A little bit on the older side? Worried you might not be strong enough for self-defense? Anxious about enrolling in a martial arts class?
People may age, but let me tell you, BJJ never gets old. So put your gi on and get ready for some rolling, because today, we'll be putting all those anxieties of yours to rest!
When Is Someone "Too Old" For BJJ?
The simple fact of the matter is that no one is ever too old to try out BJJ. There is never an age cut-off for trying it--you can be 12 or 50, and it'd still be a great martial art for you!
This may sound overly enthusiastic, but the lack of age requirements in BJJ is actually by design. It's meant to be a sport that anyone can learn, regardless of who they are.
As such, it can be practiced by people of all ages and physical abilities, and it can even be adapted to suit the needs of individual practitioners!
So if you're a little on the older side, then don't worry; you should never feel bad for wanting to try it out, and a dojo will never turn you down for your age. And if you still don't believe us, well, just look at all the older jujitsukas who are still killing it on the mats!
It would also do well to remember: being unsure of yourself is normal in BJJ. Chances are, lots of people in your dojo have insecurities of their own--they might also think they're too old, or not strong enough, or are too sluggish and awkward.
You'll always have people to sympathize with here. Even though BJJ is an individual sport, it's understood that everyone's in it together. You're expected to learn from others just as much as you learn from your instructor.
In fact, sharing your insecurities with others--and even bonding with someone about them!--is a great way to put those insecurities to rest.
Don't get too excited though. There are still individual factors you'll need to consider, like your overall health, your physical fitness, and any physical ailments you may have.
BJJ: Some Fundamental Mechanics
BJJ is divided into two primary categories: gi or no-gi. If you're already familiar with what gis are, then this should be straightforward: the gi category is precisely that, training with your gi, or your martial arts uniform (often called a kimono). No-gi is similarly upfront: it's training without a gi.
It might seem like a superficial difference, but this actually changes fundamental aspects of how people spar. Because BJJ puts so much value on grappling and ground fighting, having a gi on gives you an additional layer to grab, latch onto, and use to your advantage.
No-gi training disregards this, instead focusing more on submission-based techniques.
Points are awarded for noteworthy feats, such as scoring a takedown or forcing your opponent to submit, and matches can last an agonizing 20 minutes.
There are still weight classes in BJJ, but make no mistake: the average well-trained jujitsuka can seriously mess up the average untrained man, regardless of their size differences.
The weight classes are there mostly because even though strength is outclassed by technique in BJJ, it still definitely matters, especially when two jujitsukas are both trained are of equal skill levels. In cases like that, strength and fatigue resistance will often be the deciding factors of a bout.
A system like this is entirely in your favor. It's a great equalizer that'll make sure the physical impairments brought up by old age won't matter as much, especially compared to other combat sports.
Remember, just because someone is more physically fit than you, doesn't mean they'll edge you out in BJJ. Youth doesn't translate to having more skill. Technique trumps strength in BJJ, and you can always beat someone stronger and younger by being a better fighter.
Starting Late vs Starting Early
It's still much better for a budding jujitsuka to start early. Their bodies will be better conditioned for BJJ, they'll be more accustomed to the different techniques, and they'll have more time to learn its different principles.
This is to be expected, of course. Jujitsukas who started earlier will have more experience than you, and they've already benefited from the intense conditioning that BJJ provides. But like we mentioned, that doesn't mean that the option's just ruled out for older folks.
Starting at an older age means you likely have more life experience, which will make it easier for you to appreciate the things you're learning. After all, you already know how difficult it can be to earn things in life, so you'll be much more appreciative of the things offered to you.
It will also make it easier for you to get your ego bruised. Sure, it'll suck, losing to younger jujitsukas, but your greater mental maturity means you'll understand that pride has no place in the sport.
It may not seem like it, but that's actually a huge advantage. Lots of overeager jujitsukas hop into the sport thinking they'll be the very best, or they'll feel terrible when they lose to someone they initially assumed to be worse than them.
Understanding that just because someone is younger, smaller, or weaker doesn't mean they'll lose is a fundamental principle in BJJ, and always keeping it in mind is a great way not to get demotivated by failures and losses.
There are loads of benefits you can get from practicing too, such as greater flexibility, increased strength, and vastly improved endurance. It's also a great way to train your commitment, discipline, and focus.
Just always keep in mind that all martial arts require tons of dedication and hard work. Those younger jujitsukas may be stronger and faster than you, but you can always trump them by putting in the time, effort, and dedication required to do well at the sport.
How Do I Know I Won't Get Injured?
The first thing you need to keep in mind is that the physical weakness associated with old age often isn't as bad as many people think it is. It's not that they're old, it's that they don't get to exercise as much anymore--and this only gets exacerbated by their age.
The reality of it is that there are lots of older folks who are still incredibly strong and fit, even if they're 50 or 60. And you'll notice that's typically because they work in a very physically strenuous environment, or they can still maintain healthy amounts of exercise.
So if you're worried you might get injured, don't worry. With a bit of conditioning, then you'll realize your body is a lot stronger than you give it credit for.
If you're still a tad bit anxious, then that's totally okay. No matter how much reassurance you may get, those locks and holds just don't look particularly healthy, do they? Especially if they're from a younger, stronger person's hands!
If that's the case, then be sure to do a lot of research on which dojo you enroll in.
Unlike younger folks, you're likely going to be a bit more lax about the financial requirements of this sport, at least compared to younger people who are bound to whatever budget their parents or guardians may have.
And most of all, take safety seriously! BJJ is referred to as a "gentle art" for a reason: it's very safe for a combat sport, and you're unlikely to ever get injured unless an accident happens or something really goes wrong.
If your equipment is always in order and proper guidelines are always followed, then you'll have nothing to worry about when it comes to injuries.
The Importance of Patience and Persistence
Patience and persistence are among the useful and important traits you can have in BJJ, and it'd do you well to always keep them in mind in your journey.
Let me tell you, learning new techniques? It's not always fun. It can be worse than that, even: it can be actively boring. A lot of younger jujitsukas often need a lot of action to keep them interested in the sport, and if classes don't deliver on this, then their motivation will falter.
But learning new techniques and drilling on them until they become second nature is among the best things you can do to improve your game. It'll be monotonous and uninteresting at times, but it's tried and tested, and it's just plain effective.
Plus, even when things aren't going your way, patience and persistence will allow you to see that, with enough time and dedication, you will eventually improve.
It's normal to have moments of frustration or doubt during training, but those feelings are temporary, nothing more than a minor nuisance until you do actually do better--and with enough effort, you will!
Make no mistake, BJJ will be more challenging than normal if you start at a later age. There really is no sugarcoating that. People younger than you will be faster, stronger, have better reflexes, and you might have some trouble catching up.
But that doesn't mean you'll fall behind. BJJ is not about being the best compared to everyone else. It's about being the best that you can be. And that's something you can always achieve, regardless of your age.
Curious how else you can protect yourself as an older fellow? Check this out!