T Nation

Learning Martial Arts



Quite a few months ago now I posted about wanting to put on weight to play rugby. I did put on the weight, but the team I wanted to play for is much more selective than I originally thought.

I'm thinking of doing martial arts instead. I always wanted to do it, but school work tended to get in the way. Now that I'm in university, and more importantly I have a drivers licence, it is much more plausible.

My questions are:

1)At age 19, am I too old to start martial arts of any kind? I shouldn't think so, but I do occasionally get images of me in my beginners outfit surrounded by eager 7 year olds.

2)Which art should I choose - I'm quite competitive (both sports and academically), so I think one which would have a competitive aspect (or at least lots of sparring) would be the best fit.

Self defence is only a minor issue. From what I can tell, if you commit yourself to any of the arts under a decent instructor, you should be able to get yourself out of trouble with the average drunken fool.

The throwing ones seem a lot more appealing to me than striking. I've always enjoyed how graceful they seem.

However, I'm not too interested in kata etc. I'd much prefer a lesson filled with sparring than one filled with patterened movements. It's likely some sort of compromise will have to be made, but I'd rather it be more in favour of sparring. Also, I've noticed that BJJ is quite popular at the moment, but I observed a lesson and there seems way too much ground stuff. Not as appealing to me.

I'm currently 5'9 and 79kg. Sadly this weight will continue to decrease until exams are over, but what's a boy to do. Also, I live in Brisbane, Australia.

PS If i've said anything fundamentally wrong, please let me know. I don't know terribly much about this, only what i've heard from a few friends, a few things i've seen and some stuff from the internet.

Thanks for your time,


PS To reiterate, it's a lot of sparring or competition that interests me, not self defence. I've always enjoyed wrestling, even just as a kid with my dad. But i'm not violent at all and am much more inclined to talk my way out than fight my way out. So if self defence comes as a consequence, great! But it's not the main focus.

PSS At the moment, I'm leaning towards Judo. But that's because I don't know of many other grappling arts (excluding BJJ)which have lots of competition, sparring, or both.


I would avoid karate, I joined it for the same reasons you want to. the majority of class time was focused on stretching, and most of them were 15 and under. I had to memorize a bunch of "dance-like" moves and you weren't allowed to spar until purple belt. Once I got there (I'm 16) I had to spar the 20+ group, and when I hit them, they'd complain saying, "ow that hurt!" Then I punched a kid in the face during a sparring match, and I got yelled at. I quit after that day because if you aren't allowed to do head shots to learn self defense, there's no point in trying to defend yourself.

I am, however, going to do no-gi BJJ because no-gi isn't really a belt system, you just train and fight, as far as I know...


Well my choice was Tai Kwon Do (back in the days when it was full contact in the UK).

If you are more in to throwing/grappling etc then avoid it.

I have attended classes in many other forms of MA however and have enjoyed all of them immensely.

All I can say is try a few different classes. You are certainly not too young to get in there. One of the best UK fighters I ever went up against only started training 3 years after I got my first black belt (at 19). Just five years after he started he was trying out for the olympic team.

Any good class will give you plenty of sparring opportunities but don't get too hung up on avoiding Kata's etc. They can teach you discipline, grace and skill if you let them.

The real fun is in the sparring and competition though (for me anyway).

My dad used to be a Judo player and always enjoyed the sport - the skill and power required to compete well are truly stunning.

For a more "street fighting" style, check to see if there's a jujitsu club near you. I did several years of this too and where it's not as grappling/hold oriented as Judo it is still a very close quarters style and can be very vicious if that's your thing.

Whatever you choose, get in there and kick ass.


Sounds like Judo should be ideal for you.


Perhaps its not a martial art in the strictest sense of the idea, but if you can find an MMA gym which are increasingly easy to find these days, they will generally teach the gauntlet of techniques from striking to takedowns to ground work. Also, there should be quite a bit of sparring and whatnot to do, maybe not in your first few months, but after you've gotten the basics down. Its going to depend on what you have available in your area.

I'm personally not a big fan of Judo these days after a Judo guy hit an uchi mata on me in the last tourney that planted me right into the mat...bastard.


Just call all the local Dojos/gyms and let them know you are interested in taking up the MAs. Go by introduce yourself, observe or participate in a class or two, then dicide what fits your fancy. At your size and weight you can probably walk into any style and acclimate to it quickly.

If you choose Judo just know that it is a very upclose and personal art. When they say "close enough to kiss" they ain't joking. It's alot of chest to chest, shoulder to shoulder work. Of course the resounding thud from a well executed throw is quite satisying. Plus, I've had more fun sparring and at competitions with Judo than any other martial art that I've played with.

Good Luck with whatever you choose.


I don't think you are ever to old to learn martial arts or any new physical skill.


Brisvegas has a pretty big BJJ and MMA scene. Given what you wrote above and having done both Judo and BJJ, I would go with BJJ. You do the most sparring and will be encouraged to compete pretty early. Also on the social side, most of the class will be guys in their late teens or twenties so you'll make friends. Where in Brisbane are you?
If your planning on going to Uni next year, UQ has a BJJ club. Its VERY cheap to join Uni clubs and you'll have a good time.


Hey guys,

Thanks for all the responses.

Gotaknife: I'm on the southside, but I am alread enrolled in UQ and will be for minimum another 4 years after this one.

I was thinking of joining the UQ judo club. It seems very reasonable cost-wise, and i've managed to get my girlfriend enthusiastic about judo as well, which is always nice. Of course, I don't know how long her enthusiasm will last, so better I pick the thing I enjoy the most :slight_smile:

Do you have any experience with either UQ judo or BJJ?

Thanks a lot for the replies everyone.


Edit: Gotaknife: I havn't done judo or bjj, but i've observed a few classes over the years.


Ah, martial arts. You'll either love it or hate it, I've never met anyone inbetween.

19 isn't too old to start. I am currently 19, started when I was 17. It was the best thing I ever did.

I started with Karate, but I really don't like the formal stuff - belts and robes, kata's, ie. the stuff that is more of an artform and for show. I don't have anything against it, just personally don't enjoy it.

So, I switched to a Muy Thai gym. It was completely different. Informal almost. Just wore shorts and shirt, heavy bags, a LOT of work, and many nights of cramping, hurting muscles.

I personally like the striking forms (I love planting a side-kick in someones gut), but I also did Hwa-Yu T'ai Chi Ch'uan for a summer, and also some Judo. Both were interesting, and I'm glad I tried them.

I just want to say, if the grappling doesn't seem to satisfy you after awhile, you may want to give striking a chance. Even if you decide you hate it, you'll never know unless you try. I was terrified the first time I got kicked at, but something in me was unleashed I never knew existed.

Whatever you decide, take a few classes and get to know the instructor before committing to something. A good instructor will hurt you in ways you've never been hurt, lay your weaknesses out in front of you, push you farther than you've ever been pushed, and ultimately become someone who understands you in a way few others will.


Start with Boxing. Once the throwing of punches has been muscled memoried. Then move into a martial art.

Aside from boxing. I like two martial arts that are street fighting applicable.

Kali and Judo.

Good luck and 19 is not to old.


you said you like wrestling, why not start that? Wrestling is just as fun if not funner than judo plus you wont have to wear a gi in that damn hot weather. see if there are any casual clubs around you. even in school.



Hey Avocado,

Wrestling would be sweet, but the wrestling scene in my city doesn't seem to be that big. And wrestling at highschool/uni does not seem to be anywhere near as big as it must be in the US.

Nonetheless, there is a G-R wrestling place 20 minutes from my house. Also, the coach has been Australian champion for awhile. However I never do anything in that side of town and eventually the inconvenience will become taxing.

Thanks for the response though,



Whatever you decide I would certainly recommend going with a uni club; cheap, friendly and plenty of social activities. UQ probably also has Muai Thai and Boxing classes if this is something your interested in.

I have met people from UQ Judo and BJJ (it was a fair few years ago) but they were all great people. I'm in Melbourne but I had friends at UQ and I competed against UQ at Uni Games in Judo a couple of times. Uni games is one of the greatest Uni events so if you get the opportunity GO! (especially if you are single at the time :wink:.

Most uni teams only train twice a week, so depending on the schedule there is no reason why you can't do both. Our teams cost less than $80 a year so money should not be an issue. The UQ BJJ team is a John B. Will (Machado) club from memory and I have heard nothing but good things about the Brisbane John B. Will school, so if you really get into BJJ you'll have a higher level place to go.

I suspect that you will enjoy BJJ more than Judo. But as I said you could always do BJJ 2x per week and Judo once.
Good luck,
p.s if you want any more info, just post.



The only thing deterring me from BJJ at the moment is this:

When you look at the photos in the UQ judo club, there is clearly heavy competition but it all seems very good natured.

Conversely, the BJJ club website is plastered with MMA photos of guys with tattoos all over their bodies looking like they just want to kill the other person. Is this what BJJ competition resembles, or is it more similar to judo?

note: BJJ club also has a MMA training option, hence the MMA photos.

I hope I managed to make myself clear...I don't really know enough about it to be more concise I suppose.



You won't really know the environment of a particular academy until you take a class and most places will let you take the first class for free so you can get a feel for the place. It is true that some bjj academies are grinders full of dickheads who turn every roll into a battle for the championship, but those places are rare in my experience. You should go and check it out and determine for yourself if it's a place you're comfortable learning.


Your never to old.

Just find something you enjoy and stick with it. I have taken TKD for 10 years and Kempo for 5 since moving. I had to stop due to injury but I remember a lot of it.

I think I read somewhere in this post that purple belt is sparing level. Well what ever school you were in is plain retarded. Cause every instructor I learned from I always spared . Even in the first lessons. I can remember being scared shi7less cause I was sparing with a 2nd degree black belt. It was fun painful and I learned a lot. Always suggest sparing with higher ranks. Even if your just a punching bag for a time. Its good for you.

For throwing and grappling stick with the Aikido, Ju-jitsu(all forms), Judo, Hapkido,

Stand-up try these,
Boxing(all forms) KungFu, Karate, TKD.

Sometimes if you check a school they might have a good balance of stand up with ground and grappling and throwing.

Most of the time when you sign up there is an interview with the instructor. Tell him what your looking for. They will tell you if the school is right for you if they are honest.

Couple tips

If they:

are making you pay for stripes on your belt or extra useless equipment its scam school to make money off testing and gear.

never compete with other schools. This is a "RexKwonDo" system. It might work but its not seen to be official. Competition between schools is seen as a way to measure skills and make sure you are in your right ability bracket.

have special hidden points to hit you. If you join a school that preaches pressure point kills run fast(I am not talking nerve pinches). I am sure we all live in the real world and have seen MMA/street fights where these points get hit all the time and don't kill anyone. Or Kiai kills/stuns for that matter.


my 0.02 worth


I'm 23, and just began taking karate after a looooong layoff from it. You're never too old... if anything, it's good to be thrown into something completely new with guys who, even though they are 65, can fucking kill you in three shots. it's humbling, to say the least.

Research the styles. If you like throws and what not, give judo or aikido a shot.

I study Okinawan Goju-ryu right now, and fuckin love it. It is, however, an extremely formal style with a lot of katas, a lot of self defense, etc. You can't quite spar all the time with it because many of the things are meant to seriously hurt you- it is all striking, with many vital point shots, i.e. throat, groin, kidneys, etc, and it's all stand up stuff, be it striking, blocking, or trapping.

Some fellas have suggested Muay Thai, or MMA style fighting. Just realize with this that you're going to take a fucking beating. Very few people I know who have trained in that type of fighting come up without having broken noses, shin problems, joint problems, etc. It is fucking brutal- I've done it, and once you get one of those Muay Thai knees in the chin, it'll make you think twice if you reallllly want to do it. I'm not saying it isn't fun, because it is, but just prepared to get fucked up.

Dirtbag had a lot of good points... be very wary of McDojo's where you get a black belt in six weeks and buy everything through the school. Try and find a traditional school, they tend to be the best.


Just go to a week or two of BJJ and see how you like it, they will most likely let you train for free at first. If it is no fun then try judo for a week. BJJ and Judo comps are very similar in terms of the way the comp is run.

I always saw more injuries at Judo comps than at BJJ ones (if this is something that concerns you), finger and rib injuries are especially common at Judo. MMA uses BJJ techniques on the ground, hence the MMA at the UQ BJJ club, but there wont be any striking in BJJ class.

As I said before, from your description of yourself I think you will enjoy BJJ more but you wont know until you try. Just go to the classes for a few weeks, get over the soreness and finger bruises and decide which art you prefer. And again, there is no reason you can't do both.