Over 40 and doing BJJ????

As you may have gathered due to the name of my blog, I am an Old Munki and I have come to jiu jitsu late in life.  I have found that one of the main reasons I have started training “seriously” is I wanted something that was both mentally and physically stimulating and that I could potentially carry on doing till I drop.  BJJ hit the mark on all counts.

However whilst training it has made me take a long hard look at reality, which I feel has been a positive action for me.  I was wondering if this same sort of situation applies to other older participants that come to BJJ later in life? So I thought I would go through a few of things that have arisen for me to see if any other older Munki’s can relate.

I have realised that despite me thinking I’m still in my early 20’s, my body is very aware I’m over 40.  This means recovery and physical maintenance have to be a serious consideration.  This is not too much of a problem, as the majority of this makes me feel better anyway.  It is just the balancing issue of remembering the additional stuff is to support my BJJ.  So hauling back in on the weights or other stuff, so I don’t get worn out and miss out on a BJJ class.

I also need to get to know my body again. (No rude comments here!!) I have changed a lot over the years.  Physical damage, muscle and joint issues are something that I am working on to improve and repair.  Having adapted to these physical limitations over the years, I now have to make as much of an improvement that I can.  Otherwise I could potentially risk further injury. I have come to understand this will take time.  Have had these issues for many years and I can’t rush the physical changes.  Pushing it will just cause me more damage.  My body doesn’t bounce back like when I was a youngster when I could do the splits and train 7 days a week. I have learnt to take my time and appreciate each little change and improvement that happens as a little win.

I have also realised that if I have a hard/long day at work not to beat myself up for not making class that night.  Sometimes the negative self talk I give myself is really bad.  I understand now that I may need the rest so I can make class the next day.  This is far better than wearing myself out, beating myself down and then missing a few days on the mats.  I know I’m never going to be as good as the Mendes brothers or Andre Galvao, but I will be as good as I can be and there is no immediate rush to get there.

I also have to really check my ego.  This is for both getting tapped and comparing myself to others in the class.  I always have to remind myself, that when I get tapped by a younger or stronger opponent, it’s because my technique isn’t good enough.  It’s not his fault that I gave him the space to tap me.  I have to stay focussed, figure out what I did wrong and seal up that gap. I won’t die or lose my house because I got tapped, but what I need to do is learn from it.  For me at the moment it’s all about acquiring knowledge and figuring out how I can apply it.

Then I have to stop comparing myself progress to others, especially the younger guys! When I look at some people and they are the same grade as me and pulling off some amazing stuff, I have to remind myself they are not me.  They may be shorter, lighter as well as younger but we are all different.  I am working on my potential and improving myself.  Not seeing if I am better than someone else at a technique.  Doing this take my focus away from my improvement and creates a potentially negative mindset.

When I spoke to Chris Hauter at his recent seminar, I asked him about getting into Jiu Jitsu as an older person and what he thought. He felt it was a great thing to start doing as an activity and I do agree with him on this. All the things I have mentioned have given me a positive direction to go in, physically and mentally, so that is definitely a good thing.

If anyone else wants to add to this feel free to leave me a comment.

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  1. I really enjoyed your post. I’ve got a few of my own thoughts on BJJ over 40:

    Basically, my thesis is “enjoy yourself and go at your own speed.” As we get older we’re generally not allowed to suck at things like work, parenting, etc. We’re expected to be experts. BJJ gives us that rare opportunity to revel in how much we suck and savor the process of getting better.

    Here’s some Pollonius-like advice:

    The best way to get better is to do more BJJ. I’m really just talking about the basics here. Sometimes I’ll be inspired by a YouTube video and think that I can pull something off on the mats. The reality is that if I ever start thinking about Marcelo Garcio or Saulo Ribiero techniques I need to get back to basics. A new spider guard variation will not make me better; drilling to move my hips properly while setting up the triangle will!

    The other best way to get better is to do less BJJ. If you’re feeling broken, take a break. Think fractally. If a warmup drill is going to kill you, don’t do it. If you lack confidence in your ukemi, don’t do takedowns. If you’ve tweaked your knee, tell your partner before you roll. And sometimes its best just to stay off the mats and do something different. Yoga and Oly lifting have recently done more for my BJJ than rolling.

    Have specific goals. Know what you want to work on when you’re in the gym. It could be simply surviving longer against higher belts, controlling a position longer, or setting up a submission. If you’ve got a goal, you can practice. You’ll likely miss, get swept, and then smashed, but at least you’re workings towards something.

    Avoid long-term goals. Just enjoy your time on the mats. You’re going to miss time due to kids, work, injury, etc. You won’t be able to train as much as you want because your joints will hurt (at least your elbows, shoulders, hips, knees, and lower back). You’ll find that grappling more than two or three times a week will break you. That’s okay. Just embrace the process.

  2. I am 45. About 5 years ago, I said I must start slowing down. 40 is old. I am getting old. My mom told me I should stop this jiu jitsu stuff before I get hurt. Well, after a few years of slowing down, I have realized I have been really stupid. I do not feel old. I feel great. What the heck. I have ramped up my activity and I feel awesome. I think, I was slowing down for no reason! I train jiu jitsu and I have become passionate about kettlebell training. I am not intimated by rolling with the young kids and I still feel like rampimng it up. I may be going thru a mid-life crisis, who knows? But, I do not feel any different than I did when I was in my 30’s and in some respects I feel better!

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