“I’m going to be 40 in a couple months, and I just started BJJ in May of this year. I’m trying to convince some friends to join who are a couple years older, and they think it’s crazy to even consider in their 40s.
However, I’m trying to convince them that they should look into it as long as they are in shape and don’t have any major medical problems.
How old is everyone on here who practices Grappling/ BJJ/ or Wrestling?
When did you start?”
I read the post above on an online forum and it really got me thinking about my own start in BJJ. I started just after my 36th birthday and am pushing 39 now. Without hesitation, I say go for it. If you’re interested in BJJ, don’t talk yourself out of it. Just take that first step and try it out.
There are so many excuses I’ve heard over the last few years. Probably the most common is, “I’m too old for that.” Probably a close second is, “I’m just not in good enough shape.”
Helio Gracie, pictured above, was on the mats until days before his death at 95 years old. One of my favorite guys at the school, Chris, just got back from an extended stay in Brazil. He’s going to be headed back soon and I’ll be sorry to see him go. He’s a funny guy. He was telling this story of one of the guys that he routinely trained with, in his 60’s or so. His impression was awesome… picture Chris stooped over, one hand on his back and one held up saying in a thick Brazilian accent, “Oh, take it easy on me. I’m just an old guy.” Chris then mimes the action as he describes having his face just mashed into this guy’s sweaty, chest hair, tapping to some kind of standing neck crank. Turns out the guy is like an 8th degree red/black belt and has been training since he was a child.
The point is Chris got his ass kicked by an old man. No… wait. That’s not the point. The point is that BJJ is an art that is gentle enough that it can legitimately be considered a life sport. Barring injury, one can plan on enjoying BJJ for a long time. Not only that, but BJJ, if done well, can greatly increase one’s quality of life by keeping you fit and strong, particularly through your core.
And the best thing is, you don’t really even need to be in shape. BJJ x3 per week will get you into shape. I trained as often as I could, listened to my body and set goals that were realistic for me. I dropped 40 lbs in the first 6 months of training and feel much better now than I did at 25. If you wait until you’re in good enough shape to train, you’ll never get there. That’s just human nature.
So, for those of you who are over 35 or so and train in BJJ, what got you into it? What are your thoughts?
And for those of you who want to train BJJ but haven’t taken the plunge yet, what’s your excuse? What’s holding you back?
Now, we’ve all seen the 18 to 25 year old wrestler who is fast, smart, agile as a friggin monkey and strong as a full grown mountain gorilla. For the rest of us, I’ll share some of my opinions on getting started. Being 35, 40 or however old isn’t a reason to not do things you want to do, but do it smart. At 38, I’m not as resilient as I once was.
If you’re older than 35, particularly if it’s been a while since you’ve been athletic, I’d recommend getting a physical and talking to your doctor about your intent to train in BJJ. BJJ is an intense workout and you want to make sure that your heart is healthy and that you’ve identified any obvious physical issues that will need to be dealt with. High blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, joint issues or anything like that won’t necessarily mean that you have to avoid training in BJJ, but only you and your doctor can figure that out.
Listen to your body. The kids that train 6 days each week are to be commended, but I just can’t do it. I’m good for 4 classes per week plus some open mat and light rolling outside of class. I get too beat up to take care of my family if I overtrain. Particularly when you start, listen to your body. If you train smart, you’ll train forever.
Consider vitamins and supplements that work for you. I would definitely suggest supplementing your diet with fish oil, but once again, this is something best discussed between you and your doctor. The best thing my doctor recommended for me was to super-dose on fish oil. He recommended between 8 and 10 grams per day. More than glucosamine/chondroiton or any other supplement, fish oil has been like WD-40 for my joints, particularly my gimpy hip. It’s good for my heart, too. But that’s just me.
Finally I recommend that you commit to giving it at least 6 months, no matter how bad you feel, barring injury of course. Depending upon your conditioning, it’s going to take a while for you to even get your heads above water. I spent the first 3 months just struggling to make it through class and get to a point where I could move afterward. I’m sure that many of the guys at my school doubted I’d last… I was that guy who comes in, sweats like crazy, looks like he’s about to keel over and often pukes in the bathroom after a 5 minute round. I was that guy. Hell, to a certain degree, I’m STILL that guy.
Fortunately, in spite of the nausea induced haze, I was having so much fun I just had to go back. Eventually, my conditioning got better… still questionable, but better, and I was able to engage my brain enough to learn some jiu-jitsu.
Barring any medical reason to the contrary, if I can do it, anyone can.