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As Jiu-Jitsu continues to grow all over the world, more people (outside of the 20 something male demographic) are becoming interested in starting to train Jiu-Jitsu. Many questions about training come from men over the age of 35 who ask “I am 40-something, am I too old to start training bjj?”
The short answer is NO!
A quick look at a BJJ class photo will see a number of BJJ students who are over 40 years of age.
Master Carlos Gracie maintains a high level of fitness through Jiu-Jitsu after the age of 60. TV show host and author Anthony Bourdain started training at 58 years of age and recently was awarded his blue belt.
Gracie Barra recognizes that different students have different goals and needs. The philosophy of “Jiu-Jitsu for Everyone” at Gracie Barra includes programs for all levels and types of students. “As a Gracie Barra instructor, you are promising everyone in your community that if they come to your school, they will be welcomed. Regardless of their size, gender, cultural background, experience level, or age, you will
exert your best efforts to teach that person the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.”
Many of the first Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu academies were strongly oriented to competition and simply not accessible for the average person who wanted to learn some jiu-jitsu. While we all respect and are inspired by the high level competitors, competition training is very demanding and may not be compatible with everyone’s goals and capabilities.
The Gracie Barra ICP Course describes this exclusively competition oriented environment as “Jiu-jitsu for a few”.
The “Jiu-Jitsu for Everyone” philosophy structures the programs and curriculum to:
- Focus beyond competition vs focus on competition
- Classes / Students are grouped according to age and level
Ex. Athletes train at special hours /competitors mixed in with beginners.
Now the over 40 beginner should start bjj with a few important things in mind:
1) Proceed at your own pace. Don’t measure yourself against the 22 year olds who eat, sleep and breath jiu-jitsu. A more balanced, patient approach is required. Especially if you have been leading a sedentary lifestyle, you must allow time for your body to adapt to the physical demands of jiu-jitsu.
2) The emphasis in rolling is more on defenSe first. Protect yourself at all times and that might mean giving up positions (such as being stacked) to protect your spine and neck. As Master Carlos Gracie Jr. advises “The lumbar region, for example, as strong as it may be, will never be armored against the passage of time.”
3) Recovery time is the single factor that is most affected by age. Adequate sleep, rest in between training sessions and a healthy nutrition are all more important for the over 40 student of bjj. Most over 40 black belts recommend an increased commitment to eating a healthy diet as key to their longevity in the art.
There is an old saying in jiu-jitsu: “The best time to have started training jiu-jitsu was 20 years ago.
The 2nd best time is NOW!”
Credits: Mark Mullen
Gracie Barra Black belt based in Saigon, Vietnam