You can try it yourself but be careful not to go overboard and get yourself hurt. It is ultimately for deciding if you're really going to learn what you wanted, combat techniques. This is important because many people who originally wanted to learn self-defense skills were persuaded to enrol in performance martial art. When asked, many instructors refuse to tell them that for the performance Wushu they are teaching, they will not be teaching people to use any moves in combat.
Do not be afraid to ask! It is not morally wrong in martial ethics to make sure you are learning proper combat skills.
If a Kung Fu group does teach combat skills, you will need to find out a few things. How frequently they practice their skills and how heavily they emphasize application compared to forms. Do they only do partner coordinated techniques or do they also do partner reaction drills and conditioning exercises? Is it acceptable for you?
You can find out from the instructor or from your own research whether the Kung Fu style that you are going to learn is suitable for you. Some people are better coordinated in certain planes of movement. Some people are better at angular movements, some circular. Some have bodies suitable for a hard style with big movements, some have bodies that are limited to a soft style with small movements. Does the flavor of the style suit your character and preferences?
It's beneficial to pay attention to this aspect because it's not so enjoyable if you do something not following your heart and your body. Some instructors will encourage you to learn something you are not suited for. For example, a man of large solid build may be talked into learning a soft art with narrow stance frame. Keep an open mind and study different choices before you finally commit to one.
Instructors or friends may encourage you to pick up a certain art of their liking, but the choice is still yours. A good instructor or friend to advise you will be one who tells you about the style as it is, from a neutral perspective. A good instructor will analyze with you if the style is suitable for you, how long will it take for you to condition your body to the style's requirements.
The health aspect is very important too, especially if you want to learn Kung Fu for the full package of benefits. You should find out how their qigong exercise works if they have, or how they maintain the fitness for practitioners. Like what I mentioned in the beginning, is it a full range of motion?
You also need to assess your own physical ability in the present, regardless of age. Do you have any persisting injuries or disability? How is your fitness level in terms of stamina, strength and flexibility? Are you comfortable learning with people who might learn faster or slower than you?
If you have made the proper planning and preparation on your side, the other factor is to check if the group you are going to learn from will be able to teach you and guide you adequately and professionally.
This is very very important, we cannot stress enough that a very good art may not have very good teachers. It is advisable to drop by the training place to observe the training before deciding whether or not to start taking up their lessons.
There are a few things to take note of. First of all, there has to be a structured curriculum.
A structured curriculum is important because it is from there you can see clearly what they have to offer to you, if that is what you want. It is also a good guide to set goals for yourself.
If you enrol in any school these days, be it to take up a diploma in accountancy or a degree in engineering, it is a professional practice to present the course details to people who are interested in signing up. It is the same for traditional martial arts. You do not just learn from a teacher just because he is old, wise, and knowledgable. If he does not have a structured system of teaching and he teaches you something new without you being proficient enough to move on, it will not be beneficial for you. You will forget what you learnt and lack the true standard to claim a certain level of progression.
In the later half of the 20th century not many Chinese Kung Fu practitioners have the liberty of getting a good education and a settled lifestyle. Back then much of Kung Fu teaching was fragmented and disorganized. Practitioners would cease their practice altogether for up to 30 years due to various circumstances and suddenly decide to pass on the art that their teachers or parents has transmitted to them, often only through oral transmission.
It is best to learn from a school or teacher who has a systematic way of teaching. There should be a common syllabus among the students so it is easy for cross referencing, practicing and revising with your seniors or juniors. Taking down notes and archiving them should be encouraged, for this not just aids your learning and revision, it also preserves the martial art for future generations. Everything from the standard length of weapons, to the requirements of stances and technique should be clearly taught and noted down.
Other than that, the teacher has to be passionate in teaching. He has to be a seasoned practitioner himself to be qualified enough to teach good students and set a good example. He has to be a reasonable person, explaining his style to people and answering questions thrown to him by students. A good teacher does not teach something only when he feels like teaching it. A good teacher teaches when the student needs it.
Other than having a good teacher, it's also good to get along with your classmates. Many people are motivated by a positive environment by people of the same interest. Having more people doing things together makes things more fun and less boring. Especially for martial arts where practicing with partners are ever important, it will be helpful to stay connected with your classmates. They will be a great source of motivation too.
Especially your seniors, they have been through years of training and they can share with you some of the good things to look out for, and the difficulties they faced in their journey. They may have also learnt other styles of martial arts or Kung Fu and may offer you with another perspective from how your teacher sees the martial arts world.
Your juniors too. Assisting in teaching them and motivating them gives you a sense of duty. This can be a good way to revise some earlier things you've learnt and it is a marker of how far you've come.
These are pretty much what you need to look out for in a good Kung Fu class. The rest will depend on your dedication and consistent efforts to make it a quality investment.
As a form of investment for your well being and self-confidence, Kung Fu is a little different from other forms of investments. Although you have to learn and practice it yourself instead of someone doing it for you, you will not lose it because you will always have the skill and foundation with you in your mind and body. It cannot be lost or taking away like material possessions. Kung Fu is an intellectual asset. It is surely worthwhile investing in something priceless. Especially at old age, you're going to have that youth and vitality which will be so scarce among people your age. Needless to say, you will have more peace in mind, that you are skilled in handling physical conflict.