Newcomers to our Taekwon-do school come in all shapes, sizes and ages. We have a minimum age of 6 (you can read why here), and the oldest starters we’ve had over the years have been in their 50’s, but of course we don’t have a maximum age so there’s no reason why someone older couldn’t start. We’ve also had beginners of every age in between, teens, 20 somethings, 30 somethings, 40 somethings. Sometimes adult beginners come along with their kids, but I want to focus this article on those who don't.
Some adults who come new to us have done TKD or another martial art before, often many years ago, and have decided to pick it up again, they are usually quick to tell me they’ve forgotten everything and want to be considered beginners, however it usually becomes apparent that their muscles have not forgotten as much as they think.
Other adult beginners are brand new to martial arts. They have decided to learn something new, to exercise their minds as well as their bodies, to keep fit, to meet like-minded people. Perhaps it’s something they always wanted to do when they were younger but never had the chance.
Here are some of the questions I get asked by adults making enquiries, along with my answers: Are there any other beginners? There may or may not be at any given time, but there will be a range of grades, and, within weeks, someone else will join after you and you will no longer be a beginner, you may soon find yourself showing others what to do.
I have never done anything like this before will I still be OK to join? We are a school, with teachers, it’s what we do. If everyone could already do it, we would have no purpose.
Do I need to be fit? People usually start an activity to get fit, so they wouldn’t be expected to be fit already, we take you however you come.
Is there a beginner’s class? Very, very occasionally, but don’t wait for one to come up, just join, after a few lessons you won’t be a beginner anymore.
I sense their nervousness. They fear everyone else will know what they are doing while they will be left floundering stupidly. Some people fear this so much, that having taken the first step of getting in touch and arranging to come, they fail to make it to the second step and don’t show up on the day.
Then there are the unspoken questions; no, you won’t spar on your first lesson, don’t worry, nor even for the first few lessons, no one will kick or punch you and you won’t be expected to hit anything other than a focus pad or punch bag. When you do start to spar it will be slow, controlled, without contact, until you build up your skills and confidence when you will find yourself wanting to do more.
If, as a beginner, you are put with a partner to work on something, that partner will either be another complete beginner, or a higher grade student whose aim is to help you. A training partner is not an opponant. Everyone is friendly, everyone is helpful.
The beauty of martial arts for the adult beginner is that you don’t have to have done anything before, it doesn’t matter how unfit you are, how uncoordinated you are, or how (your choice of negative quality here) you are. Unlike team sports where your lack of skills may let your team down, Taekwon-do doesn't work like that, each person will make progress at their own pace, and other members of all levels are only too willing to help them. We were all beginners once, some as kids, but others as adults of all ages. We are a team, but in a very different sense.
So, having dispelled the idea that you will be floundering helplessly amongst experts, the next myth to dispel is that there won’t be anyone ‘like me’ there, whatever ‘like-me’ is. We have people from all walks of life, all levels of education, genders, cultures, and social class if you subscribe to such constructs. The good thing is though, it doesn’t matter. We put our doboks on and we are all just martial artist.
And so, back to my motivation for writing this article; as I said, some adults contact me, arrange a trial and then don’t turn up. What I didn’t say though, may surprise you unless you too are a martial arts instructor, is that MOST of them don’t turn up. Maybe only one in six actually turn up.
They want to do it. They have selected a school. They are welcomed when they enquire. They arrange to come. They sound keen, committed. They plan on coming. They don’t come. Why not?