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AM I TOO OLD TO TRAIN BRAZILIAN JIUJITSU?
It is no secret that Brazilian JiuJitsu is one of the most physically demanding martial arts to train. This grappling art can be a high intensity workout if it involves one on one sparring, often referred to by BJJ practitioners as "rolling." The physical demands of this martial art can sometimes be a deterrent to older individuals who may not be as limber or in the physical shape they once were in their younger years. However, If you are getting up their in age or are a few pounds over weight, you can still train Brazilian JiuJitsu with a few modifications to your training.
At 44 years old, I have experienced first hand a lot of these before mentioned physical challenges when I train BJJ. In my opinion, us older grapplers need to come to the realization that we are no longer in our twenties. After all, If you’re really looking to train BJJ for a lifetime, then training like a 20 year old when you’re 44, doesn’t make any sense. For most of us older practitioners our pure strength has diminished over time and we have a much harder time recovering from physical activity. Quite frankly, we aren't the young pup we use to be. Therefore, during these "older years," we need to develop the concept of "working smarter, not harder." If our physical attributes are perhaps dwindling, us older grapplers need to rely on our brains and life experience while we train with younger opponents. After all, they say BJJ is like a game of chess and us older individuals often need to use a mental strategy to be successful against younger, often times more athletic opponents. This mental strategy could be anticipating our opponents next move based on his positioning, to using a defense only strategy to frustrate our opponent into making a mistake.
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In my opinion, the mental game also involves picking good training partners. All of us who have trained at a BJJ gym know the guys/gals that are not good training partners. These individuals are only out to see how many people they can "tap" during their sparring sessions, with no regard for the safety of their training partners. These individuals do not see their partners as teammates, but rather "competition," where they treat each "roll" as if it were life or death, often holding submissions too long, or going 100 mph, resulting in injury to their partner.
For these reasons, one of the most important factors in your success as an older BJJ practitioner is the academy where you chose to train. The right environment and the right group of training partners is crucial. If you are an older individual, a gym full of much younger mixed martial arts fighters is probably not going to be a good fit. After all, your academy and your professors BJJ vision will be the number one influence that will shape your game and make or break your JiuJitsu journey.
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When you are looking for a place to train, ask yourself, do I see myself succeeding here?" “Will I have a team of training partners that make sense for me to train with?” “Is this the right fit?,” “Will they understand how to work with me based on my age, my body type, and my athletic background?”
Not only will these questions keep you safe, influence your style, and help you to be successful on your BJJ journey, but they will almost guarantee that you will meet life long training partners that will treat you as family.
Don't forget to check out Fundamentals and Concepts by Olympian, Travis Stevens. This series will help the novice or experienced grappler develop the concepts Travis used to win a silver medal in the Olympics. You can get it here.