Later in Life Muay Thai


Starting Muay Thai later in life comes with some advantages and some challenges. We’ll explore some of them below, but it’s important to note from the onset that it’s never too late to learn self-defense or get in shape, and Muay Thai allows you to do both while also becoming part of a community. If you want to take on a new hobby or find a new way to exercise, Muay Thai will most certainly scratch that itch.

As Alby Tam of the San Francisco-based Muay Thai gym Combat Culture explains in the above video, it is normal to start martial arts training well after high school or even early adulthood in the United States. He started training at the age of 27, which was now several years ago, and many of his friends and a lot of his newer students are older than him.

True, most people in Thailand will start a lot earlier. One reason is because it’s a relatively common professional path in a country where the number of opportunities may not be as great as in a place like the US. Secondly, Muay Thai is a part of the cultural identity for people there, so there tends to be far more gyms where it’s taught than here.

Setting the Stage

Though beginning your Muay Thai journey at an older age—in your 30s, 40s, or even 50s—is not unusual, you should come to the gym with realistic expectations and goals. Starting any hobby or discipline at a later stage in life is difficult. As you age, you tend to accrue experience and build confidence in multiple areas of your life. You advance academically, professionally, and socially. You may have a spouse and children. The things that you do, you do well.

And then you try something new, and you don’t do it well. While this is something that your ego can bounce back from when you’re an adolescent or even a teenager, it can be difficult to go from feeling established and comfortable to completely out of your element. It doesn’t matter if it’s learning a new language, learning an instrument, or learning a martial art like Muay Thai.

However, just like when you were younger, practice will make you better and hard work will eventually pay off. Even if you’re pushing 60 years old, arriving with the right attitude and a willingness to go through the growing pains of honing a new skill will ultimately allow you to learn Muay Thai.

Benefits of Being Older

As Alby explains, there are several benefits to starting Muay Thai at an older age. For one thing, you are more likely to have more resources at your disposal when you are older. You are likely further along in your career, which means you have more disposable income and may have the ability to finance private lessons at a time that is convenient for you. At the very least, you are probably not working the worst hours of anyone in your company, meaning that you have some wiggle room with your schedule.

Another advantage that Alby touches on is that we tend to become a bit shrewder and more even-tempered as we age. We are guided a bit more by reason than emotion, which means we can fight smarter rather than harder, and that can be an advantage over someone who is easily goaded into making emotional mistakes or wasting their energy.

Limitations of Being Older

That said, there are some limitations when you’re older. If your goal is to become a world champion Muay Thai fighter or an MMA star, the earlier you start, the more likely it is that you will achieve those goals. If you’re a person who never was involved in combat sports but wants to fight professionally at the age of 40, the odds are not in your favor.

Perhaps most importantly, being older typically means more responsibilities. You may be married with a family, a mortgage, and a lot of other people who rely on you. Though you may not be as broke as you were in your 20s, the vast majority of your free time and disposable income you have is dedicated to your family. This can make it hard to get to the gym three or four times a week.

Age also plays a factor largely because it will take you longer to recover. Younger people can bounce back from even the most punishing training sessions in a few days, sometimes even a few hours, but it becomes increasingly difficult to return to baseline as you get older.

Younger people also tend to both adapt and learn new skills more quickly. Younger people have freedom to develop before they start facing physical limitations like injuries or just loss of mobility. Very young people, especially children, tend to learn new skills faster.

Learning at Your Own Pace

The important thing to remember about martial arts like Muay Thai is that you can set your own goals. If you want to become a champion fighter, you will face some limitations as you age. However, if you want to use martial arts as a vehicle to learn self-defense, build confidence, and get in shape, you can start at any point in your life and thrive.