View Full Version : Advice for Aikido Late Starters

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04-16-2013, 12:10 PM
I started aikido at the ripe old age of 52 having never taken a days exercise in my life (although only mildly overweght!). Surprisingly I coped with the body shock reasonably well and only ever experienced the usual aches and pains associated with using muscles I never knew I had.

The first 2 years passed without any major aches and pains but as I moved towards green belt the trouble started. At first it was my knees, then my shoulders. Reduced mobility and some serious pain particularly when certain techniques were applied eg Ikkyo.

I tried conventional medicine (GP), painkillers, ignoring it and carrying on, physio, massage, shiatsu, kiatsu, thisandthatsu, eventually ending up in sports osteopathy where a sensible explanation helped me to recover just in time to take my first dan (4 months to go!) at the age of 56.

It seems the problems are caused by taking up aikido late in life (two others in my club have similar experiences). After a mainly sedentary adult life sitting in an office chair for 70% of my working day and driving 2 hours a day in a fixed position, apparently ligaments/tendons shorten as your body doesn't think you need all that spare movement any more.

Then you rush out and without warning start stretching and bending joints far beyond what they have experienced over the last 30 years. Small tears occur but heal and only cause limited impairment of movement but scar tissue will build up reducing elasticity until you eventually push it just a bit more than is comfortable and bingo - time out for a month - or worse.

The answer - stretching exrecises. Restore the lost elasticity by regular small stretching of those key joints. In just a few months my shoulder and knee mobility has been almost completely restored and the pain has stopped. In addition, take Glucosamine and Choithondrin supplements and Fish Oils - we dont make enough of the stuff that makes cartilage as we get older and constant kneeling and getting up and down will take its toll, you need to add more into your system or it will never make enough to replace what is needed.

I just thought I'd share this with any late starters who rushed into aikido like I did thinking I could manage the heat. Dont omit those stretches from day 1, build those hamstrings, do squats regualrly, stretch shoulders and elbow joints daily, take mobility supplements and you will be able to enjoy your aikido pain free and for a lot longer.

I know this will seem obvious to those of you involved in sport in your early years, but I took up aikido because I had to do something late in life to combat diabetes. I learned the hard way how not to do it, I just hope this may be of some use to anyone else just starting out late in life.

04-16-2013, 05:19 PM
I started Aikido at 44.
I am 62 now.
Welcome to the mat.

04-16-2013, 05:25 PM
Kudos for getting on the mat in the first place. It takes courage and determination for everybody, but for you it also involves other pains than young people will feel. You are going through the first years where rolling must be learned and where endless hours of hard training is necessary to build the ability that will help you get through training easier later on. It's a hard task you've taken upon yourself but please remember to:
Take care of yourself - give your body the necessary time to get ready
Focus on what you learn in stead of what you haven't picked up yet
Enjoy what you do


Rupert Atkinson
04-17-2013, 10:49 PM
If your body is showing anti_Aikido serious symptoms (knees for starters), I suggest you quit and do Taichi instead. Start swimming too. Most Taichi is easy (some is not) on the body. Then, later, try Aikido again. Or, try a different school of Aikido as training regimen vary significantly. Or, if you like it, stick with Taichi.

graham christian
04-18-2013, 06:45 AM
Nicely put Derek.

Nutrition, a major factor of maintenance. For elasticity of muscles ie: balance, magnesium. Works best with calcium in a ratio of two parts calcium to one part magnesium. Dolomite is good source for this ratio.


04-18-2013, 09:32 AM

04-21-2013, 12:43 PM
I started at 45, essentially in an effort to maintain fitness into older age, and began training in Asia where it seemed EVERYBODY was more flexible and limber than me; not just the kids. Since then I've learned:
Learn to roll: PROPERLY. The best indicator of rolling correctly is that you don't make noise.
Stretch: A LOT. If you only stretch at the dojo (maybe 2X a week), you are always playing catch-up.
Train: OFTEN. The hardest periods are those when I've missed training for weeks (months) and returned.

I am blessed that my teacher is probably the fittest person I ever met, and she incorporates a great deal of Yoga into our warm-ups, along with sensational core exercises, so we do an ab workout that most would never do at home. It's great!

Approaching 59, yeah, I have aches and pains, but cannot imagine NOT training, nor what I would be like without Aikido in my life.

:square: :circle: :triangle:

Walter Martindale
04-21-2013, 02:00 PM
Started at 40. Now 59. Unfortunately off the mats for the last two years. it shows.

04-21-2013, 06:31 PM
Derek, that's some great advice for everyone, not just those who start practice late in life. Stretch, and add nutritional supplementation to combat potential problems with proper dietary intake.

Ya gotta have the right tools for the machine to fix itself properly.

Mark Uttech
04-21-2013, 06:33 PM
Onegaishimasu, I started at 31. I recently turned 60. Can still do a little bit of everything, I think it is because I just do a little bit of everything. I consider aikido a 'whole body' art . I don't push anything. I don't try to keep up with anyone. The best advice I ever received, from two different buddhist priests was the same two words: "Keep going"

In gassho,


04-22-2013, 07:11 AM
In one of Stefan Stenudd's books there is a picture of a japanese sensei doing forward ukemi at age 81. If I am able to do that at that age, then all the hours in the dojo would be well worth it - and then on top it's even fun :)

04-22-2013, 01:30 PM
Thanks for the positivity everyone. But Rupert - Tai Chi? Isn't that for old people?:)

04-22-2013, 07:49 PM
I fully "plan" on doing all my ukemi into my 80s. Otherwise... I'll break at exactly the wrong moment, when I most need it.

04-22-2013, 10:19 PM
I'm back at it at 49 (50 this year). I'm very fortunate that I can do Aikido 5-8 times per week. Taking breaks even when I have minor tendon soreness or body aches is a terrible way for me to handle pains and the occasional minor injury. When I had a pretty serious ankle strain (got stuck to the mat) my Doctor gave the traditional advice of lay off for a while...then winked. He knew that he woudn't and neither would I. So I did what I could around the injury, kept it mobile and safe from re-injury and that helped. I came into Aikido with degrees of damaged rotator cuffs(rim-rip tear I think they called it) in both arms from other activities. Does Aikido hurt my shoulders sometimes? Yes. I use the discomfort in those injured areas as a tool to gauge my technique and find a way to do the technique that doesn't hurt...so far that has turned out to be the better way every time. I really think that Aikido done right is Aikido done such that it works without damage and the motion actually aids mobility of the joints and increases my 'pain tolerance.' I have a lot of scar tissue in my abdomen from a couple dozen surgeries. Rolling in particular helps keep my 'core' tuned up and I think keeps that scar tissue from being a problem. I want to do this until...Will there come a day when I have to adjust? Most likely. WIll that adjustment reduce the quality of my Aikido? I doubt it. In fact it may make it better. So train on old folks, train on! I anticipate a bit of teasing when I hit that half-century mark. I know my grandmother will do a bit...she just turned 99...and still drives, plays bridge and sings in the choir!

Robert Cowham
04-23-2013, 03:48 PM
Thanks for the positivity everyone. But Rupert - Tai Chi? Isn't that for old people?:)
As a friend of mine put it (quite some years ago) - Aikido is old man's judo...!

I enjoy visiting the Shiseikan from time to time in Japan. Tanaka sensei (9th dan, peer of Kisshomaru and Shioda) is still teaching in his mid 80s and pretty spry! What I particularly like is the old guys in white belts who have taken up aikido in their retirement. They can be stiff as planks, but they are game for practice and it is a pleasure to work with them. There are some old gals and guys (with black belts) who it is a pleasure to train with too.

04-23-2013, 10:42 PM
64 year old male, 44 yrs. in martial arts (Goju-Ryu/Shito-Ryu), studing some combat aikijujutsu to blend wt/Goju/Shito-Ryu; Recently, became a F/T student (8-10) hrs per week in AikiKai Aikido in DC. How important at my age is taking full ukemi as a uke? Is taking full ukemi a major key to my learning Aikido? Not looking at rank but wanting the flow using taisabaki, tenkan, irmi as the basic aiki and using the naha-te striking arts as atemi to give me the combat tools needed to take on the street attacker (prison yard trained). Please advise on my comments and question.

04-24-2013, 05:39 AM
Apart from the obvious aspect of helping your partner to train, taking ukemi really helps you to feel how the technique should feel. I find that learning technique without taking ukemi is like learning to talk if you are deaf. People do it, but it puts you at a huge disadvantage. If your body is not up to taking ukemi, then don't stress about it. You can still learn. If there is any way that you can learn proper ukemi, though, I definitely recommend it.

05-01-2013, 08:00 AM
I started at 29, while that may seem young to some of you, it may be, having no prior martial arts experience age does not matter. I think that it is great that you are getting on the mat and participating. I welcome it at our Dojo and fully support it. Keep it up!

05-01-2013, 10:01 AM
64 year old male, 44 yrs. in martial arts (Goju-Ryu/Shito-Ryu), studing some combat aikijujutsu to blend wt/Goju/Shito-Ryu; Recently, became a F/T student (8-10) hrs per week in AikiKai Aikido in DC. How important at my age is taking full ukemi as a uke? Is taking full ukemi a major key to my learning Aikido? Not looking at rank but wanting the flow using taisabaki, tenkan, irmi as the basic aiki and using the naha-te striking arts as atemi to give me the combat tools needed to take on the street attacker (prison yard trained). Please advise on my comments and question.

Its a bit like using a condom during sex...it might be safe, but its not quite as much fun.

05-10-2013, 02:34 PM
I studied Karate from high school up until about 10 years ago. I had not done anything for about 7 years and then I took up Aikido and learned very quickly that a 40 year old body does not recover as easily and as quickly as a 30 year old body. :o I have made it a point to get better at the ukemi so I can take the techniques and the falls that nage is dishing out without taking a beating in the process.
As others have said it is important to stretch every day. I did not do much maintaining while I was not formally studying and I lost a lot of my flexibility. Having good flexibility helps your ukemi and keeps you lose for performing your Akido.

05-25-2013, 06:20 PM
Started at 39 and just entered my 4th year in aikido.

Started out with plenty of old joint issues from my years with horses including knee trouble and one dodgy shoulder. Aggravated the knee problem with a meniscus tear about two years ago.

I still put in about 6 hours a week of training. Some days I have a lot of pain and have to limit my ukemi, other nights I feel great and have a good time flying. I take it on a day by day basis. But no matter how I feel that day I make the 25 mile drive to the dojo.

Having a habit helps a lot. Especially on those days when it is hard to get up and go back out the door after a long hard day of work or when the winter roads are not appealing or it is a beautiful summer evening. Make aikido a part of your weekly routine.

I also use some therapies to help things. I use a joint supplement that has Glucosomine, Condroitin and MSM in a high dose. Not taking them means I am in a lot more pain.

I see a massage therapist and chiropractor on a weekly basis. That helps to keep my joints, especially my knees aligned so that I can move more fluidly and safely.

My day to day life outside of the dojo is a active one. I work with horses and in a busy restaurant kitchen. I don't stop moving because if I do it is twice as hard to get started again.

When it comes to warming up take the time it takes for your body. Some days I am so sore when I get to the dojo that it takes a good 30-40 minutes to loosen up enough to start taking full ukemi. Some nights I really have to focus on less physically demanding aspects of training.

Be honest with yourself and your teachers about your limitations. Remember that you are in for the long haul and you need to take care of our body in order to do that. Forcing yourself to tough it out when what you are really doing is more damage that cannot be fixed is not the wisest course.

06-20-2013, 03:34 PM
Thanks for the positivity everyone. But Rupert - Tai Chi? Isn't that for old people?:)


My wife and I took up taichi just before aikido aged 42, our first sifu was 20 years younger than us. We find they complement each other very nicely; one chap we train with has done both for over 20 years and is a gold mine of insight and technique.

I wouldn't say taichi is necessarily much easier on the knees than aikido though, unless you do horrible amounts of suwari waza.

some good advice and observations in the OP :)

06-20-2013, 04:05 PM
Age 45, trained Tae Kwon Do until I joined the military. Trained Kuk Sool Won for many years on and off after that. Started Aikido a month ago and I'm really feeling it in my shoulders and back doing Ukemi. I just keep telling myself, it's a soft style and attempt to relax.

06-22-2013, 10:35 AM
I just returned from Hawaii at Robert Kubo Sensei's 50th Anniversary Seminar/Igarashi Kazuo's 30th and had the honor of being on the mat when (小林 保雄 Kobayashi Yasuo, born September 20, 1936)( 8th Dan) took ukemi from white belts!