I have been training on and off in various martial arts since I was a teenager; now I'm nearing 50 and my body is certainly not what it used to be.

I trained for over 10 years in tae kwon do and I've done a little judo and Brazilian jujitsu; loved them all but they are pretty tough on an aging body! I also deal with vertigo which makes it difficult to train in throwing and grappling arts.

So I have decided I need to find another art that is more suitable for me now. I don't really have any interest in tai chi and I love weapons training but I'll consider any style. I'm searching for an art that will keep me active, and I've always enjoyed the camaraderie that can be found in martial arts.

Edit: Thanks for all the suggestions so far! Just for clarification on my vertigo. I have positional vertigo, which means I'm usually fine standing up, even with a lot of movement. But laying down or similar positions can trigger it. so grappling, being thrown or rolls may trigger it. Now if I have a bad episode of vertigo, I could be slightly dizzy and unstable on my feet for days or even weeks. But I've never had vertigo start while I'm on my feet.


6 Answers 6


I've been In a similar situation after 13+ years of judo. I'm a fan of more formal training so I choose shotokan karate due mainly to the before mentioned formal part and positions that will improve my my posture, also the kumite is very controlled. Make sure you explain you situation to the instructors and choose a nice dojo. Dojos are a reflexion of the people, you may find more competitive Dojos, more formal ones or if you are lucky ones that may incorporate all sorts of training.

Good luck and keep training

  • 1
    The problem with this (and the OPs question) is that if you don't practise a martial art that involves hard sparring (like Judo), there's no way to prove how effective it is! This is why you don't see Wing Chun, Krav Maga or Tai Chi 'masters' fighting in MMA. Martial Arts (legitimate ones) are inherently hard on the body.
    – Cloud
    Commented Sep 19, 2019 at 16:21

First, let's talk about your vertigo issue. Vertigo means you lose your balance and can fall down during spells of vertigo. It can be triggered by some types of exercise, but in many cases it comes seemingly at random times. Sometimes it lasts just a few seconds. Other times it can be ongoing for hours or even days. When that happens, you pretty much can't do anything.

So vertigo can mean that you have issues with pretty much any martial art, standing or not.

What you might not realize is that the more head movement you do in the vertical plane (going from being upright to being bent over), will increase the likelihood of having an episode of vertigo. And so, I think that rules out ground-based grappling arts such as Judo, BJJ, wrestling, Sambo, and so on.

So above all else with vertigo, you want to minimize your head movement, particularly in the vertical plane. That means that styles like Capoeira, wushu kung-fu, and Taekwondo are probably out. They do a lot of spinning techniques like the tornado kick, and they also do some quick, bending over techniques like the butterfly kick. Capoeira spends a lot of time going from high to low and back again.

You've also stated that grappling arts like BJJ and Judo are too hard on your body. I think what you're getting at is that you don't want to have to struggle too much, exhausting yourself against an opponent who's grappling with you. That requires a lot of strenuous, muscle fatiguing exercise. And that's not what you want at your age. Fine for when you were younger, but now it's just not what you're looking for.

You indicated a preference for weapons based styles. Let me focus on that. For weapons, you might consider one of the following: Filipino martial arts (escrima / kali), silat, kung-fu, kendo, fencing, archery, kobudo, classical jujitsu (samurai ryu with weapons training), and bujinkan ninjutsu.

Of those, I think FMA (escrima / kali) might be the right fit for you. Yes, you'll be standing, so your vertigo can kick in at any moment. But all of them are standing, so you're going to run into the same issues with any of them.

As for head movement, FMA doesn't actually have a lot of head movement in general. There's a lot less than many other styles. At advanced levels, you can see FMA people doing "level changes" (essentially going from completely standing to almost squatting), but it's usually while keeping the head upright, not bending over. I think this is generally favorable for vertigo, or at least more favorable than most martial arts that employ level changes.

FMA starts you off with weapons from day one, usually with a pair of escrima. The techniques you learn will work interchangeably with knives, machete, and unarmed combat. That makes it fairly useful and realistic for modern self-defense, particularly for older people who can't rely on their muscles and athleticism like they used to. Yes, you will use your arms a lot in FMA, but it's nothing like BJJ or wrestling.

FMA systems are generally designed to give you quick, linear progression. There are generally no belts or rank. This can be very appealing to someone who's older. You don't care about rank, and you just want someone to bring you up to speed on something really quickly without a lot of BS.

In about 3 to 6 months of training 2 to 3 days a week, you'll be able to defend yourself quite well with a knife on the street. At least against unarmed assailants. The rest of your time after that will be mostly preparing you for fighting people who are armed with weapons also. That takes the most time to master. Sparring with practice knives (rubber) or with escrima will show you how hard it is.

Something else you might be interested in would be either Wing Chun kung-fu or Southern Praying Mantis kung-fu. Both those styles have a very stable head that doesn't bob around a lot. The stances are meant to be more or less stationary, perfect for when you're in enclosed areas without a lot of room to move around. And they have weapons training. Of those two, my preference would be for Wing Chun, because SPM requires years of doing essentially one basic, solo form over and over again until your instructor says you're ready to move on. Whereas Wing Chun progresses you much more quickly.

As always, don't begin any new exercise regimen without first consulting your doctor.

Hope that helps.


I'm past that age; I've had brushed with BPV (Benign Postural Vertigo), but training partners have had it worse. Most of my time I spend in Aikido (but we're an aging dojo and we accommodate a variety of physical challenges. Those with BPV don't take falls, ), and practicing Taiji (Tai Chi). Taiji push hands can range from very gentle to very athletic, and can adapt to most physical challenges. I can also recommend weapons based forms (jodo, kendo, etc.)


I'm with Steve on this matter (nice post btw). The only thing I might add is Aikido as it is (especially in beginning stages) a more slow and fluent way of martial arts. But as for the vertigo you might have to consider the fact that there will be some falling involved. I'm practicing traditional Japanese Jiu-Jitsu and it's not that physically demanding as well (until let's say a blue belt).

In my opinion the most important thing is to find a club where teachers and members respect each other's limitations.

Good luck!

  • *"some falling involved" - quite a bit of rolling too (mostly forward rolls though), but as you say not normally too violently....
    – Tony D
    Commented Feb 9, 2019 at 7:30
  • Correct but it's very "controlled". Before our training there's an aikido training. It's really beautiful to spectate and for as far as I can see it's more technical than violent...
    – Kimme
    Commented Feb 9, 2019 at 12:32

As someone who's fast approaching forty, I'm running into a similar problem. I'm in good shape, and I've maintained my strength, endurance, and flexibility, but it's getting harder to recover, especially when I experience injury. I'm going to suggest to you my current chosen art, Capoeira.

This may seem like an odd fit given when most people think of Capoeira, they think of flashy flips and handstands, but there's another level of the game, which is about strategy and slow stable movements. Capoeira Angola, in particular, tends to focus on this, as compared to Regional or Contemporânea. I gave this as an answer at Old student looking for a new style as well, where I noted that some of the mestres were practicing capoeira well into their 80s. As regards your vertigo, the low slow game involves fewer of the flashier spinning kicks that might antagonize your condition, although if inversion triggers your symptoms, that may be more of an issue.


As a corollary to Steve's answer, mentioning fencing, you might take a look at whether there is a Society of Creative Anachronism (SCA) group in your area. It would have the weapon work you are looking for, it's mostly upright, and there's generally a substantial community feeling with a lot of non-martial arts options such as heraldry and the like for days when you just want to hang out with your new friends instead of fighting. As a bonus, from my experience, there's an older population involved in general, so you won't feel out of place. I will warn you, though, that the politics can get a bit ridiculous. Because people often roleplay medieval hierarchy in a lot of the organizations, it slips into general practice, so you actually have to worry about who you're friends with, or you may find that people just don't keep you abreast of what's going on in the organization.

Alternately, if you want to avoid some of the politics, there are always Historical European martial arts (HEMA) groups out there. Again, the focus is on being upright (while the armor they wore back then was easier to move in than the common culture depicts it as, you still weren't likely to just be kipping back up on the battlefield), and it has the weaponry you're looking at. It does tend to be a bit more martial, so keep that in mind when considering wear and tear on your body.

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