I am a 61 year old black belt and have been in and out of the martial arts. I have searched many styles looking for a style geared to Karate for people like me. Over the years I became disgusted with the way the martial arts have changed and become so very violent. That is not karate or what I call the true way. Every school I and my wife visited was different and we were told always "Try Tai chi". Tai Chi is good, but we wanted Karate. Other styles were all about how violent you could be, brother what a joke. Then we began to create a style just for us and borrowed Taikyoku, Tensho, Gekisai, Chinte, Jitte, and even created our own kata and combined them with TKD forms and Bassai Dai that we already know. Suddenly we are told we can't do that. Isn't there any karate style that is about health and not trying to be Bruce Lee. Thank you C. Schmid.

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    "Suddenly we are told we can't do that." By who? Why not? Should you care? Nov 19, 2014 at 12:33
  • We have people in their mid to upper 50s at my dojo. I am 32. I think we even have one new student who is 59 or 60. I practice Hayashi-ha Shito-ryu Karate-do.
    – Thien
    May 21, 2015 at 18:52

7 Answers 7


First of all, I think you can shop around in your local area and try to find schools that share your mindset. Chances are there are some. You just have to talk with the instructors and see what the classes are like.

I'm not exactly sure how karate has changed over the years to become more violent, as you noticed. To me, it looks like it hasn't changed at all. Perhaps it's not karate that has changed, but maybe you've grown more sensitive to it over the years? Or maybe your particular school has become more oriented towards self-defense or heavy-contact sparring over time? Those are qualities that vary from school to school, so you should do some shopping.

Taekwondo to me always seemed to be more about physical and spiritual growth than being good at fighting. But Taekwondo may not be the best martial art for older people, in my opinion, as it may be hard on the joints. Same with something like Shotokan karate, which is actually the parent style of Taekwondo.

But on this subject, I remember seeing a TV interview of a Korean karate master who is located in Houston, and he said he redesigned his martial art so that older people could do it. His primary focus was on reducing joint damage. The goal was to be able to practice his style for the rest of ones life. He says his martial art follows the "natural way" of the body, never doing any "artificial" movement. Doing that, he says, reduces the risk of injuring oneself, especially as you progress. And he writes quite a bit about how his style is not for violence. To me, it sounds like a pretty good match for what you want.

So if you're interested, you might check into this style. They have groups all across the U.S. and some in other countries:

I have no experience with this style or anyone from it, myself. It's just something I recalled when I read your question.

They are a Korean group, but their lineage seems to indicate that it actually comes mostly from Okinawan and Japanese karate, in addition to Chinese kung-fu and Korean arts. It looks like it's mostly karate to me. So in other words, I wouldn't let the fact that it's a Korean version of karate worry you. They may even do the forms you already know.

Speaking of forms, nobody can tell you not to make your own forms. What you described is perfectly fine - taking from Shotokan karate forms and Taekwondo forms, combining them. It's just that those are your own forms. You can do them on your own, just don't try to teach or practice them at your instructor's school without your instructor's okay.

Heck, I saw a video whereby an older, grey haired, church-going guy decided to make his own karate forms. His forms are meant to be done while reciting a particular prayer, believe it or not. None of it looked very practical at all, like he had any idea of how to use forms for self-defense. And I thought it was hilarious and cheesy, but it's fine. It's probably very good physical and mental exercise for the elderly.

Oh, I found the video:

By the way, in some martial arts, it's expected that you will make your own form as part of your belt testing requirements or for a tournament. There are, for example, "musical" forms whereby you make a form to match some music which plays in the background. Many Jhoon Rhee Taekwondo groups do that. By a certain level of training, you've seen enough forms that you can make your own up on the spot. Adding the music to it is just another thing you can do to make it more enjoyable or memorable.

Hope that helps.

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    Cheesy, yes, but not bad for an old guy. "On Earth" <hits you in the groin> "As it is in heaven" <pokes you in the eye> lmao Nov 19, 2014 at 13:55

As far as styles "geared for" older people, I don't know any. I do not believe Tai Chi was created for old people specifically. But there are styles that older people can do, which is not to say they will do them better than a younger, more athletic person.


Sounds like you want an internal martial art but dislike the flavor of Chinese martial arts. That's fine, not everyone does. I suggest Aikido for those with a background in Judo or Karate who want something "softer" (which here means it still hurts... a lot... but you don't get injured... as much). The breakfalls will be the hardest hill for you to climb, and seiza position will hurt, especially if you have knee issues. But you won't be doing the flying spinning triple 180 axe kicks that kill TKDers knees in the long run.

And, most importantly, it emphasizes non-violent resolution to conflict. Injuring the opponent, even if he has a knife or gun and is trying to kill you, is considered an improperly done technique in Aikido. I disagree with this wholeheartedly, but if that's the ethos you're going for, sounds like Aikido might be the one for you.

That said, what was wrong with creating your own Karate? As long as you don't try to brand it as classical Karate, why is there a problem?

  • Your apparent opinions of Aikido and my experience of it are really really light years apart... ^_~ Nov 19, 2014 at 14:09
  • @Sardathrion, What part specifically? Nov 19, 2014 at 14:25
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    Both Yoshinkan and Shodokan Aikido are aimed at young (and very) fit people: the training can be extremely hard indeed. Break falls (as you say) are hard and take a while to become second nature but before they are, you cannot safely practice. As for the non-violent resolution to conflict, any Aikido technique will leave someone who does not know how to escape safely from it in a lot of pain and potentially broken. I've trained with LEO and military personnel who used Aikido in the field. None consider it improper technique if their attacker was hurt if none excessive force was used. Nov 19, 2014 at 14:59
  • nod I don't see any conflict between what you said and what I said about breakfalls. It seems like the main issue is non-violence. When I mention non-violence, I'm talking about Ueshiba's words and teachings. I'm well aware that not all or even most dojos conform to this teaching, which I suppose I should have said. Nov 19, 2014 at 15:02
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    Yup. Maybe the original poster did not mean that the only choices had to be something like karate, or maybe he'll reconsider. Aikido seems like a perfect alternative to me. Nov 19, 2014 at 20:09

Suddenly we are told we can't do that

As mentioned by Wudang Kid, whaaaatt??!!! Nobody - absolutely nobody - can tell you to not practice any specific kata etc. Even if you are practicing a specialised form that someone has protected as their intellectual property, the most they can do is stop you from teaching it to others (i.e. they can stop you from profiting from it).

Then we began to create a style just for us and borrowed... [snip]

You've done the right thing. This is exactly how karate has always evolved - a student spends time learning, then ultimately they take what suits them and their circumstances and discard the rest. Even if that student stays strictly within a style they always end up putting their own spin on techniques, or they (de)emphasize what they prefer.

Ultimately you shouldn't need to try and source a new school or instructor, unless you feel that you still need regular instruction. Instead you should be able to get by with an occasional session and continue practicing and evolving what you know. While your style is predominantly based on karate there is no reason why you cannot build in elements of other styles as you see fit - it's your style.

If you do become a regular student at another school, you have to be prepared to be immersed in their way of doing things. If you instead arrange to attend occasionally as a guest then you can largely avoid that immersion. Of course that arrangement is up to the particular school or instructor, some schools may not entertain that. If that is the case then build personal relationships with specific instructors, I think you'll find that most are quite open to training outside the school especially if there is something for them to gain from it.

The best thing you can do to progress yourself is to continue to study the specifics of the kata you've chosen. Remember that you've "borrowed" nothing - those kata were yours to take.


I agree with most of the others, in that if someone said, "You can't do that" I would look at them with a quizzical expression and be on my merry way. People have started their own martial arts because they were told "you can't do that" in what ever style they were practicing.

In something like MMA you borrow from all schools.

I am not really belted but I've received some training in a few of the arts, Karate, Taekwondo and Judo mainly and each has it's purpose. My legs aren't quite flexible enough for me to be especially good at Taekwondo although at one time I could kick quite well, as I've aged they've gotten lower, but with Karate's punches and Judo's moves I have quite a bit of control. There was also training I received in the Marine Corps and other practices I've picked up here and there (meditation, starting tai chi, etc..) that I've included in my routine.

I'm generally not a fighter and try not to, but when I do have to fight I don't lose, but I also usually don't hurt the other person either, I use martial arts for self defense.

As I've aged (I'm 50 now) I've adjusted my techniques to fit my body, and everyone who's said "you can't do that" I'd simply smile, nod my head and walk away and do what I wanted anyway. They may feel that they can't do that, but that doesn't stop me from doing it.


It would really depend on what you look like at 61. If you're in really great shape, you have a much larger pool of martial arts to pick from. If you're not in particularly great shape (but still able to punch someone's lights out), your options are much more limited.

Ironically, given your last sentence, Bruce Lee's Jeet Kune Do might actually be a good option. Sure, it helps a lot if you're really quick but unless you plan on competing at a national level, I don't foresee you having much difficulty with your 61 year old frame.

If you're just in it for the health benefits, there are few styles that come close to Taekwondo, though. Muay Thai might have harder training and conditioning, but Taekwondo can't be beat for keeping your body supple and your mind sharp.


I've adapted the external forms I enjoy to "old man style" over 40, practiced with higher stances and less focusing. (Low stances are great for training, especially in youth, but have the downside of less mobility, both in the lower and upper body.)

This is because in middle age, I've practiced sufficiently that I don't need to execute full power strikes or stomps in practice, with assurance I can rely on them if ever needed in a real world situation. (I've never been fond of striking except into joints or soft tissue, and prefer palm strikes wherever possible. That said, nothing like a quick throat punch with the middle knuckles to let an attacker know you are serious:)

Although I practice Chinese boxing, with focus on internal styles, I once saw a gray haired Karate master who greatly impressed me, b/c he practiced the art elegantly, with no excess power. Rather than going directly into an attacker with maximum brutality, like all of the other karate masters in the exhibition, this grey haired master would adjust his position so that when the attacker was committed, the master would be positioned to neutralize them with minimal effort.

I know far too many practitoners over 60 who have not sufficiently adapted their practice, and end up having to get knee & hip replacements, and eventually cripple themselves. Note that professional athletes in high impact sports such as football tend not to move well in their advancing years, and are typically plagued by constant pain.

In some sense you might say that my middle-aged practice is mostly concerned with executing the techniques properly, exerting minimal required energy, with the underlying intent of avoiding injury without compromising the martial applications.

I think it's fair to say, watching the Ueshiba films from the end of his life, that an older practitioner can still be entirely effective, just that they can no longer rely on brute force.


it may be worth considering wing chun.

mainly because many other arts mentioned are hard on the body from a physical training point of view to actually execute the moves.

Note this is not based on any personal experience, only research from books and personal observations that there seem to be more older people seem to continue to practice the art into old age.

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