Learning Karate as an Adult

How My Children Opened Me Up to New Experiences

adult karate lessons10 years ago had you told me I would have earned my brown belt and would be working towards my black belt, I would have thought you were crazy. Why would a 50ish year old man start taking karate lessons for the first time? In many ways it has its roots to taking piano lessons 20 years ago.

When my oldest daughter Janelle was 4 years old, she started to take piano lessons and I decided to take them with her so we would have something to share and so I could help her when she struggled with her lessons. After a while I started doing it for myself as well. I looked forward to putting together an annual CD of some pieces we had learned over the year, when Lori and I were married I performed a piano solo, last year I had the honor of playing a small piece when Janelle got married, and while I’m no longer taking lessons, I still sit down and play “Linus & Lucy” and my Kahlan, Peightan and Rhyse run in to dance. What started out solely as an activity to benefit my daughter became something that has helped shape my life and my relationship with the younger children.

In 2010, my son Raif was exposed to karate when Master Ranch gave a Share the Art session at Raif’s school. He came home very excited and couldn’t stop talking about it, so we signed up to have his birthday party at the karate school. The kids had a great time and Raif asked to take classes. We used the free month in the treat bags and Raif, Kahlan, Peigtan and Rhyse started to take karate lessons. When time allowed I watched them in class and even though I didn’t participate, the kids would still ask for help when they were practicing at home. At first I could keep up since I spent a lot of time watching the classes, but it wasn’t too long before I found myself unable to help them. In 2011, right in the middle of middle age, I worked up the courage to take the plunge and sign up for lessons.

Looking back at that decision to start taking piano lessons, it seemed scary to me at the time but it was actually a pretty easy decision. The lessons were private and when I did recitals, they were always duets with Janelle so any mistakes I might make were more than outweighed by the sweetness of playing with my little girl. Taking karate lessons was different. For somebody who grew up fairly athletic, it’s a humbling experience to be taught by someone many years your junior and to be in class with much younger people who have been studying for years and are able to perform moves I will never be able to do. I’m pretty self conscious and while intellectually I know people have better things to do than to watch me, I feared people would judge me and it’s impossible to avoid performing in front of others; you’re rarely in class alone, graduation ceremonies are attended by family members and eventually competing in tournaments is part of the karate experience. But it’s very important for me to share something with my children, so I donned my Gi and made the leap.

Much quicker than I had expected, I started looking forward to classes. The karate instructors do an amazing job at pushing each student to perform to their own ability and very much stress that the person you are in competition with is yourself. I find a very good balance of moves that I can do quite well and things I struggle with and see the latter as a challenge to myself to improve, not as a limitation. It’s impossible to understate the benefits of karate. Yes, I can help my children with their own skills and have something to share with them, but I am also able to keep in better shape, I have improved my flexibility, am surprised by how much I like forms and have the added benefit of being able to kick my son-in-law, who also takes karate lessons, without my daughter getting angry with me.

Again, I dove into an activity in order to be able to do something with my children and help them learn their own skills, but I have found great benefits to myself and found something that will help shape the rest of my life and the relationship I have with my children. Without reservation, I would encourage any adult but particularly parents of all athletic abilities to give it a try. I am confident you will also be surprised by how much you like it yourself.


  1. Sirid Kellermann says

    As a fellow adult karate student who started at the age of 43, I completely agree with you Rich! I love achieving new karate skills (with much practice). I love being in that zone that straddles pride of achievement with being always slightly outside my comfort zone. And I am stronger than I ever was. Karate is my addiction!

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