I have been practising Jiu-Jitsu for a few years now and being over 40 years old, I have learned a few hard lessons. The beauty of Jiu-Jitsu that anyone can practice it no matter what your age is, or your physical limitations, or even mental illnesses. There are things we have to consider though if we wish to embark on this lifestyle that is the life of a Jiu-Jitsu practitioner.
Age along with physical limitations (such as injuries) can slow down our progress, but not necessary that it becomes a detriment to our growth in this art. As with every sport/martial art, we have our own different pace of growth.
Don’t get me wrong; Jiu-Jitsu has changed how I keep my physical and mental health in so many ways. The social interaction in Jiu-Jitsu aspect alone had positive effects on how I view people and interact with them. It improved my self-confidence to speak a language that isn’t my first, and exposure to people from different cultures at a deeper level than the casual encounters.
Some of the things we need to consider when doing Jiu-Jitsu at 40 plus:
Choose your rolling partners carefully
This might seem simple, but it takes a lot of experimentation with different people from the team. It helps if they are of the same age, and they have the same life responsibilities (family, work etc…). They have similar goals in the art of Jiu-Jitsu. They care about not injuring you as much as you care about not being injured or injuring them.
The unavoidable roll
If you must roll with a particular white belt (known to be an erratic or spastic roller), be firm, and extra cautious, and do not be complacent (that’s when things went wrong for me and got injured). Or if you must roll with that coloured belt that likes to smash everyone every time, then it would be an excellent time to work on your defence and make that as your primary goal for the roll around is not to get submitted. It is possible also to take it a step further is to prevent your rolling partner for gaining any points on you.
Never roll without a warm-up
This one’s self-explanatory, it’s highly recommended before starting an intense physical activity that we warm-up. Jiu-Jitsu has many great warm-up exercises that we use during rolling. Some stretching is also useful for these moments where one find themselves in an inverted guard or brimpolo situation. Our joints work better when they are warmed up.
This one with experience can be controlled if your rolling partner has the correct sensitivity tuning. Rolling is similar to sparring in boxing, but without striking. Remember high strength/intensity from your part during rolling does incite reciprocation from your rolling partner, so roll light and be technical with how you roll. The speed of rolling can affect the roll experience inversely. A slow roll with enough strength (not monster strength mode) could provide insight to both rollers games. A slow roll helps you see what is being applied that being a control transition or a submission, and also allow you to problem-solve these tricky positions and find an effective escape, and maybe a reversal. Make sure that you roll, not fight.
Wash your Gi after every training session
No one wants to roll with a smelly person who does not wash their Gi after each session. This one is for any age, its an essential rule of Jiu-Jitsu. Would also be preferable if you had a shower before training if your work is highly physical.
Put on your protective gear
The number of times that I have been kicked, kneed, elbowed in the face is many. These things can happen, and they are mostly accidental and unintentional. Wearing a mouthguard can save you a costly visit to the dentist. Wearing protective knee support can help mildly with those knee issues.
If a move is too rough on your body, avoid it
This one helped me in the long run to survive my Jiu-Jitsu journey. Whenever the instructor shows us a new move that I know would affect my injuries in a wrong way or I know my body would not respond favourably, I would abstain from doing it. Talk to your instructor in these situations, and explain your injury/limitation, and most likely, he/she will show you another way that is more favourable to your body. I prefer to miss on a hard on the body move and be able to attend the next class then possibly getting injured and be away from training for months.
The Jiu-Jitsu practitioner journey is a wonderful one, full of great moments, meeting amazing people, and learning things that would blow our mind of what the human body can do with this art. In the end, it’s up to each individual how they look after their body and mind.
For the love of the art,
Your team member