I'm not getting younger, and my weight will always be at least 200lbs. The martial art I'm studying is not kind to my joints. A particular problem is the flying kicks, one of which is featured in my next to top kata. While I've gotten better at the technique, my knee of the leg I land on complains very loudly the following day. I can't generate enough air time to land on both feet with a flying side kick.

I am interested in something with practical use outside the ring, but less harsh than my current art. My current style is a blend of Tae Kwan Do, Okinawan Go Ju Ryu, and Jujitsu. I do enjoy the Jujitsu, but finding a good school near me will be a challenge. I will talk with my sensei about making the art a bit more old man friendly--we both have physical challenges.

However, I am interested in broadening my horizons. What I'm looking for is:

  • No flying techniques. I'm a big man and my joints can't take it
  • Incorporating both grappling and stricking
  • A focus on practical use in modern settings (this rules out sword arts and kyudo)

While I do have a fourth criteria, that would make the question too localized (i.e. something I can find near me). An addendum to the question would be how to evaluate a potential school.

Clarification about the knees:

  • The problem is not bad joints, medically speaking.
  • I can grapple just fine, the jujitsu aspect of my art is something I'm rather fond of.
  • The problem is inflammation in the knee due to the stress of landing > 250lbs of mass on one leg.
  • The inflammation goes away in a couple days, but the day following practice it is quite acute.

Also reminder about what I'm looking for:

  • A focus on practical use in modern settings. Arts like iaido, kyudo, etc. that are primarily internal martial arts are not something I want to pursue at the moment.
  • A de-emphasis on kicking, particularly flying or jumping techniques.
  • How bad are you joints? Did you seek medical advice on how to fix them? Commented Aug 30, 2012 at 7:39
  • The joints aren't at the point of needing medical attention. It takes two days for my leg to fully recover and then after that it's fine. However, I don't like the inflamed knee the day after. It hurts all day long, and well into the day after. Commented Aug 30, 2012 at 11:36
  • An addendum to the question would be how to evaluate a potential school. This would be a question in its own right, possibly a duplicate, but certainly worth asking -- if no duplicate can be found... Commented Aug 30, 2012 at 11:44
  • @Sardathrion, You might find the blog posts I linked to in the comment after my answer helpful. They document Eric Raymond's search for a new school. He's still looking, so there will probably be more posts coming. Commented Aug 30, 2012 at 22:10
  • 1
    130KG, 52 years old speaking here: Ninjutsu is the place were old Karateka go to die :). But I'm afraid it's becoming too hard for me - a great diet motivator.
    – Avi
    Commented Sep 1, 2012 at 21:23

24 Answers 24


I'm going to beat the dead horse I keep near my keyboard. I'm skeptical of any school that requires the student to perform any action that the student feels has the potential of being long term harmful. That's not a problem with the school/style, that's a problem with the teacher.

As a counterexample, there are two of us who are currently preparing to test for nidan - both of us have knee problems that result in a close and ongoing relationship with the local Orthopod. Our nidan test requires 8 kneeling techniques; our instructor has adapted these to standing techniques that allow us to safely demonstrate the same skills & abilities.

  • 3
    This is an excellent answer. The OP shouldn't need to switch arts, he simply needs to adapt what he already does - and this is what was traditionally done. The reality is that there is a high probability that he will never need a flying side kick in real life - so while it's good to know how to do one and be able to do it if you really need it, the better solution is for the OP to adapt and refine the other techniques he already knows to accommodate his changing physiology.
    – slugster
    Commented Aug 4, 2014 at 22:52

I am myself in the Big Boy / Old Man category, so I feel your pain! Especially since you've been training in quite hard / high-impact styles.

For the inflammation:

  • ibuprofen (600mg, after training)
  • ice packs or ice baths (lots of icing after training does wonders)
  • frequent massage with arnica cream, dit da jow, or similar

For your next training opportunity, in no particular order:

  • Yoga - I really enjoy this as a cross-training discipline. Excellent opportunity to improve flexibility, balance, breath. Many life advantages, though teaches no direct fighting skills.
  • Wing Chun - All about controlling close-in fighting. Excellent defensive moves and combinations. No jumping. (If taught well.)
  • Baguazhang - Wicked locking/rending/controlling applications. No jumping.
  • T'ai chi ch'uan / Taijiquan - Especially if you can find a school that incorporates martial applications. Tai Chi made all of my other martial arts better.
  • Jujitsu, Judo, or Aikido - Great fun. Based on liking jujitsu a good place to look, though may be counter-indicated if constant kneeling a problem for your knees
  • MMA or boxing - Little to no jumping. Sparring emphasis improves fluidity and defensive reactions greatly. Good cross-over with real world self defense.

In choosing a new school, Mark C. Wallace is spot-on. If you have any injuries or propensities-to-injure that the school/instructors will not cheerfully and helpfully work around, head immediately towards the door.

  • on ibprofen, don't take it regularly when training, it has the less than desirable effect of lessening the strength gains your body will get through repair Commented Sep 4, 2012 at 5:09
  • I've heard that ibuprofen inhibits strength gains. But I've also seen the opposite: thefactsaboutfitness.com/research/painkillers.htm I'm not a bodybuilder, so for me getting back into full-energy practice is the key thing. YMMV. Commented Sep 4, 2012 at 14:13
  • 6
    If you have to take painkillers on a regular basis, you're doing something wrong, and you're clearly continuing to do damage to your body.
    – Robin Ashe
    Commented Sep 5, 2012 at 8:33
  • getfitguy.quickanddirtytips.com/…
    – MCW
    Commented Sep 5, 2012 at 10:28
  • 3
    I second Tai Chi, but would drop Judo/Jujitsu, etc - particularly hard on the knee joints. Especially Judo. Commented Sep 6, 2012 at 6:49

Sang Kim in Martial Arts After 40 gives some good advice, the most general point being the suggestion that older martial artists should consider switching from power styles to styles that emphasize precision. He specifically suggests considering weapons arts, to reduce wear and tear that gets harder to recover from as one gets older, as well as their greater emphasis on precision. The rest of his advice is complex enough (and the details important enough) that I am not going to try to summarize it here.

Sang Kim also has an older book out Ultimate Fitness through Martial Arts, that, while not much for "ultimate" fitness, has a lot of interesting calisthenic type exercises people can do at any age to stay fit.

  • 3
    You might also find a series of recent blog posts by Eric Raymond helpful as he searches for a new martial arts school: esr.ibiblio.org/?p=4488 , esr.ibiblio.org/?p=4494 , esr.ibiblio.org/?p=4508 , esr.ibiblio.org/?p=4528 (from oldest to most recent). He also has leg problems, though his is a weakness left from childhood illness. Commented Aug 30, 2012 at 11:48
  • The potential concern with weapon arts is that even something like Kali might not be appropriate with the stated goals if you're not going to be carrying something stick-like with you.
    – Robin Ashe
    Commented Aug 30, 2012 at 12:41

Filipino and Indonesian martial arts incorporate a lot of striking and grappling, are quite usable and versatile in the "real world", contain both empty-hand and weapon techniques (which are often the same), and in general, are kind to the joints.

The exception being some of the silat groundwork where you're a pretzel, but any reasonable school will take your needs into account.

I've also found enough crossover between silat and taiji that both are enhanced, although IMO taiji can take some time to become street-usable--but that depends a lot on the school.

  • 1
    I was going to suggest the this, the ground stuff is not really that good, though Arnis guys won't say that, but if you marry it with jiujitsu, it makes for a great combo. Commented Sep 4, 2012 at 5:11
  • @KeithNicholas The FMAs I practice includes a lot of ground work, but that's obviously style-dependent. Plus much of it is Inosanto or Canete, which isn't typical. Agreed, though, mixing it up is almost always more effective. Commented Sep 5, 2012 at 0:43
  • @DaveNewton Inosanto's a Black Belt under one of the Machados. Are you sure the ground work you're learning is actually FMA and not BJJ?
    – Robin Ashe
    Commented Sep 5, 2012 at 8:35
  • @RobinAshe It's a mix of everything, not always clear which comes from what. Some of it is definitely silat, some is definitely BJJ, some is Filipino. In terms of percentages, anything I guess would probably be wildly incorrect. Commented Sep 5, 2012 at 12:19

A couple of options immediately spring to mind:

  • Aikido
  • the internal Chinese arts of Hsing - I, Ba Gua (Pa Kua) and Tai Chi

Aikido is reasonably well known and needs no introduction. The internal arts though are relatively unknown to a lot of people. They are separate arts and they are quite different to your tradition karate/TKD/jiu jutsu, they do have some similarities with kung fu. However I think you will be amazed at how they complement and enhance your current styles.

This is a brief explanation of how the external and internal arts differ (excerpted from the first link below, which appears to have been first published in the magazine Inside Kung Fu):

Although body mechanics and movements of external martial arts may vary greatly from style to style, the major difference between these and the internal styles is that external styles, while generating power through the coordination of the body as a whole, lack unity of motion in the internal arts sense. For example, many external martial arts strike using the power of the waist and upper body from the base of a stable stance, the blow would be relaxed during delivery, then tightened for an instant at impact This type of strike is capable of generating a great amount of power, with the force being produced mainly by the waist and striking limb. This whipping of a limb and tensing at impact is referred to as "sectional power" and differs from the whole body power of internal martial arts. The sequence of training in external martial arts also differs in purpose. In the early stages of training, external martial arts place greater emphasis on increasing strength and endurance as the "raw material" to be refined later into precise technique. Whereas the goal of internal style stance training is to train the nervous system into the feeling of a unified body, the external martial artist stands to increase the strength, endurance and flexibility. As a consequence, external stance training is usually lower and wider than that of the internal. Although an oversimplification, it may be said that the internal martial artist stands to cultivate feeling, while the external martial artist stands to develop strength. External martial artists often spend considerable time conditioning specific areas of the body, either to withstand impact or to increase sectional power. An external martial artist may especially condition the head, fists, elbows, shoulders, fingers, or emphasize a specific movement, resulting in the development of a specialized weapon. This is another example of the development of sectional power in the external martial arts. Once the martial artist has a strong foundation, form and technique training begins. Once again, the forms and techniques emphasized in external styles are designed around the sectional power developed through basic training.

In summary the moves that comprise the internal arts are executed differently than the external styles; they don't just rely on a measure of speed or power to determine effectiveness. The internal arts also tend to concentrate on attacking the internal meridians of the opponent, whereas the external arts concentrate on external vital points and the external meridians. What this means for you is less hard impact on your body, and a whole bunch of new techniques that will both complement and enhance your existing techniques.

Some references I dug up quickly (I'll endeavour to find some better links in a few hours time):

  • 1
    You describe two styles, but I see virtually no description of why one would practice these instead of anything else. Commented Aug 30, 2012 at 2:06
  • Aikido has way too many joint techniques to be safe if you already have bad joints. Not sure if that is relevant or not to this question... Commented Aug 30, 2012 at 7:38
  • OP is concerned about knee joints, not about joints in general. Aikido can be safe for knee joints.
    – MCW
    Commented Aug 5, 2014 at 10:35

Some interesting replies from people on here. Speaking as someone who works in the medical field and has studied martial arts most of my life I felt I had to add my part on this.

If your knees cause you problems then doing a martial art that uses a lot of leg work will exascerbate any problems and could make them worse. It might only be gradual but could easily lead to arthritis and potentially degradation of joints leading to replacements. I appreciate what people are saying about ice packs and ibuprofen but you do not want to have a reliance on these over a long time or even after each training episode. Pain does not equal gain. Capoeira requires a lot of suppleness and strength and has some incredibly acrobatic demands on the body. If you don't have a history of this then stay away. Ninjutsu and the other similar arts do not have a reliance on impact moves, in fact seem to push a relaxed body rather than the martial arts snap. Could be good but finding a good school is just so difficult. There are so many variations of this art. Tai chi is excellent and as someone mentioned. Can be extremely effective if the martial aspect is taught although it can take a long time to learn your specific form before they allow progression. However. It is a very good art and often recommended for anyone of a certain age. Aikido is a good soft art but requires a lot of kneeling If it self defence you are looking for and have a background in grappling, I would highly recommend the previous posters suggestion of wing chun. I have studied it for a long long time and have had on occasion been required to use it. It is extremely effective and the footwork will not put any stresses on any part of your legs. Another suggestion would be keysi, but again, finding a good school would be very difficult.

Hope this helps in any way possible and I wish you good luck.


Stylistically, I would go with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu; the emphasis on the ground does keep it safer. In fact, American Folkstyle Wrestling has rules that encourage more mat-work to reduce the risk of injuries during take-downs, which is where most wrestling injuries occur (I can dig up a source on that if you really want, but it'll take me a fair bit of time). Kosen Judo, which is really best described as Scholastic Judo, similarly has rules encouraging more time spent on the ground, likely for the same reason.

Finding a good school is really relevant here though. The meathead factor will be a big problem, and I've actually spent quite some time talking to people I know who have gone to various schools to figure out which one is the safest. It has more of an emphasis on drilling techniques than on sparring, which should control the risk of unexpected injuries better. The instructor is also a locally-certified group fitness instructor, which isn't mandatory for MA instructors here, but looking into whether the instructor has credentials specifically relating to teaching, and not just subject matter expertise would be a good idea.

For striking, I would lean towards boxing. The main reason being that boxing has far better protective gear than any other style. If you really want to protect your hands, there isn't really anything that comes close to Winning MS-600 gloves (and certainly nothing to protect your elbows or knees that's in that protective category, or even a few orders of magnitude down). The same goes for sparring: Winning FG-5000 headgear is about as protective as it gets, but not really appropriate for sparring that includes kicks as the facebar obscures vision. The down side is you'd end up spending near $1000 on all that stuff, but if you have the money I think it's a great investment, just like spending $150 on a custom mouth-guard instead of a $40 boil-and-bite.

As far as important qualities for a striking art goes - learning how to hit hard, sometimes sparring near 100%, and includes punches to the head - boxing has all the basics covered. The most common striking attack you're likely to face is a punch to the head, so it's very useful to know how to slip, block, and parry it. Whether you are taught to rely too much on the gloves to act as shields would depend on the instructor. Ideally, you'd find one that can teach you in multiple styles of boxing, and you can tell him that you're interested in self defense more than competition and get your advice tailored to that.

I can't think of anything that incorporates both grappling and striking, that has a low risk of injury, and is something I'd want to rely on while bouncing. To get both I think you'll have to split it up. A Jeet Kune Do school might work, although it's much harder to really predict what a JKD class might be like. Some of them go much more boxing-like, while others go much more Wing Chun-like. I wouldn't be surprised if there are people using Muay Thai or Karate as their JKD base, as well. You might find that you've got boxing-like JKD that lets you benefit from the great boxing protective gear that doesn't teach grappling, or you might also find a quite suitable one that teaches BJJ with a focus on safety at the same location.

I'll talk around to some of the older wrestlers that I know and see if there's a chance that Greco-Roman Wrestling is less injury-prone than Freestyle Wrestling or Judo. If it is, I think it would be a good idea to do as well. I don't think there's a safer default strategy than shutting down your opponent's attacks with a strong clinch and talking them down until they decide they don't want to fight that much after all ("I'm too old to be getting into fights any more, let's not do this, OK?"). If you end up getting hurt training though it's pretty counter-productive.


Have you thought about tai chi chuan? I know that westerners tend to think about it more as yoga than martial art but that's a terminology mess to be blamed on popular culture. There are schools that are treating tai chi chuan as a martial art though you might put some effort in finding one.

It is an internal art and it will give you freedom to go at your own pace and in accordance with your own body. Though moment might come from your background in Japanese arts (at least I had some problems about moving and distance due to my history in aikido and iaido). This switch might be very useful as it broadens your perspective.

Good thing is that Tai Chi Chuan is beneficial for health (your joints will thank you in a while) as it training incorporate Chi Gong. Also, Ba Qua Chang and other Chinese arts are very close and Tai Chi Chuan is more often than not an entrance point to several arts.

  • 1
    Good points although the asker isn't particularly interested in internal martial arts.
    – user15
    Commented Sep 20, 2012 at 16:22

About your question i think the best is Wing Chun is a great art, develop by a women and does not uses force, the base is kung fu style of the crane.

I train Jeet kune do and i am heavy. And Wing Chun is a great base in martial arts.

Wing chun is a martial arts system based on realistic self defence. It is designed for combat and not a sport!

Centreline theory - Wing Chun utilises an imaginary line between yourself and your opponent (shortest distance between two points). The centreline is the most direct line to the target; intercepting,capturing and controlling this line will give the Wing Chun fighter good advantage over the attacker. Along this line are many vulnerable points to strike e.g. eyes, nose, throat, solar plexus, abdomen and groin.

Wing Chun also uses simultaneous attack and defence, making your attack also your defence and vice versa, making the system very quick to deploy it's weaponry and deal with the problem.

Force Generation - force equals mass x acceleration, so by having a good stance and structure,staying relaxed and focusing your strike, using your body mass and synchronising the joints simultaneously (pivoting, stepping etc.), you will maximise acceleration thus allowing you to be able to strike hard, no matter what your size or gender.

From: http://www.conceptsdefence.com/wing_chun.html

It's a combat art, learning how to use your body syncronized and always using the center line.

The foot work doesn't go the waist up. it's not very fancy but it is good.

Being a heavy person, for me the Wing Chun system is very good.

  • I like the general points you raise (although I had to re-read it several times before I was able to pull the content out of the typographical/editing problems "the foot work doesn't go the waist up"?). On the other hand, isn't this true of all kinetic arts? I believe my Tai Chi instructor would say the same things about Tai Chi. Good answer - better answer would compare to other arts or discuss what makes wing chun unique/distinctive.
    – MCW
    Commented Sep 14, 2012 at 18:22
  • I has talking about wing chun in the foot work area, I am doing wing chun, tai chi just a little, i am not able to give a opinion yet about others martial arts.
    – DadViegas
    Commented Sep 17, 2012 at 8:48

Bujinkan Budotaijutsu (popular name in the west is Ninjutsu) lets you adapt the techniques to your own body, so everyone will find a way to execute the moves taught. No high kicks are taught. The only real acrobatics is break-falling, but once mastered, that will keep you from getting injuries.

I think jujitsu will be a good suite also, as it shares allot of techniques and philosophy with Budotaijutsu.

  • 1
    +1 just for mentioning bujinkan budotaijutsu - I've been waiting for a practitioner of that art. Close friend of mine studied it and I admired what she was taught.
    – MCW
    Commented Sep 25, 2012 at 14:44

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu my friend! A lot of people who get injuries from Judo go into BJJ as it's a lot softer on the joints as opposed to other martial arts such as Thai Boxing. It is also effective as opposed to pointless martial arts based on forms such as Karate or TKD that don't encourage sparring against a live opponent.


Ving tsun, wing chun, are easy one the legs, it's mostly close range hand techniques. Not as much pushing and pulling and jumping as other arts. The idea is to immobilize fast. Simultaneously as you defend you attack with speed. The first form builds strong tendons and joint in the arms. Speed comes with practice. The leg techniques are effective and relatively simple but the art is good with little kicking. The basic stance helped strengthen my legs and knees. It's always good to talk to your doctor before starting MA.


Although there are many answers, it doesn't seem like your question has been adequately addressed. You list two requirements:

  1. kind to my joints (etc.)
  2. practical outside the ring (by this I assume you mean you need to defend yourself)

I'm going to advocate a two part strategy.

Tai Chi training. Gun training.

I don't think there is any doubt that Tai Chi is gentle or your joints. Whether it's actually good for self defense is debatable (and the subject of other discussion which you can look at). In any case, it's good exercise.

A gun is very effective as self-defense. Get yourself a concealed weapon permit* and practice, practice, practice.

I think I've answered your question!

Dave *If you live somewhere where you can't get a concealed weapon permit or for some other reason can't operate a firearm safely my backup answer is well trained dog.


I'd like to address the "how to evaluate a school" part of the question from personal experience.

Brief context: I fenced foil in my teens, did aikido and wing chun in my 20s. I got osteoarthritis in my knees at age 35 (Dad blamed my dancing, I blamed all the kneeling from Catholic school). For years I couldn't walk without a stick; I even changed careers to avoid climbing, crawling, and prolonged standing. A combination of water exercise and weight training got me stickless again, rather to the docs' surprise, and I wanted to see how much farther I could go. Here's my take-away from sampling several classes:

  1. Watch the beginners' classes, and see if you can observe every teacher you might have; they're all individuals with their own approaches. Also, are there other over-40's or people with physical challenges in any of the classes?

  2. See if you can take at least one class before committing long-term. Some schools offer "experience" packages for a limited number of hours. Afterward, how does your body feel? Arts with a joint-friendly reputation may sometimes be taught in a really arduous way, or vice versa, and different bodies may react differently to the same stance or type of move.

  3. Find out if there are corollary commitments when you join, such as dojo-cleaning days that by default will put you on your hands and knees or up and down a ladder. You might bring your own ergonomic equipment to use instead. Also, in case you care: Is test-taking mandatory? Who gets to watch (just the class? assorted spectators? potentially the entire Internet)?

  4. Ask a student who's been there a couple of months, and one who's been there a couple of years, "off-campus" about their experiences. Anybody wearing a brace or wrap on a joint is your first choice.

  5. Keep a sharp inner eye on whether anything about the classes "pushes buttons" that could pit your psyche against your body. For instance, rationally I know I can't boss my body around anymore, only negotiate. But then put a gi jacket on me, fill my nostrils with warm wood and clean cotton, get me moderately tired, and I'm vulnerable to any exhortation to try and bulldoze personal limits. For which I will pay later. Most dearly.

  6. If you're like me, make your decision and settle into the beginner classes for a while before watching an advanced class and getting all excited by the cool things they get to do. It may be donkey's years before you get to pick up a stick, use live steel, spar full-contact or whatever. That can be depressing.

Now let's see what kind of stickynote goes on responses that are too LONG. . . )


Jonathan's answer covers a lot of good forms already, and I second the suggestions of his that I'm familiar with. I'd like to add a couple of my own suggestions.

Ninjutsu, Bunjinkan, Ninpo, and similar arts This family of arts has a number of names, but in my experience, they have a good blend of grappling, throwing, and striking, without all the acrobatics. Some schools will do weapon work, but most good ones will at least touch on a number of different weapons (not just swords, but also chain/rope weapons, staves of varying lengths, small pointy objects, and even firearms; never underestimate the usefulness of knowing how to use the "non-modern" weapons). A few schools may even teach shinobi-iri (stealth), intonjutsu (escaping and concealment), and hensojutsu (disguise and impersonation), which have a number of uses outside of the usual stereotypical situations where martial arts are applied.

Capoeira This Brazilian/African martial art is more acrobatic, but most of it comes from controlled, strength-based moves (handstands, rolls, etc), as opposed to jumping. It's not as much grappling, either, but I think it's worth mentioning due to its appeal toward older people, since it's generally practiced in a low-impact manner (I got to watch one of the local Capoeira groups, and several of the Capoeiristas were easily in their 50s). I've personally also found it intriguing, as it has many different uses, including being a martial art, a dance, and a game. If you have a group in your area, it would probably be worth checking out.

  • Capoeira????? That is just about the last martial art that I would recommend "for ageing bodies" ! Those capoeria dudes are insane (and cool)!
    – coltonon
    Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 3:13
  • /r/capoeira begs to differ (several didn't even start until their 40s) - reddit.com/r/capoeira/comments/158kgz/… A lot of what is generally practiced (for reasons other than showing off) is only "insane" to those who haven't learned the art, just like how many things in any other martial art are "insane" to a newbie or outsider. Also, Mestre Acordeon is over 70. If the leader(s) of your art are older than your parents, you really don't have an excuse in your age.
    – Shauna
    Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 21:22
  • Good point. I just meant, that by looking at videos, capoeira seems a bit intense for "ageing bodies".
    – coltonon
    Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 1:10

Wing Chun and Tai Chi, as you get older learning use of the cane and depending where you live yoga for physical fitness and a concealed carry permit.

  • 1
    Can you provide a more detailed explanation why those martial arts are better for aging bodies compared to others?
    – user15
    Commented Jul 27, 2013 at 13:51
  • Hey, wasn't wing chun ip-man's primary martial art?
    – coltonon
    Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 3:14

Boxing should be kind to your knees. Although you'd be hard-pressed to find a grappling style that was gentle on your joints.

  • Why would boxing be better on your joints compared to other martial arts? Can you provide a more thorough explanation?
    – user15
    Commented Jul 27, 2013 at 13:51

I would say any of the FMA's, Escrima, Kali, or Arnis. They are all weapon based arts that are easier on the joints than most martial arts.

  • 3
    Can you provide a more detailed explanation why those martial arts are better for aging bodies compared to others?
    – user15
    Commented Jul 27, 2013 at 13:51

I agree with dandellion, but I can't add a comment under his post (or upvote it) since I haven't built up enough reputation points yet.

Berin says he (I'm assuming. please correct me if I'm wrong) that he doesn't want to practice an internal art. I would challenge this statement by saying that it's a more-than-effective martial art in terms of practicality, and it's easy on the joints.

My tai chi chuan teacher learned his art while serving in the military in the 1970s. He has studied his art to learn many applications over the years. I come from a karate background, and he's very good about explaining how a tai chi chuan application can fit in with what I already know in karate.

Find a tai chi chuan class, and avoid tai chi classes. "Chuan" adds the "fist" element - the martial application. Tai chi is usually reserved for health purposes only, while tai chi chuan combines both health and martial aspects.

Yes, they are internal arts. But they shouldn't be mistaken for ineffective or useless.


Tai chi would typically be an ideal art for older people, but finding someone that really knows the martial aspects of the art today is darn near impossible.

Any of the softer more internal martial arts of the gung-fu family would certainly work as there are special techniques in gung-fu known as handicapped fighting which is helpful for those with physical limitations. Some other internal arts include Ba-Kua, Hsing-Yi and Liu Ho Ba Fa.

Dr. Yang Jwing Ming has some of the best, most complete books on martial arts available today. He has a number of books on Tai Chi from beginning to advanced, as well as books on the other internal martial arts styles mentioned above. He also has some very extensive and complete books on Chin-na (seizing and grappling art of gung-fu) and many other subjects such as breathing, meditation, internal energy cultivation and more. See a complete list of his books here; http://www.amazon.com/Yang-Jwing-Ming/e/B000APA9LA/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

Regarding your knees, strengthening them with a low horse stance can help to bring them back to life and give them greater endurance to handle the stress.

Also, get a product called TOPRICIN. It's an amazing homeopathic all natural cream that is amazing at reliving pain, but even more so, it's made to actually heal injuries, including crushing injuries, nerves, sciatica, trauma injuries to joints, muscles, nerves and bones.

I threw out my back six months ago while sneezing as a leaned over the sink, 3 times. It was originally injured 28 years ago in a motorcycle accident, but my gung-fu had mostly healed it. It would stiffen up if I stood or sat for too long and often bothered me when sleeping. It felt like someone slammed me in the back with a sledge hammer each time. I was walking with a cane for the first week and it was only slowly getting better a month later, even with using massage, chi-gung, acupressure and tiger balm.

Upon using this product, the next day my back was 60% better, as I could stand up almost normally and walk without the cane. 5 days later it was not only better, it was better than it had been in the past 28 years. I always had to be sure to lift anything heavy using my legs. Now, I can literally use my lower back to lift things and I could only do that before the accident when I was 18.

It's been over six months and it hasn't bothered me since then, this stuff is like something from sci-fi in how well it heals. It has something like 4.75 stars in over 400 ratings on Amazon.

My friend Rob who has had a bad back threw it out when moving his heavy TV just a few months ago. He had to go to the chiropractor and spend $80 in two days which is money he can't spare. I told him about the product and he had the exact same result. The next day he was able to stand normally and within 5 days, his back was totally healed. I also told him to use it on his hip that was a bit arthritic and his knee that hurt him ever since he broke his ankle 20 years prior.. it healed them all in just a few days and they haven't bothered him in months.

So I'm sure this product will do a lot to for your knees, if not heal it almost totally. It's surely worth giving it a try as a small two ounce tube is only about $14 and it has no smell, is not greasy and works amazingly.


I'm struggling with the same problem given with my height, weight and my medical status:

  • right knee injury 2 years ago
  • gout
  • knee displasion

and I've been pondering the same question about which martial art I can practice to the fullest of my capabilities long term (note I'm 33 years old) given my medical conditions.

I've found that it's just not the art but also how you approach it. Longer stretching and warm up times prior to practice and after practice really help me with the prevention of pain and injury.

Based on my experience the following arts are good :

  • JKD (love line hitting, wing chun elements and flow drills)
  • BJJ
  • Esckrima (stick based)
  • Tai chi

I've practiced Escrima and JKD with my son and my less than developed girlfriend and they could adapt to the techniques since they are not strength-based and can be tailored to various body types.


Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a great martial art to practice in terms of longevity. Possibly the best evidence of this is the fact that the largest BJJ organization, the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF), has a wide variety of age divisions for competitors. There is even an annual World Master Championship (age divisions starting at 30 years of age with no cap).

Since the OP was looking for something that doesn't heavily involve flying techniques, has practical "street" applications, and includes grappling and striking, BJJ is a good fit as it meets all of these requirements. Flying techniques are limited and not required, and the original Gracie Jiu-Jitsu/Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu art was solely for self defense so it incorporates both grappling and striking. It is worth mentioning, though, that some schools don't cover striking, as some schools employ a purely competition-based curriculum.

  • 1
    Any evidence to support your claims? We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed. Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 8:36
  • Why is that true of BJJ and not of any other art? Many arts emphasize technique over strength.
    – MCW
    Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 10:16
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    @Mark C. Wallace, I didn't state that BJJ is the only art that emphasizes technique over strength. I suppose that the vast majority of martial arts, if not every single one, follow that same idea. The OP was looking for something that doesn't heavily involve flying techniques, has practical "street" applications, and includes grappling and striking. BJJ meets all of these requirements (although I did mention that some schools don't cover striking, as it is outside of a purely competition-based curriculum). Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 15:49
  • @gorilly: can you edit your answer with the evidence you provide in the comment. Comments are ephemeral and will be deleted. Although, only the age division is evidence, the rest is anecdotal which is not evidence. Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 15:58

I personally think that whatever style you choose will be a problem at some point, there are plenty of styles suggested here and you will always have to move on your legs ... currently your issue is landing/jumping kicks, in some years it will be fast attacks, sudden direction changes etc. that will cause issues.

I think you should (sorry no offense!) be thinking about loosing some weight and incorporate some sort of heavy barbell strength training ex. squats, deadlifts and presses to strengthen your legs in a different way.

The last point I want to mention is, we are all not getting younger, if you see that the strength training and loosing some weight doesn´t help, simply try to avoid jumping kicks... because you can´t do certain moves, that doesn´t mean that you have to change the style/s you are currently doing. The path is the goal and we need to adapt to the physical demands and progressions.

What I can say, for me (I´m 275 lbs, and in mid 40s) the strength training did wonders, especially the squats. I was always into calisthenics (the oldschool thinking in boxing) and when I got havier and older, explosive moves, jumping and kicking caused a lot pain in my knees and hips - sometimes after prolonged high kick sessions I could barely stand on the legs because of pain.

If, for whatever reason, you choose to change styles, I´m currently doing Krav-Maga, where high-kicks are rare. The training is hard and there are different styles incorporated - grappling, punching, kicking even the realistic topic is included. if you have a school nearby where you live, I would suggest to stop by and have a look.

Happy kicking.

  • As a long overdue update, I'm currently no longer doing martial arts, but I am doing a combination of power lifting and strongman training. It's been a fun pursuit in and of itself. Commented Feb 22, 2016 at 17:36
  • Nice to hear that, I'm into some kind bulgarian style of training for the 3 main lifts and include a lot pressing (jerks, push press and military) in my workouts ... this is my current focus, the Krav-Maga stuff is just for my own competitive - me, that likes to punch + kick and Wrestling around with other same minded and age guys. Thanks for notification !
    – mitro
    Commented Feb 22, 2016 at 18:03

Many people suggest taking up Aikido if one is an older beginner student. Personally I would hesitate to recommend that. Almost all Aikido techniques involve take downs or throws and if you don't fall or roll correctly (which can take take a long time to learn) you can seriously hurt yourself. It would be very easy to dislocate a shoulder or break a collar bone while practising Aikido. I know from experience. Aikido is a fascinating martial art and beautiful to watch but just be aware that there is potential for a serious injury if not done correctly.

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    "...serious injury if not done correctly" wouldn't this apply to all martial arts? If not, which one would you recommend?
    – THelper
    Commented May 18, 2015 at 11:38
  • I would recommend Tai Chi for older students, much gentler on the body.
    – James
    Commented May 24, 2015 at 14:54

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