Let’s be honest- with its sleek yet powerful movements and mindful approach, many are drawn to the charms of martial arts, like Korea’s taekwondo. However, many of us seem to believe everyone must start Taekwondo at a young age in order to excel. So, can you be too old to learn Taekwondo?
The truth of the matter is that anyone can learn taekwondo at any age. At the very most, you may need to adjust some of the practice to fit your fitness level or physical abilities, but there will always be new aspects of taekwondo to learn no matter how old you are.
Interested in learning more about what that may look like for you? Let’s take a deep dive into why you’re never too old to learn taekwondo and some helpful steps you can take to make it easier when starting at an older age.
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Am I Too Old to Learn Taekwondo?
There is no set age for anyone to start learning taekwondo.
Many parents do choose to have their children start practicing it in the early days of their childhood to help them advance quicker and master the art earlier in life, taking advantage of a period of human development where learning new skills is the easiest. That’s why many of us envision children when we think of martial arts.
However, the phrase “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is incorrect- and proven wrong by many accounts of people who have tried learning taekwondo much later than this. Many folks report starting taekwondo in their 20s, 30s, and even starting as old as in their middle age.
To get specific, there are 3 million participants in martial arts in the USA that range from 18-54 years old, and an additional 100,000 participants above the age of 55 (Source: Edmonton Taekwondo). There are also more examples than this. That’s nothing to sneeze at.
Many older individuals find themselves concerned with the question of whether they will be able to handle the physical aspect of taekwondo.
Rather than focusing entirely on having enough physical prowess to punch things and knock people over, however, taekwondo actually focuses on these main skill sets:
If you’re confident in your ability to commit to these three values, you can succeed in learning Taekwondo at any age.
That said, your taekwondo journey will certainly look different from someone who has been doing it their whole life. Let’s take a look at some adjustments you may need to make when starting taekwondo at an older age.
How to Start Taekwondo at an Older Age
There are a number of steps you can take to make your taekwondo learning experience easier for yourself if you’re older, such as setting realistic expectations for yourself, supporting your body, finding good taekwondo instructors, and paying close attention to the signals your body gives you while you’re practicing.
Let’s dive into each one to get you the information you need on each of these to start taekwondo at an older age as easily as possible.
Set Realistic Expectations for Your Performance
The reality of the matter is that many of your opponents are going to be younger than you. This means that their reactions will be quicker, they may have more endurance, and they are less likely to be injured than you may be. This could get frustrating if you let it.
So, it’s good to set realistic expectations and goals for your performance so that your frustration doesn’t overwhelm you, causing you to halt your taekwondo practice altogether. Stay mindful of the realities of your situation to create a balanced and sustainable learning experience unique to you.
P.S. – Keep in mind though, as an older individual, you’ve got tact and strategy on your side!
Support Your Body
As an older individual, your body is going to need a bit more assistance than an 8-year-old will when it comes to staying safe and recovering.
You can help protect your body in these three ways:
- Wear joint supports like elbow and knee compression sleeves to both protect your joints from injury and help you move better.
- Stretch every day and both before and after practice to prep and heal your muscles from the work you’ll put in during practice. Be sure to stretch for a long time.
- Take your medications regularly, and ideally before practice if possible as training strains the body, and you don’t want to trigger any cardiovascular stress (or other stress of any kind.)
Taking these steps to protect your body diligently will not only help keep your body safe but will improve your performance and make your overall experience easier and more rewarding.
Find the Right Taekwondo Instructor
No, we don’t just mean the highest-rated instructors in your area (although that never hurts).
Seek out a taekwondo instructor who has experience teaching students who have started at older ages in particular. An instructor who has taught older individuals will have a better grasp on what kinds of goals and support you might need than someone who has only worked with kids.
You can reach out on local internet forums to see if a neighbor or community member has someone to recommend based on personal experience.
Listen to Your Body’s Signals and Adjust Your Practice Accordingly
Naturally, due to the reduced endurance/repair speed of someone who’s older compared to a child, you need to pay attention to the signals your body gives you during training and respond accordingly.
There is no shame in taking breaks. If you feel you’re at your limit, take more breaks, drink more water, and perhaps do less intense postures than your opponents. Whatever you need to do to continue to build your foundation and work towards success.
Taekwondo is a martial art that anyone can start learning at any age. In fact, there are millions of adults in the US who are learning it as we speak. By setting realistic expectations, supporting your body, and finding the right instructor, you can begin your taekwondo journey healthily and sustainably, no matter how old you are!