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Ageless Jiu-Jitsu: 5 Essential Tips for the Older Grappler

Updated: Apr 23

For those of you in your 40s and up, this will be something you'll need to pay attention to. For everyone else, I recommend staying ahead of any potential injuries and keeping your health at the forefront of your mind when approaching training.




Prioritize Mobility and Flexibility

As we age, our bodies naturally undergo changes that can affect mobility and flexibility. To counteract this, older grapplers should place a strong emphasis on mobility drills and flexibility exercises. Incorporating a dedicated warm-up routine that includes joint rotations, dynamic stretches, and yoga can help improve range of motion, reduce the risk of injuries, and enhance overall flexibility. Remember, a supple body is a resilient body.


I honestly don't do enough stretching and it's something I really need to be better about, relying too much on my natural flexibility. I do know that I will feel the difference between the days that I get a good stretch in before class and what it feels like when I don't. There is a bit of preventative maintenance that I do, due to my lower back issue. I make it a habit to stretch out my hips regularly at home or at the gym. When I don't do this, I end up feeling it a few days later.


Train Smart, Not Just Hard

While the younger grapplers might thrive on intense, high-volume training, the older practitioner needs to be more mindful of their body's signals. Listen to your body and recognize the difference between discomfort and pain. Consider incorporating lower-intensity sessions, technical drilling, and positional sparring into your training regimen. This approach allows for skill development without excessive wear and tear on the joints.


While I do love getting some really hard training in, my favorite training is when I find a quality Blue or Purple Belt. The skill gap is wide enough that I can withstand most of their attacks, but it's close enough that I can't be lazy. A quality Purple Belt will push you both athletically and technically without redlining you you too often. Specifically if the size gape isn't way off.


I find that my rolls with lesser experienced students allows me to add and finetune specific details about a technique. Being that I'm teaching mainly 5a classes, I don't get to roll with very many Brown and Black Belts. I used to think that it would become a massive detriment, but in reality, it's allowing me to become sharper.



Focus on Technique and Efficiency

As the saying goes, "Technique conquers all." This adage becomes even more relevant for the older grappler. Instead of relying solely on strength and athleticism, channel your energy into refining your technique and increasing your efficiency on the mats. Precision and timing can often overcome raw physical attributes, allowing the older grappler to outsmart and outmaneuver opponents.


A game I like to play with people without mentioning it ahead of time.. not using my hands. During a round or at the very least, part of the round, I won't use my hands to grip, push, or pull. I'll use my elbows and forearms when trying to frame, focusing on creating space, and regaining or maintaining guard with movement and leg dexterity. It is not easy but it forces me to rely on proper technique and movement.


There's a host of games that you can play relating to working from a deficit that will help you hone your efficiency, it requires creativity and an honest look at what you're not good at so you can focus on improving those areas.


Recovery is Non-Negotiable

Recovery becomes increasingly vital as we age. Ensure you prioritize adequate sleep, hydration, and nutrition to support your body's healing and regeneration processes. Incorporate rest days into your training schedule to prevent burnout and give your body the time it needs to recover. Consider complementary practices such as massage, foam rolling, and hot-cold therapy to alleviate muscle soreness and stiffness.


I would also add managing your training schedule to aid recovery. I train three to four times a week. I'm not a gym rat and really don't care to be. Understanding that I need time to rest is just as important as the time that I actually put into training. What rest looks like will be different from student to student. A competitor may limit themselves to a day or two, while a hobbyist with other responsibilities may need three or four.


What you consider rest will also vary. Rest for me is sitting on the couch with the Mrs and binge watching our shows. Some days it's working on Social Media or getting some writing in.



Embrace the Journey and Set Realistic Goals

Jiu-jitsu is a lifelong journey, and the older grappler should approach it with a mindset focused on continuous improvement rather than comparison to younger training partners. Set realistic and achievable goals that align with your individual capabilities and circumstances. Celebrate small victories, whether they be technical breakthroughs, increased stamina, or successful escapes. Embracing the journey with a positive mindset will not only enhance your BJJ experience but also contribute to your overall well-being.


Nipsey Hussle's "The Marathon Continues" has been a mantra that I've taken with me into Black Belt. It allows me to remember that this isn't the peak and that there are other mountain ranges to traverse. It has allowed me to remain in that White Belt mindset of, I still have so much to learn and do.


While my goals have changed, I'm no longer striving for the next belt. I am looking at ways to better manage students, better ways to illustrate conceptual approaches, and how to continue to grow a morning program.


Conclusion

By prioritizing mobility, training intelligently, focusing on technique, emphasizing recovery, and embracing the unique aspects of your journey, the older grappler can continue to enjoy the art of Jiu-Jitsu with passion and resilience. Remember, the mats are a place where experience and wisdom can be powerful assets, allowing you to flourish as an ageless grappler.


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