The 2 Best Martial Arts to Start Later in Life

Over the last decade, the sport of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) has exploded into one of the most-watched sports globally. Thanks to its meteoric rise in popularity, it’s not the obscure sport that it was in the past. Since 2016, the UFC, the biggest MMA organization, has done 10 pay-per-views that had over 1 million buys.

When people are highly interested in a certain topic, many of them often would like to partake in some way. People who binge cooking shows are likely people who enjoy cooking themselves. Or at least they would like to learn. With MMA this is no different. MMA enthusiasts are often keen on learning one or more of the martial arts that are used in the sport of MMA.

Another reason that people might want to learn a martial art, is to learn self-defense. Here again, there are so many directions you can go. Throughout the ages so many martial arts have been developed and evolved. All of them with their characteristics.

That being said, not all of the available martial arts are suitable to start when you are older. With age, we become more prone to injuries. We have to be mindful of this truth when we try something new. Furthermore, gyms are not always welcoming for new and older practitioners.

Nevertheless, there are a few effective martial arts that would be suitable to start as someone who’s a bit more aged. Below I’ll go over two of them:

1. Boxing

What most people imagine when they think of people fighting, is two people who strike at each other with closed fists. This is exactly what you learn to do effectively by learning how to box. You learn how to hit your opponent without being hit yourself. This may sound simple, but in reality, it’s not.

There are so many subtleties that you should take into account when you want to box well. You have to learn how to move your feet(footwork), how to turn your hips, and how to guard yourself, among many other things.

Boxing is a great workout, where you’ll develop stamina, coordination, and strength. On top of that, boxing is excellent to shed extra kilos. If you consistently box a couple of times a week, you’ll see your body reshape itself into a more athletic you.

Injury risk

Although boxing is pretty intense, there is a limited risk for serious injuries. When you box, you keep standing, there are no takedowns involved like there are in wrestling or Judo. When takedowns are involved, your joints are under a lot more pressure. Furthermore, because of the absence of takedowns in boxing, you won’t be slammed on your head.

Just like boxing, kickboxing is another striking sport where takedowns are not allowed. However, this sport is less suitable for older people because more flexibility is demanded. By throwing high kicks or trying to knee someone in the head, it’s more likely that you would tear a muscle or a tendon than it is in boxing.


Boxing is a sport that is practiced recreationally by many enthusiasts, many of them adults. This attribute in combat sports is not a given. Many martial arts are very competition-oriented. Examples of this are Wrestling and Judo. Parents subscribe their kids in these sports at an age that they still can be practiced recreationally. However, when they reach a certain age, let’s say somewhere around 16, only the real competitors stay in the sport. From that point on, the practices are very serious and very hard.

This is not the case in most boxing gyms, where you can practice to the best of your abilities, without people expecting you to compete or even spar.

2. BJJ

My other martial arts pick to start at a later age is BJJ (Brazilian Jiujitsu). BJJ is a martial art that focuses on ground fighting where no striking is involved. The goal of the martial art is to get your opponent into a joint lock or chokehold that forces him/her to submit. BJJ consists out of almost an unlimited number of techniques in which leverage is used to control the opponent.

Because of the use of leverage, a smaller person learns how to beat a bigger adversary. It’s an excellent martial art to learn for self-defense.

Injury risk

Because the martial art does not involve any striking, kicking, or kneeing, many call it ‘The Gentle Art’. However, if you have ever practiced BJJ, you will know that there isn’t anything gentle about the sport. The joint locks and takedowns put a lot of stress on your joints, tendons, and muscles.

And still, I would argue that BJJ is great to start at a later age because there is a limited risk of getting injured. So why is that? The reason lays entirely with the people who practice the sport. In comparison to other combat sports, the people who practice BJJ are very laid back and relax. Often, you can see entire families train together in the gym.

There are people who train very hard, but usually, that is not expected of you. People will first figure out how hard you want to go before training with you. This is certainly the case if you are a bit older.


The UFC has made MMA very popular. And subsequently, MMA has made BJJ popular. Right from the start in 1993, BJJ proved to be a very effective martial art. The first two tournaments were won by Royce Gracie using only BJJ techniques. What made it remarkable was that Royce Gracie was a lot smaller than the other competitors. This made BJJ very popular and gyms were opening left and right. Almost three decades later, it would be rare to not have a BJJ gym close to you.

Like mentioned earlier, in BJJ gyms usually there is a friendly and welcoming atmosphere. Whether you are 16 and willing to compete or 60 and just want to learn some techniques, you are welcome. The top BJJ schools will have separate classes for the competitors, but they also have other classes where everybody is welcome. You won’t feel like you don’t fit in as an elder person in a BJJ gym.

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