Original Article: BJJ World
Unfortunately, not everybody in the BJJ community discovered the gentle art during their physical prime. If you step foot in any BJJ academy around the world, you will see men and women of all ages training on the mats. However, there is a different mentality in perspective and training between the “under 40” and “over 40” crowds on the mats. While the younger grapplers can put the “pedal to the metal” and push their physical limits on the mats, the older ones need to live and train differently due to physical limitations, work, family, and other life obligations. That’s where “old man Jiu-Jitsu” comes in.
What is “old man Jiu-Jitsu”? Well, first of all, it applies to both sexes, not just men. It just sounds cooler as praise put this way. Secondly, it is an approach that is going to allow an older practitioner to extend their training well into the senior years. Moreover, those that start off fairly late should use this approach so that they do not quit prematurely. All in all, it’s not rocket science, just a look at the smart little things most young studs often overlook.
Extra Gear To Get You Through
Have you ever wondered why older athletes (in and around their early forties) from all kinds of sports often wear knee braces? Well, after years of running, jumping and lifting weights, the wear and tear of athletic life inevitably lead to issues. Arthritis, tendinitis, and inflammation in the joints are the most common culprits. So, conversely, the first step before training should be getting the supportive gear on. At least for the older BJJ practitioner.
Pads and braces are other traits of “old man Jiu-Jitsu”. The compression braces and additional support help with comfort, stability, and peace of mind. Knee and ankle braces become almost mandatory after the age of 40. It is not that people are too old. The art is too demanding on the joints regardless of age, forcing extensive prevention measures upon older practitioners. Additionally, a nice lube of Tiger Balm or Icy Hot before and after training will keep the muscles loose and the sinuses clear.
Be Thorough With Warm-Ups
While a young teenager or a fit person in their twenties can jump right into training without a warm-up, the senior practitioner of grappling martial arts can not. “Old man Jiu-Jitsu” starts with a thorough warm-up and ends with an equally extensive cooldown.
Why? Well, first to prevent injuries. Warming up gets the body in motion and sport-specific movements play a huge role in preventing possible injury. Since an injury heals slower as a person gets older, this makes sense. Next, a good warm-up offsets inflammation because the muscles are not shocked with physical exertion straight off the bat. Last but not least, warm-ups aid in flexibility, more specifically in maintaining it.
While this is recommended for athletes of all ages, the young and limber can get away with going from 0 to 100 in less than 6 seconds. Their older training partners, on the other hand, need to acknowledge their limits. “Old man Jiu-Jitsu” means managing risk factors in order to be able to train consistently.
Focusing On Jiu Jitsu
Training time is precious to the older practitioner since most of them have busy lives with work, family, and other obligations. Getting 3 to 5 hours per week for a hobby is hard to negotiate, so they want to get the most of it. While younger students might have a hard time paying attention or slack off during drilling, the senior BJJ practitioner has to be deadly serious. Those that roam the masters’ divisions know how hard it is to find the time to train and are busting their tail at work to pay for the classes. So, pay close attention to what happens in class and be mindful when drilling.
Old Man Jiu-Jitsu vs. Youthful Athleticism
The OGs might not proudly and loudly gloat about it, but they feel really good on the inside when they get the better of their younger peers during live training. Despite not being as fast or well-conditioned, they do hold certain advantages. Namely, old man strength is real and can easily surprise a young and very self-confident training partner.
Furthermore, the wisdom of life often makes older practitioners more careful and slow paced. They like to focus on the defensive side of things, but that provides them with ample countering opportunities. The technique has a crucial role when rolling with a younger training partner. Just as with female practitioners and those that belong in the lighter categories, the technique is the king in “old man Jiu-Jitsu”. Instead of strength, the masters look to utilize technique against physically more conditioned opponents
It might not happen every round, but when the older practitioner gets the better of a younger training partner, a part of them will tell themselves “I still got it” or “not bad for an old guy.”
BJJ can help the senior grappler get by in the streets as well. Check this article out: https://bjj-world.com/older-man-choked-drunk-aggressive-guy-flight/
The “Old Man Jiu-Jitsu” diet
When you are young, you can eat burgers and fries an hour before working out and run up and down a basketball court with no problem. Well, ok, you shouldn’t be on burgers and pizza, but you can get away with it.
You can even go out drinking all night and wake up on 2 hours of sleep to train at 9 AM. You won’t be fresh, but you’ll shrug it off easily. Once you get past 35 though, your body can’t handle chaos. Eating the wrong meal before or after training can leave you wrecked for days. Process alcohol is also very different it was when you were 21. Part of “old man Jiu-Jitsu” is understanding nutrition and how to eat before and after training to optimize energy levels and recovery.
Lastly, older practitioners often like to tell young people how lucky they are to be able to start training at such a young age. “I wish this was around when I was your age” or “Take advantage of this time before you get too busy with work and family.”
In many cases, people discover the sport later and life and use it to get back in shape. BJJ is great to learn something new, take on a new challenge, or fill a void in someone’s life. It is a fun and social hobby for most, but a piece of them wished they started in their teens or early twenties since they would likely be further ahead in their journey.
Remember, you can still compete in BJJ even at an advanced age. See how it’s done by two Coral Belts Going Against Each Other HERE.