Is 13 Too Old to Start Martial Arts? (An Expert Weighs In)

It can be difficult to know if it’s too late to have your children start martial arts. If you call different martial arts schools, you will receive different answers about it. Is there a right age to start creating the Bruce Lee spirit in your children? Specifically, is 13 too old to start martial arts?

13 years old is not too late to start martial arts as scientists say that the perfect starting age range is between 9 and 12 years old. 13 is close to that range. Bruce Lee, the greatest kung-fu fighter of all time, started training when he was 13, while Chuck Norris started training at 18.

You don’t need to be concerned about when it’s too late to start because practicing and dedication are timeless qualities. Although, if your children are too young, then that’s a problem because some expert says that too-young children may have problems focusing during classes.

So, let’s learn more about the right age to start training.

An image of a Karate master and a young disciple in white uniform in training.

What is the Best Age to Start Martial Arts?

Scientists recommend starting training martial arts between 9 and 12 years old as most children younger than this do not have the concentration and coordination required. In addition, children in this age range are coming to the peak of development of their bodies.

However, the start training age isn’t a determining factor in the success of the child. In other words, if the children start later, it doesn’t mean that they are doomed to fail or guaranteed to succeed. Different cases have shown us that hard work, dedication, and focus lead people to success, despite the age at which they have started training.  

Starting too young isn’t also the best thing for the child and this is a difficult thought to accept. We tend to think that the sooner people get a black belt or a high-level belt the better. However, we shouldn’t consider gaining these belts as the measure of success. Martial arts are a philosophy for your life, and if you don’t have enough wisdom at your age to understand it, then it’s practically useless.

But this won’t apply to older people, raising the next question.

Is it Ever “Too Late” to Start a Martial Art?

If you are old enough to concentrate, learn martial arts philosophy, and be disciplined, it will be never too late to start training. In some cases, it will even be better, because as we become more mature, we better understand how to practice and improve.

As cited in the previous sections, sometimes it’s better to start a martial art older than 13 years old. Teenagers, when they want to do something, are great at it. So, maybe if they choose the right martial art for them at this age, then their level of commitment will be better for everyone.

The same is true for an adult. If you are looking for a martial art to start practicing, you will study and find the perfect route for your objectives, for what you want for your life, for your profession, and to be more self-assured when walking on the streets.

We have a lot of cases where people who started training after the “right age” and were able to succeed in their careers. For example, General Choi Hong-Hi, the founder of Taekwondo, was 20 when he first met martial arts. So don’t be afraid to try different sports just because of your age.

But what are the options for different martial arts?

Which Is the Best Martial Art to Start at 13?

There is no martial art that fits the age, instead, there are martial arts that fit with the preference of each person. The most common martial arts include Karate, Taekwondo, Kung Fu, and others. It’s important to analyze the martial art’s history, philosophy, style of the art, and if you like it.

Most martial arts have their origin in the Orient or the Far East. But there are some adaptations nowadays because we don’t rely on martial arts for survival anymore.

Kickboxing is an adapted version of Muay Thai, Karate, and Western boxing all combined. It’s an original combination from different countries and regions.

And there are some different martial arts like Jiu-Jitsu, which originated in Japan but was mastered in Brazil and is more focused on ground fighting when it was renamed Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Since it’s up to you to decide which is the best for you to start training, here are some options and what they are focused on, and where they were created.

Martial ArtOriginDescription
KarateJapanKarate involves equal use of the feet and hands with standard moves which are called “katas”
TaekwondoKoreaTaekwondo is considered more of a sport than a self-defense martial art. Kicks are higher than other martial arts and techniques more stylistic.
Kung FuChinaKung Fu involves more circular and flowing movements, usually related to animals’ stances. It may be related more to coordination than self-defense.
KickboxingJapanKickboxing is a martial art that is considered hybrid since it mixes techniques from Karate, Western Boxing, and Muay Thai. It has elements of punching and kicking.
Table 1: 4 common martial arts and descriptions.

There are many other different martial arts today, so you’ve got plenty to choose from. And you don’t need to practice just one, as the sky is the limit. Nowadays professional fighters usually choose MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) as a sport, so they can mix different martial arts and extract the best of each one for self-defense in any situation.

An image of a studio shot of two kids training karate martial arts.

Final Thoughts and Next Steps

We were able to see that having the right age to start a martial art is an important and common question, but there is no “right” or perfect age to start – other than go start today!

It’s really never too late to start training.  It is an awesome activity for kids and adults, both for physical development and a healthy mindset, since martial arts present the important philosophies behind them.

Make sure that you are practicing your martial arts in the right place – a place that cares about you and the martial arts. This way, it will be a place that becomes important to you as it helps you improve your dedication and focus.

Don’t forget about protection if and when it is needed. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, as you don’t want to injure yourself or your children. When you first start martial arts, it’s supposed to be exercising, having fun, and learning a way to have a better lifestyle.

Hopefully, this will help prevent worse injuries until everyone is old enough and mature enough to step into competitions if that’s their choice.

And last but not least, have fun!! It doesn’t make sense to start a new activity (that will require a lot of dedication and practice) if you are not having fun and enjoying it So, make sure that the chosen martial art is the one that you liked the most!

Need help picking a martial art? Read our guides on Can You Learn Martial Arts at Home? (4 Simple Ways) so you can start learning now – and see which you like best!


Learning from your own experiences is important, but learning from others is also smart. These are the sources used in this article and our research to be more informed as a family of sports nuts wannabes.

  • Akehurst, E., Southcott, J., & Lambert, K. (2019). Kick start – martial arts as a non-traditional school sport: an Australian case study of Taekwondo for Years 7–12 students. Curriculum Studies in Health and Physical Education, 11(1), 83–98.
  • Buschbacher, R. M., & Shay, T. (1999). Martial Arts. Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America, 10(1), 35–47.
  • The history of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Graciemag, 2019, December 4. The Original Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Magazine — BJJ News.
  • S. (2021, July 20). The History of Kickboxing. Changing Lives Martial Arts.

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