How to Have Longevity in Jiu Jitsu
We have all heard the expression that Jiu Jitsu is about the journey not the destination. What does that actually mean? When you first start training you can understand the statement but actually abide by it and use it as a philosophy for your training takes years. In Jiu Jitsu we constantly put our body through a rigorous process every time we train; we strain ourselves and develop body fatigues and soreness. This is the process that many of us have grown to love, but what about when we are in our fifties? Are we focused on the micro picture or the macro?
Jiu Jitsu is for life, many people don’t realize this and they forget that at some point they may have to adapt their Jiu Jitsu for a different body. Jiu Jitsu has become extremely popular and we have so many young up and coming competitors, with the growth that we have the bjj techniques are also evolving. With this evolution, some people are developing games that they may not be able to sustain for the remainder of their bjj journey. We see people who are constantly relying on their youth, athleticism, flexibility, and agility. These are characteristics that will not always be with us. As we age our bodies will naturally start to deteriorate and we will not have the same capabilities that we did in our youth.
All that being said, how can we sustain our bodies and have longevity in Jiu Jitsu? Are there tricks that we can use to keep our bodies fresh? Are there practices that we can implement? The answer is yes. Let’s look at the big picture, you can adapt a game that is less dependent on flexibility and athleticism, you can implement things like yoga, and you can stretch. These are just the simple introductory concepts that can help you. There are many other things that can help like diet, lifestyle, etc, but let’s discuss these 3.
Learning “Old Man” Jiu Jitsu
There is a term that is overly used among the jiu jitsu community and that is “old man” jiu jitsu. This often gets misconstrued with “Old School” jiu jitsu and these are two different things. Although they may seem similar on the surface, there are differences. So what is “old man” bjj? Well, it is a broad term that refers to a wide variety of bjj techniques, games, and a different approach to bjj.
So let’s look at specific techniques and then let’s look at the bigger picture. We will use the cliché technique the berimbolo, let it be noted that we have nothing against the berimbolo and think that it is an excellent technique. The berimbolo is effective, and it does work, but the berimbolo also requires a little more flexibility then some people are capable of maintaining the entire duration of their lives. This technique may be good for many people but if you are creeping up on 50 years of age, it may not be a technique that you adapt into your game. There are other techniques that may be hard to use such as inversion for guard retention, rolling knee bars, and anything that requires flexibility and strength.
So what are somethings that work well as you age? Well, the basics work very well as you age, for instance, the half guard, the closed guard, the deep half guard, and butterfly guard. All of these guards are excellent and can be utilized the remainder of your life. They are all very good positions to slow the pace of a match down, that is a big part of old man bjj. When you are getting older, you want the pace of a match to be slowed down; you have to find a game that can slow down those young and athletic competitors. Great positions to work on from bottom for this are the half guard, and the closed guard. It is hard for someone to just run around your guard when you play these positions.
From the top position you also want to implement this philosophy. You want to do things that don’t require a lot of flexibility, or athleticism. It’s not to say that you can’t be flexible or athletic well into your 40’s or 50’s but unfortunately as we age it is more difficult for us to recover and we are more prone to injury. From top we can work slow and methodical passes, use pressure, and take it slow. We should not be cartwheel passing, flipping, and jumping side to side if we want to promote longevity. Check out this technique below with Fabiano Scherner and watch how he passes. Fabiano is an older gentleman who still trains with great athletes and UFC fighters including Chael Sonnen.
If you want to learn more of Fabiano Scherner’s techniques he just put out an excellent DVD Set, “MASTERING BRAZILIAN JIU JITSU AFTER 40: TOP GAME – FABIANO SCHERNER.” This is also available ondemand. This is probably our best resource for anyone who is trying to learn techniques that they can use well into their 40’s and 50’s. Unfortunately we can’t stay young forever and a lot of the material that is floating around the bjj community is catered to younger and more agile practitioners. This is not always feasible, Fabiano still has world class instruction and they are techniques that anyone can implement.
Yoga and Stretching for Longevity
Yoga and stretching are some of the most underrated things in the bjj community. There is a saying in yoga “ you don’t use yoga till you need yoga.” Yoga is one of the most beneficial things that anyone can do for themselves regardless of age. So how can yoga help promote longevity? Well simply put it will help prevent injury, sustain flexibility, and reduce soreness.
In Jiu Jitsu many of will develop body kinks, and soreness, we may not all get injured but if you train long enough it is guaranteed that you will have some type of body soreness and pain. People have common issues with their knees, lower back, hips, and neck. These are the four areas that people tend to complain about most when they are training bjj. For some people all of these sore muscles and pains can deter them from practicing bjj. For others they will push through the pain but it can affect several areas of their lives.
Jiu Jitsu can be debilitating if we do not implement stretching and yoga. The problem is that in our youth we heal quickly, out bodies are capable of producing more lactic acid, hormones and naturally reduce inflammation quickly. As we age out bodies don’t have the same inflammation reducing capabilities, we are sore for longer, things irritate us easier and we naturally have a harder time preventing injury, pain and soreness.
So how can yoga and stretching benefit us? Well, they will reduce the soreness and pains associated with bjj, they will help us learn how to address pains properly, they will increase our knowledge on our bodies, they help with flexibility and we could go on and on. There are an abundance of benefits that they can provide. Together, stretching and yoga are extremely beneficial for longevity in bjj. It is better to start young so you know what yoga works for you and what stretches work for you. The earlier you start the quicker you can recognize your own deficiencies and know how to treat them!
There you have it, there is a lot more that you can do to promote longevity but this is a good starting point. Don’t forget it is about the journey, not the destination. If you want to learn some more “old man” bjj check out Chris Haueter’s “Old School Efficient BJJ.” Chris Haueter was one of the first ten Americans to be promoted to black belt and he has been a black belt since 1996.