A reader messaged Jiu-jitsu Times with a very common question:
“Do you think it’s ok to start bjj at 42?
I’m relatively healthy no knee or joint problems – a little heavy 20 lbs or less.
Pretty athletic, always been interested in competition but don’t if I’m too old.”
Jiu-jitsu Times: Many students of bjj are over the age of 35, a time when a man’s athletic prime is considered to be past.
However, this does not mean that an over 35 beginner can not get very fit and learn a high skill level in bjj!
The jiu-jitsu press focuses a lot on the elite competitors (who inspire all of us with their incredible technique and athleticism) but it gives a distorted view of what jiu-jitsu is.
Look at the academy group photos and you will see the majority are just regular people who work a full time career and want to study and enjoy jiu-jitsu as part of a healthy lifestyle.
And you will see more than a few 40+ members of the academy!
Masters divisions are common in most larger bjj competitions, so competitors of a similar age bracket can be matched fairly.
The over 40 student of bjj has a few special considerations in starting to train.
Here are a few tips for you to get started training in bjj:
1) Look for an academy that fits your goals.
Some academies are filled with 20ish competitors who are trying to win major championships – and they train HARD accordingly.
It might not be the most comfortable fit if you just want to learn some skills and get in better shape.
Most bjj gyms have students who train for a variety of goals.
Best to call ahead and ask to come observe a class to get a feel for how the classes are run and the vibe within the gym.
2) Pay extra attention to nutrition
After adequate sleep, healthy nutrition is the biggest factor in your ability to recover from training sessions.
No special, expensive supplements are required here.
Most adults know what constitutes a healthy diet – lots of natural, unprocessed, fresh fruits and vegetables.
Consume more pure water than soft drinks etc.
You need to provide the best fuel for your training sessions and more importantly, the recovery between classes.
3) Basic positions vs. relying on flexibility
You should focus on the basic positions in jiu-jitsu (ex. closed guard, side control, mount) as opposed to inverted guards, berimbolo etc.
An acrobatic style of jiu-jitsu that works well for an uber flexible 22 year old may not work for you!
Here is one of my favorite quotes by Carlos Gracie Jr. (at age 60 and still training bjj)
“I don’t get this obsession with all of the acrobatic guards.
They are efficient, sure. But they’re fleeting. Your body has difficulty understanding them for too long.
I say this from my own experience. The lumbar region, for example, as strong as it may be, will never be armored against the passage of time.
Jiu-jitsu is for your whole lifetime, and by that line of reasoning you can rest assured that the basic techniques like the closed guard or this open guard I enjoy doing, will never abandon us.
At 70 we’ll still be capable of performing them with plenty of mobility.
That can’t be said of the tornado guard or the berimbolo.”
Master Carlos Gracie Jr.
4) Be patient
Nearly every student of jiu-jitsu secretly fears that they are progressing more slowly than all of the other students.
Obviously that isn’t true, but it can cause students to fail to enjoy the training process and feel their efforts are wasted.
Start with the philosophy that “jiu-jitsu is a marathon, not a sprint”.
It does little good to start out enthusiastically and train everyday only to burn out and quit within a month or two.
If you approach learning bjj as something longer term, you are less likely to feel discouraged when you experience plateaus.
Once you find an academy that feels right, don’t over think it…just put on your kimono and get started!
I started at age 45 at Paragon in Ventura, CA. I feel great and look at these people like family. And I choke the crap out of kids half my age! 😉
I started DZR Jiu Jitsu and BJJ at the age of 62–I am now 64 and still learning new moves and techniques–No regrets on this decision
Hi I started at 27 did it for few months stopped big regret .I started again at 42 been doing it now one year on febuary.been to three schools its true you need find right gym.current gym Im the oldest there it does not stop me from bjj.my experiance is this.
Some schools they do compitition warm ups spending to much time on that until exhuastion new commers on average no matter age vomit!
Some instructors are ego *** hats and its no fun to practice there.there at all schools is always the slpha males the substitute technique with 100 percent force they only know fight and dont care about injuries.we are older and starting a very physical sport.work your way into it.white belts,blue belts and few purple tend to go 100 percent.I tried that when just starting I found out From hyper extended arm twice,pulled knee tendon twice,cracked rib cage cartalige once its not the way to roll.my defence is good I hardly ever get tapped out.I improved from letting the young guys trying kill me while I just go 50 percent.The cardio is very hard young or old im still working on that 4 5 min rolls im pretty much taking high knee mount and laying there cuase im dead.
just start now try not use your ego and go 100 percent even if you have tap a lot .jiu jitsu is awsome there is a defense,escape,counter submission for everything.learning body machanics in time helps and position first .Last thing is most important try to clean your self quick as you can after class.try avoid schools you never see them clean mat!I had staph infection it sucks !
Precisamente yo empecé a los 42 años, hoy ya casi cumplo 48, y acabó de recibir faixa roxa, no te das cuenta como pasa el tiempo y lo disfrutas, tu verdadero competidor son tus temores o prevenciones, ve a tu ritmo, a veces les ganas a los más jóvenes, otras pierdes con gente de tu mismo nivel, así es la vida no todo es bueno, pero lo que ganas con esfuerzo es lo que más amas. Dale inicia pronto.
I trained a few years in my 20s, but started back and got serious at 42. When I started back, I didn’t feel I could even defend my blue belt from way back when. Now at 44, I just got my purple belt. Most of my training partners are in their 20s – I don’t feel at a disadvantage, but I do pay attention to a number of things:
1) The biggest difference for me is flexibility (lack thereof). I used to do yoga and was a little freakish in my younger years. Now I am stiff. When it comes to some of the 10th Planet stuff, I have to really learn to get on my side to get the positions. Some of them I can’t really hit right now (hindu control, for example). I think I can get there slowly, but even basic stuff is harder if I don’t warm up and stretch.
2) Recovery. I train every other day max and generally give my body a day off between hard training sessions. I have gone 6 days in a row, but man do I feel it in the end.
3) I work out. Never did before, but I find the strength training helps a lot and I am definitely stronger now than I was in my 20s.
4) I roll for technique and to experiment with positions first and foremost while training. I will roll light even with guys that are going hard most of the time – I work to slow them down and then find mistakes. Initially that meant a lot of closed guard, but as I have gotten better, I’ve opened up a lot. Sometimes I will give up positions and try to work from really bad spots. I go all out for tournaments to try to test myself.
Long and short – it’s different, but I’m having a blast and my game is way better than it was when I was young.
I recently started training BJJ. I’m 34, have arthritis in my feet from multiple surgeries as a baby, not in shape, never competed in sports & never been in a fight. The majority of the guys I train with are anywhere from 10-20+ years older than I am! Our instructor focuses on self-defense & technique as opposed to competition. We only have a 2hour class Saturday mornings. After the first couple classes I could barely move for the next few days – everything hurt. I have been to 4 classes & am now at a point that even though i leave class with some bumps & bruises from the drills, my body feels fine overall.
It just comes down to finding the right training facility. I always wanted to learn how to defend myself if i ever found myself in a situation where a fight was unavoidable. Striking-based martial arts are too hard on my feet (kicking & balance). I’d say I got lucky in that there is a BJJ class offered in my small town that is self-defense oriented & BJJ is the only martial art i felt I had any chance at due to my issues with my feet.
I started at age 53. I’m now 59 and still at it. If you’re generally in good health, it’s never too late to start.
Hi, I am a 46 year old female who as been doing Muay Thai for 5 years. My Coach is Asa Ten Pow at Florida Kickboxing Academ. I train mostly with all men in their 20’s 5 days a week. I have been wanting to try Bjj for a while now but the class times did not fit into my schedule. Now they have started a BJJ just before my Muay Thai classes so I have been doing both and love it. Although I do find it hard to immediately go from the 8AM Bjj class right into the 9AM Muay Thai class I think that will get better over time. What I am worried about is the pressure it might be putting on my blood vessels and if it could cause an aneurysm or anything medical to that nature. I again roll with all younger stronger men from 175-285lbs. I am 5’9″ 159lbs and although I am ok with the weight of my opponent at the time n the mat it is later on that I feel a bit weird in to head. My coach says I have great intuition and I do feel like it is something I would like to continue,if it is healthy for my body. I am aware of the physical injuries involved like sprains, and broken bone, but is there any internal risk? Thanks