One of the most common phrases you’ll hear from your training partners is “I wish I started training earlier.” You may often hear this from twenty-somethings with their whole lives still ahead of them. But, what about people approaching middle age or even older?
Is it safe to start training? Are you too old to learn a new skill? Truthfully, the answers to those questions will vary from person to person. While many sports can be very physically taxing, Jiu Jitsu can be as tough or as gentle as you make it.
While there is no age cutoff to participate in Jiu Jitsu, older practitioners must keep a few considerations in mind.
Take advice where you can get it
It’s often said that with age comes wisdom. However, starting something as wild and nuanced as Jiu Jitsu later in life can transport you back to the days of learning to walk. Don’t let the learning curve deter you. This befuddled feeling is universal regardless of age.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand a concept or a specific technique. Ask your coach questions. Ask your teammates questions. Ask the other Jiu Jitsu players who are around your age about their experiences.
Although your teammates and maybe even your instructors might be much younger than you, know that they respect you just as much as anyone else that steps onto the mat.
Know your limits
While “old man” or “dad strength” can be a benefit of being an older Jiu Jitsu player, it is still important to understand what your body is still capable of. It may take some time before you have a full understanding of what level of training intensity suits you.
Young or old, Jiu Jitsu players cannot afford to train at 100 percent intensity, 100 percent of the time, if they want to keep their body healthy for years to come. There is no shame in forgoing tournaments or high-intensity techniques if your body says “no.”
That is not to say older Jiu Jitsu players must only train gently. Take advantage of your hard-earned wisdom to school the younger generations on the mats when you can. But, still keep your health at the forefront of your mind.
Take the opportunity to focus on technique and application rather than brute strength. This is a lesson that takes years to learn for some Jiu Jitsu practitioners.
Choose your rolls wisely
Being comfortable drilling during class and being confident in your technique is an important obstacle to overcome in Jiu Jitsu. However, rolling is a whole other level of training to contend with.
Any roll has the chance to become high intensity, and that might not be a bad thing every once and awhile. But, as you age, it will become paramount to understand the level of intensity your body can sustain.
That being said, you will want to become more discerning in who you choose to train with. While your technique can handle that enthusiastic, new white belt, you may want to avoid rolling with them until they develop proper body control to care for their partners during a roll.
Understand that it is not selfish or mean to deny a roll with someone for your own safety. Be open about why you’d prefer to roll with certain people, and that should smooth over any potential misunderstandings.
Make a mental list of all the people you feel comfortable rolling with and hone in on them when the time comes. Perhaps your instructor can help pair you with someone who would be able to provide you a challenge while also respecting your well-being.
Support your overall health
Jiu Jitsu is a great choice for health and wellness. But, if you’re not careful it can be just as taxing on your body as any other sport. Even if you started Jiu Jitsu later in life, staying smart while staying active will help set you on a positive health path for years to come.
Think about the things outside of Jiu Jitsu that need to be addressed in order to keep you healthy. Jiu Jitsu players of any age must weigh their training schedule against their rest schedule. Rest is an important aspect of recovery. As you age your body will require more recovery.
Additionally, support your body with a good diet. Research a diet that works for you while also being enjoyable. Don’t let your love of Jiu Jitsu outweigh your need for a healthy and rested body. If it helps, think of these extra aspects as adding to your Jiu Jitsu game.
Aging has its perks, but it also has drawbacks. Even millennials complain of having a bad knee or constant aches from years of Jiu Jitsu. How is someone who is older going to fare on the mats? Is it too late to learn a new skill?
The answers to those questions are what you make them. Being the older person on the mat among young, bloodthirsty teammates can be intimidating, but there is a place for you. As you age there will be more obstacles to contend with as you train. Be sure to listen to your body and be smart in how you train, so you can keep doing so for years to come.