40 is not the new 20, contrary to what you may have read on the internet. However, it’s also not the end of your active life. Here are some incredibly helpful tips I’ve compiled from my older students as I’ve worked to guide them through a long and luxurious career of jiu jitsu well into their 50s.
Pick a training schedule that works for you
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have to train every day, or even 3 or 4 days a week. 2 days a week is the sweet spot for grapplers over 40; it provides enough training to get constant information and to see steady progress, but also enough rest time. Make sure the 2 days you pick have enough time in between them so that you can rest (for example, Wednesdays and Sundays would be ideal).
Select training partners you can trust
Upper belts tend to be much better choices than white belts. Although you might have a much higher rate of success in “beating” a white belt, another white belt is actually the last person you want to work with. These guys, like you, are often trying to figure out basic body mechanics and simple physiology. What this means for you is that they might not have the most control, especially when “going live.” Choose wisely, and always remember:
You don’t have to roll super competitively yourself
This might be the most important of all advice. If you don’t “turn it up” when you are rolling, your partners are far more likely to dial back the intensity themselves. This can prolong your training sessions, which means you’ll get better sooner, but it will also help to keep you safe. Remember that a little ego is healthy- it keeps you coming back to train- but too much ego means you’ll very likely hurt yourself. Leave most of your ego outside!
It doesn’t matter if you lose a battle, especially since it means you get to keep training. Always remember this!
Remember that you have attributes as well
Young guys have speed, cardio, flexibility… what can you possibly bring to the table? Three words: old man strength! (Old woman strength definitely applies too- trust me, I’ve felt it!) Old man strength means that you have a lifetime of grip strength in your hands that the young bucks simply don’t have, and your endurance strength can be much higher for longer periods of time. This can be very useful!
You’re also going to bring wisdom to the table (after all, you are here reading this article… how many young’uns read articles before considering starting BJJ?). This can be a tremendous asset, as you are far more capable of seeing the big picture. Train smarter, not necessarily harder, and you’ll see tremendous gains!
One last note: You are also smart enough to recover during your off days. Be sure to take advantage of the time when you’re not training. This means that if you are injured, you need to ice the injury and take care of it. Be sure that you get enough sleep! You’re not 21 years old, so the days of partying into the early morning hours and getting up at the crack of dawn to go into work are behind you now. Treat recovery time as a part of training as well. We’ll have another article coming out on that soon, too!