Best Time to Start Martial Arts

Age and Martial Arts

As a martial arts instructor and school owner I get asked a lot, what is the best age to start martial arts. The answer is simple now is the time, not yesterday, not tomorrow. I have done some research to help show others when some of the greatest martial artist started training. The results are stunning, some started as young as seven while others started as old as 21. Many continue either fighting or making movies well into their late forties or fifties.

Martial Arts Movie Stars

(7) Jackie Chan known for his movies such as Rush Hour 1-3, Drunken Master, as well as others is one of the youngest martial arts movie stars to begin training at seven years old. He trained very hard for about ten years until he was about seventeen years old.

(8) Jet Li is another young martial arts movie star who began at eight years old. He began learning Wushu from Coach Wu Bin from the Beijing Wushu Team. Jet Li became a champion at twelve years old, beating many adults well into their mid to late twenties. Jet Li only studied the northern Wushu styles and did not practice the fighting aspect of Wushu or San Da at all and retired at age seventeen with the most consecutive championships in China.

(8) Bruce Lee known for Enter the Dragon, Fist of Fury and others began training Wu style Tai Chi at age eight from his father but was not a formal training environment. Bruce Lee began learning from a Chin Woo or Jing Mo master at age thirteen, but quit because he thought it was quite boring after about a year or two. Bruce began learning Wing Chun at age sixteen and left two the US for college at age eighteen. Bruce only learned from Yip Man for about two years, he did continue to learn and train with James Yimm Lee when he dropped out of college. Throughout his life his relatives learned fencing and picked up moves from them, and trained with boxers and Ed Parker’s Tae Kwon Do.

(11) Jean Claude Van Damme learned Shotokan Karate at age eleven. JCVD was also very fond of ballet, and weightlifting at an early age. Van Damme is known for his appearances in Blood Sport and Kick Boxer, he is not only a movie star, but was a professional fighter as well.

(18) Carlos “Chuck” Norris started martial arts while in the military around eighteen years old in Korea learning Tang Soo do. Chuck Norris won many martial arts tournaments and was very successful at opening martial arts schools back here in the US. Chuck Norris is also known for his appearances in Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon, and his own Walker Texas Ranger. 

(40) Robert Downey Jr. also known as Iron Man gives much credit to yoga, his wife, and Wing Chun training for his rehabilitation. Robert Downey Jr. began training Wing Chun at age forty. 


Professional Mixed Martial Artists

(7) Georges St. Pierre began Kyokushin Karate at age seven. He is very skilled in Boxing, Wrestling, and BJJ as well which he began at age twelve. His professional MMA career is 27-2 and is named one of the greatest fighters of all time by Bleachers Report.

(10) Cung Le began Tae Kwon Do at age ten, and wrestling at age fourteen in high school. Cung Le is known for his San shou/San da career which he began at age nineteen. He is undefeated in kickboxing with a record of 17-0 and an MMA record of 12-3.

(11) Ronda Rousey began her martial arts career at age eleven in Judo. Her mom and her began training together. She holds an Olympic bronze medal in Judo she began training mixed martial arts at age 21 her MMA record is 10-0. She is ranked number seven in UFC as pound for pound fighter. 

(12) Anderson Silva started Tae Kwon Do and Capoeira at age twelve, Muay Thai at age 16, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at 25. His MMA record is 39-6 holds the record for the longest title defense in UFC. As a pound for pound fighter he is ranked #16 by Bleacher Report, #8 by UFC, and #7 by ESPN.

(14) Jose Aldo felt the need to join Brazilian Capoeira at age fourteen, Moved to train Nova Uniao at age sixteen years old where he learned Muay Thai and BJJ. His MMA record is 25-1 he is not known by much in the UFC but he should be. He is a very impressive and skilled fighter. He is ranked by ESPN as #2 pound for pound fighter in the world.

(14) Jon Jones began martial arts career in High school Wrestling at age 14, continued to do college wrestling and did very well. Jones is ranked as a pound for pound fighter by ESPN and UFC as #1 in the world. His MMA record is almost perfect with a 20-1 record.

(20) Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino began training at the age of twenty. Justino trained at Chute Boxing Gym and the training fit like a glove since then she has a kickboxing record of 3-1, MMA record of 4-1, and took the gold in IBJJF World Championship in 2011 and 2012.

(22) Frank Shamrock considered dropping out of college, but his adopted father wouldn’t let him unless he joined Ken in learning submission wrestling. It turned out to be a great decision. With less than year of training he made his MMA appearance in Japan of 1994 with Pancrase an MMA organization. Bas Rutten was his opponent who Frank Shamrock defeated, Rutten would later become a UFC heavyweight champion. Shamrock too went on to win championships in UFC, WEC, and Strikeforce, he retired in 2010 at the age of 38.
(70) John Williams more information at bottom of article #

Other notable fighters that started in their late twenties are Amir Sadolah, Matt Mitrione, and Travis Browne just to name a few. It is not just about what age one starts, but about what age won continues as well. Professional MMA fighters Dan Henderson and Cung Le both continued to fight at forty-two. Randy Couture has fought into age forty-seven. 

# A fighter who needs more attention is Canadian man John Williams. Dr. John Williams was born in 1940 before breaking the record of the oldest PROFESSIONAL MMA fighter to set foot in the ring. Williams also broke other world records as well such as breaking multiple blocks of ice with a single punch (11 inches thick. 22 inches wide, 42 inches long, and 10 stacks high) This record still stands today. Next he spent 13 consecutive hours using nothing but judo throws. Seventy year old Williams set other records such as becoming the oldest debuting MMA fighter, and the oldest winning MMA fighter. Williams won by an ankle lock in the second round. 

One must not just start the fight, but finish the fight as well. It is not just about the age one starts, but about the age one can continue to train as well. As one can see there is no best age, or time to start. The best age and the best time to start is now. If one has always wanted to learn martial arts now is the time to do whether the individual is seven years old or seventy years old. Martial art is for anyone of any age, and any gender.

*All MMA records and world records that have been in this article were true as of December 27, 2014