How to Train Jiu Jitsu Till Your 70

How to Train Jiu Jitsu Till Your 70

We all have the goal of training bjj for life.  Nobody wants to face the sad realization that as we age our bodies will naturally start to deteriorate and we will not be able to combat the soreness related with training bjj every day.  It is a sad realization that many of us will eventually have to come to terms with.  But, just because our bodies can't handle the rigorous training sessions as well, that does not mean we have to stop training. 

There are many bjj practitioners at different academies across the world that train well into their fifties and even their sixties and seventies.  So what is the key to this longevity?  What are the steps we can take to be able to train bjj for our entire lives. 

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 to 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, surely we can't do this forever.  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 will 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, it begs the original question, how can we sustain our bodies and have longevity in Jiu Jitsu? What are the the 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, and you can do some strength and conditioning.  These are just the simple introductory concepts that can help you. 

Using Strength and Conditioning 

Using strength and conditioning can be a huge part of the remedy you need to be able to train for life.  As we get older our muscles are not going to be able to heal as well, they will not be capable of training as long, and our muscular endurance and stamina will start to decrease. This is all natural.  We are not getting weaker, we are just getting older.  That being said, a simple strength and conditioning work out can go a long way, especially in bjj. 

Another element of aging is the fact that getting older often comes with a lot more responsibility.  We are no longer that young college kid who eats ramen noodles every day.  Many of us grow to have families, careers, bills, and all of the other responsibilities that will accompany adult hood and getting older.  Why did we mention all of these things?  Well, these things can impact our ability to train, and take the necessary steps to help ourselves sustain our bodies properly. 

That is why you need to have a strength and conditioning schedule that is conducive to your lifestyle. A lot of us cannot afford the time to go to the gym, get a personal trainer, or work out that often.  One of the best solution can be buying a kettlebell.  With just 20 minutes a day about 3 times a week you can get sufficient strength and conditioning training from the comfort of your own home.  You can do kettle bell workouts before bed and while you are watching tv.

Why kettlebells?  Well, all of the top level bjj players are using kettlebells as their primary workout method because they help us develop the muscles that we use in our bjj training.  Going further, a lot of the workouts simulate bjj and explosive strength training.  This is what we need in our bjj.  Kettlebells can be a life saver, check out this video below with kettlebell expert, Mike Perry on some bjj specific kettlebell workouts you can use at home. 

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.

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! 

So there you have it.  These are the methods that you can take if you REALLY want to train bjj well into your fifties.  These are the things that can help you even training in your seventies.  Obviously it is not easy to do all of these things but lets face it, bjj is not easy either and we can't expect this to be easy.  If you want some help, check out Kettlebell expert, Mike Perry's new kettlebell exercises for bjj.  It is pone of the best strength and conditioning resources you can use!