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I have done "intro's" to a few martial arts when I was younger, now in mid 40's and reasonably good health. I am trying to find a martial art that would be easier for me to learn at this age (easier on the joints due to stiffness not injury, etc). I tend towards a well developed spatial intelligence due to break dancing most of my life, and was better at Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu naturally than other martial arts.

I am seeking a martial art that will take advantage of my background in dancing be easier on joints (stretching), but effective. I was looking toward BJJ again, Thai boxing, Wing Chun, possibly even soft styles including Tai Chi. I appreciate your help.

  • I appreciate all of your help. To clarify, I am not in fear of joint damage by manipulation but my knees, back are "old man stiff". I won't be doing any "Kill Bill" style moves any time soon, not that it was possible when I was young either. I would agree that the Sensi and dojo are important. – JayCouture.com Oct 20 '14 at 9:08
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    I feel an important piece of information here is "why do you want to practice a martial art?". – Thien Oct 22 '14 at 13:46
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    This is always a very subjective question. Everyone will have their own opinions based on their own experience. – AquaAlex Oct 31 '14 at 11:18
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The style matters less than who is teaching it.

The same style can be taught very differently by different people. I would look for location first: your dojo/gym/training place should be within easy travel distance of where you are. I would say less than an hour's drive (both ways) but that might vary depending on how much you generally travel.

Secondly, which place did you have the most fun and interesting when you tried it? Which of those places had the most helpful students? Which had students with fewer injuries?

Thirdly, if you start one martial art, you are not married to it! You can stop and start another without seeing a lawyer. If you have two (or even three) different places you like, train at each for a few weeks and see if it's for you.

Finally, since you have a background in dance, did you ever try Capoeira?...

Note: You might find these answers useful as well: What martial art should I start with? and How to select the right Aikido dojo?

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May I also recommend doing Taichi along with whatever other martial art you decide to learn. You may have to search for a teacher who knows the martial arts side of Taichi, but generally when you do they are overjoyed to find a student interested in that aspect.

Learning Taichi along with your martial art will work to fix up posture mis-alignments, free up your hip movement (which for us 40+'s-ers is pretty essential), get your body working as a single unit.

One lesson a week should do it; you'll see the results feed back into your martial art within a year, especially if you also practice at home a few minutes a day.

Don't be put off by the stereotype of the Taichi class full of old ladies - look for a class with a larger age spread.

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For what it's worth I was in pretty much the same place as you - in my 40s and in need of some kind of activity to stay fit while being nice to my knees. Boxing did the trick for me. It is relatively easy to learn in the sense that it is conecptually simple (you are only having to deal with striking) but is incredibly challenging to master... especially the footwork which your background with breakdancing should help with.

In terms of effectiveness, well that depends on what you mean. If you mean "effective at getting me fit" absolutely boxing is a great place to go. If you mean "effective at self defence" I suspect that the answer is not going to be so much the style of martial art but how much sparring practice you get....

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From your background, BJJ could be the easiest choice: you've already practiced it, it does benefit from breakdancing (read the story of the Martinez brothers at 10th Planet Vista), you were good at it. It does require flexibility though, but you can always work on it.

That said, I think the main point is not what is the easiest choice, but rather the most rewarding one long-term; in other words, think about what you can get from a martial art, not what you can give to it.

You might need a sound combat system, you might want to place more emphasis on body development, or maybe on introspection and body-mind connection, or maybe you just want to have a good time doing it.

Figure out what you're looking for, ask experts of different martial arts if you want to, eventually go out and try and see what works for you.

Keep in mind that your experience in an actual class depends on many factors, such as the teacher, the martial style, the place, the fellows.

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We don't have a huge amount to go on here:

  • Easier on the [stiff] joints: suggests you might want to avoid an art with a lot of vigorous joint locking, such as ju jitsu or hapkido; on the other hand something that does twist the joints but less aggressively might actually help you in feeling less stiff - e.g. aikido, taichi.

  • spatial intelligence / break-dancing: that should benefit almost any art - in some it's absolutely necessary (e.g. hapkido or bagua/pakua - you simply can't apply many techniques effectively without excellent timing, positioning, posture, footwork), and with others it'll give you an edge over those who stand still and want to slug it out (e.g. some folks in muay thai, kickboxing, contact karate etc.).

  • "but effective" - that rules out a casual interest in all but the most combat oriented schools of tai chi or aikido, and probably best to avoid hapkido (without a big effort you'll inevitably be a jack of all trades and master of none); better options include muay thai, kick boxing, karate, boxing, BJJ, MMA, savate, krav maga, wing chun....

So, basically all I've been able to do is recommend against hard joint locking styles (mainly ju jitsu), styles that take too long to use effectively (tai chi, aikido for staying "soft" too long, hapkido for trying to teach everything at once). Remaining options are pretty much any form of striking... maybe pick something based on just how much contact you're comfortable with. Thai boxing / kick boxing will be at one extreme, kyokushin about there too, most shotokan karate systems will have less contact, as will wing chun.

All that said, many people find themselves limited by the nearby schools - if there's a couple strong candidates and you visit them and can't decide, ask again with the specifics of what you've seen and wondered about....

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