The right age to start practice

Am I too old or too young to start practicing Kung Fu?

One of the most recurrent questions (read also Questions / answers about Kung Fu, courses and more) among people who are entering the world of martial arts is the one that concerns the right age to start, well:

It does not exist. Everything depends on the practitioner’s goals.

Every age has its specific characteristics:

  • Who is young has an open mind, a reactive body and potentially, more time to improve
  • Who is ahead with age has economic / social freedom to pursue a perfect training and puts that kind of commitment son of a deep passion (because voluntary)

Advantages and disadvantages of the various age groups

Implying a high-quality learning path (read How to start practicing from scratch), let’s see more in-depth what are the differences between the various starting ages of the practitioners in terms of:

  • Advantages
  • Disadvantages
  • Benefits

A note by Master Kongling – In the years (first as a student, then as an instructor), I have seen all the possible kinds of practitioners and for better or for worse, all that follows is the result of direct experiences (read also 12 Things That change for 6DKF’s practitioners (mental) and 10 things that change for 6DKF’s practitioners (physical).

Those who start as children

Advantages:

  • They are flexible
  • They have an incredible amount of energies
  • They have a clean and open mind free of prejudices
  • They have a lot of time
  • Generally, the constancy of their practice does not depend on them
  • They have incredibly short recovery times
  • They can stress their body at a high level
  • They can be open and honest

Disadvantages:

  • They must be followed because they have the unconsciousness of unawareness and innocence
  • In most cases they have low discipline and a small attention span
  • They cannot understand properly all the aspects of Kung Fu
  • Their body is not completely developed so they cannot do everything
  • In most cases, they do not choose independently to practice
  • They cannot be trained in the most dangerous techniques
  • They cannot practice advanced conditioning

Benefits:

  • They start to win their fears and to trust in themselves
  • Their body develops better and faster
  • They start to build the right self-discipline
  • They learn their real potential and limits
  • They exponentially increase their ability to concentrate
  • They learn what violence is and why it is hateful to apply it unnecessarily
  • They learn that through preparation, concentration and discipline, it is possible to reach every result
  • They learn that shortcuts and tricks lead to poor results and a slower evolution
  • They learn to clearly distinguish good from evil
  • They give a positive and constructive outlet to the energies they possess

Those who start as teenagers

Advantages:

  • They have the courage of unconsciousness
  • They can start to practice basic conditioning
  • They can understand 90% of the aspects of Kung Fu
  • In a lot of cases, they choose independently to practice
  • They can be trained even in the most dangerous techniques
  • They are generally enough flexible
  • They have a good amount of energies
  • They have an open mind
  • They have time (they study but they do not work)
  • They have short recovery times
  • They can stress their body at an high-level

Disadvantages:

  • They have the courage of unconsciousness (it is both an advantage and a disadvantage)
  • In some cases they are lazy and inconstant
  • They are distracted by an infinite number of stimuli
  • Some of them may have developed an attitude of self-pity that locks them in a whirlwind of laziness and starvation
  • In most cases, they have a small attention span
  • If they have an incorrect character setting it is difficult to correct it (but not impossible)
  • They can be less honest in the way they communicate and in some cases they can have strong prejudices
  • In some case, for them, is very hard to face their fears and / or to trust in themselves (but not impossible)

Benefits:

  • They learn to defend themselves
  • They avoid (in a natural and spontaneous way) negative excesses with alcohol, drugs. etc.
  • They become more helpful, cooperative and positive
  • Their body become strong and in many cases, their approach will mark the span of their lives
  • They can start to build the right self-discipline
  • They learn their real potential and limits
  • They increase their ability to concentrate
  • They learn what violence is and why it is hateful to apply it unnecessarily
  • They learn that through preparation, concentration and discipline, it is possible to reach every result
  • They learn that shortcuts and tricks lead to poor results and a slower evolution
  • They give a positive and constructive outlet to the energies they possess

Those who start as adults

Advantages:

  • In most cases they have a sufficient attention span
  • They can execute all the conditioning practices
  • They can understand all the aspects of Kung Fu
  • They choose indipendently to practice
  • They can be trained even in the most dangerous techniques
  • They have the right amount of energies
  • They can stress their body at a good level

Disadvantages:

  • They are easily annoyed by the idea of having a teacher
  • They have slightly less courage because of their awareness
  • They are generally less flexible
  • They have generally less time and more responsabilities
  • If they have an incorrect character setting it is almost impossible to correct it
  • They can be less honest in the way they communicate and in some cases they can have strong prejudices
  • In some case, for them, is too hard to face their fears (but not impossible)

Benefits:

  • They learn to defend themselves
  • They improve their health (even for the last part of their life)
  • They recover the contact with the ground
  • They get rid of stress, worries and find satisfaction
  • Their body becomes stronger
  • They discover what the true potentials of their mind and body are
  • They recover the courage lost over time
  • They give a positive and constructive outlet at the weight of everyday life (stress, etc.)

Those who start as seniors

Advantages:

  • They deeply reflect and understand all the aspects of Kung Fu
  • They choose independently to practice and with a special determination
  • They generally have the right amount of time and discipline
  • They have a big life experience to exploit and share
  • They have a clear understanding of what their capabilities and limits are

Disadvantages:

  • They are categorical about what they want/can do or not
  • They have slightly less courage (because of their life experiences)
  • In some cases, they are annoyed by the idea of having a teacher
  • They are (naturally) less flexible
  • If they have an incorrect character setting, it is impossible to correct it
  • In some case, they have immovable prejudices

Benefits:

  • They learn to protect themselves
  • They can exponentially improve their health and wellness
  • They recover the contact with their lost body capabilities
  • They find satisfaction, happiness and new life goals
  • Their body becomes stronger
  • They discover what they can still do
  • They recover the courage lost over time

The best age to start practicing Kung Fu

The real problem is not the age

Despite what we have said:

  • The limit is not the age but the discipline, preparation and concentration we are willing to employ (this is valid at 12 years as well at 45 years)
  • As a teen can be poor of discipline, an adult man/woman can be not so physically flexible but this is not the key point

A note by Master Kongling – For example, if a pre-teen can do a splits just in a few months, maybe an adult a little older can take years to succeed: again, this is not the problem.

The real discriminant is the commitment relating to the outcome we want to achieve.

Everything depends on our goals

Let’s see some examples, if our goal is:

  • Fighting sportingly – We can do it at any age, as long as our opponents are at our same level and as long as we can accept to suffer damages (that, after a certain age, could recover very slowly)
  • Self-defense – To learn how to preserve our safety, there is no unsuitable age but even here, no martial art makes invincible nor a 15-year-old nor a 20-year-old nor a 70-year-old
  • Learn a martial art – To learn a Kung Fu style and / or a set of techniques, there is no age limit; with the necessary precautions even an 80 years man / woman can practice (with the correct times and adaptations)
  • Become instructor – There is no age limit, the important thing is to have an alternative method of subsistence in the meaning time and to have the right mindset (who teaches must have curiosity, experience, analytical skills and the necessary culture to answer any students’ question)

Other goals, such as “becoming the best fighter in the world” or “be better than the other training partners”, or “rapidly gain a title” are vain, foolish and pitiful, it is not worth it to pursue them.

That said (if we forcibly must give a reference) in the particular case of 6 Dragons Kung Fu, we can start:

  • From a minimum of 7-8 years (with proportional workouts)
  • Up to a maximum of 65 years (with proportional workouts)

A note by Master Kongling – These generic limits, vary from people to people but they are quite realistic.

Final notes

It is important to conclude stressing that:

  • Kung Fu is available to all but it is not for everyone, the level of dedication necessary is beyond the 99% of everything we have experienced in life before
  • Especially in this century, new practitioners think to know the meaning of concepts like respect, self-discipline and sacrifice but their idea is incredibly far from the one that Kung Fu implies
  • Theoretically, the best time to start is as a child but in practice (outside the context of a temple like the Shaolin one) it is rare that it is possible to keep a practice started so early and constant
  • In reality, in percentage terms (with due exceptions), those who achieve the best results are those who starts between adolescence and adulthood

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Reply in the comments and share your experience:

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Author: Master Kongling

Founder of 6 Dragons Kung Fu.

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