decline as we age but for anyone doing karate, stretching should be something you try to do for as long as possible. As you getolder you know your stretching is not as good as when you were in your twenties but try to make stretching good for your age. The best time to stretch is when your tissues are warm so make sure you do warm up well, as mentioned earlier. The recommendation may stretch to add yoga and or Pilates to your routine.

For your kicks you may do some TKD at a very good local ACADEMY and you may find it to be immensely beneficial.
The only way you will find out what's good for you is to go and try it.


This is for you, nobody else.
By now you should know what you need.
At a younger age just getting changed into your gi was enough of a warm up to go out and immediately be ready for anything.
You may find that you do some quirky little stretches that are good for you, as well as all the usual stretches you might do in a class warm up. don’t leave it to whoever does the warm up, that's just a little for everyone to get a bit warm.


You should have a training diary. Find what's good for you. Online advice is abundant so take advantage of the internet and research.


You may want to increase your fluid intake while you train.
Our bodies are made up of a lot of water and its often said we are all possibly dehydrated. Drinking when you feel thirsty is already too late. Hydrate well before training. water and sports drinks are readily available and the choice is your own personal taste.


When you are young you don't need lots of sleep, but as you age your recovery time gets longer, quality sleep is probably the best way to help the healing time. Learn to relax. Maybe have a power nap ( I find the term so much better than afternoon nap). You should try to wind down about an hour before going to bed. Have all phones, television and computers off. Have a bedtime routine and try to stick to it.


These days there is so much information out there it is hard not to get it right sometimes.
As I said the internet is full of useful information. It might also be helpful to take supplements.
Modern research goes on and new findings are coming out all the time, it may be a good idea to keep up with them.

The main benefit you may find from all this is that you do have to think.
Think about your training, kata, and kumite.
You should think about your health, flexibility, stamina and how you can stay as fit as possible to be as fit as possible.
All this means more exercise for the brain, which is also needed as we age.
The Brain works the body and not the other way around. Also for the older karateka, we should also think about our choice of Sensei.
I have had some very good ones but also a few not so good ones. Being older we are less prone to put up with stupidity. A seven year old child just might put up with it.

One last observation

While looking into the masters of karate that made this art what it is, you may find that a lot of them lived to a ripe old age for the period they lived in so maybe we all have extra years to live simply because we are doing karate.