A couple of weeks ago I was having a chat with Peter; a 54 year old Taekwondo Black belt. After watching his teenage daughter discover a love of Jiu-Jitsu he was itching to get on the mats himself. Keen to get back into Martial Arts but like most people his age, worried that he was too old. Especially for Jiu-Jitsu. I told him about a man I once met when I was training at Gracie City in Rio de Janeiro. Fred was a walking Jiu-Jitsu encyclopaedia. He started BJJ when he was young, worked his way up to a black belt but stopped due to various work and life commitments. When he finally returned to the mat he was over 40, and decided he wanted to start all over again. It took him another 10 years of hard work and determination but Fred earnt himself his new black belt. My point is Jiu-Jitsu is for everyone regardless of your age. The question is how can you stay on the mats long enough to get your black belt, and avoid any serious injuries. Here’s five tips to keep your Jiu-Jitsu game strong and ensure your longevity on and off the mats.
1/ Learn the Basics
Instead of throwing yourself into sparring straight away take the time to learn the basics of Jiu-Jitsu. This will help build a solid foundation and enable you to understand the fundamental mechanics of Jiu-Jitsu. That is every single position to connects to another. Continuous drilling of the same fundamental techniques will give the right mind set to start to sparring with your training partners. As well as the necessary tools to use in all kinds of situations.
People often start training with the mindset that tapping means defeat but tapping is one of the smartest ways to prevent injuries. At the end of the day the person who needs to look after you, is you. Never give that responsibility to another person. Know your limits and be humble enough to learn from your training partners. Tap early if necessary. Professor Pedro Sauer says “Tapping is one of the fastest ways to learn Jiu-Jitsu. By taping you learn about you, and your opponent”.
3/ Don’t roll like you are 20 years old. Roll wisely!
When you start training Jiu-Jitsu it’s about you, nobody else. The only person you are competing against is yourself. You may have heard the expression ‘Run your own race’. The same applies on the mats. You don’t need to try and keep up with the students who are half your age. Find your tune with others in your Jiu-Jitsu academy who have similar goals. Maybe they are professional people like engineers or lawyers who love martial arts but don’t want to roll hard every round. It’s a guarantee that at some point you will roll with younger, fitter, faster students. If you keep your pace down, they will follow your speed, and most likely enjoy the challenge of a more technical roll.
4/ Look after your body
Jiu-Jitsu is all about consistence so what’s the point of training so hard that you’re not able to train for the rest of the week? It’s better to have three lights sessions in the week then one single hard training session. Aim to slowly build your endurance and let your body gradually adjusts to the workout. Never miss a warm up or a cool down. Stretching is key to your recovery. Using this simple formula, you will have consistent sessions on the mats and little by little get to your goal.
5/ Enjoy the ride!
Life is too short and your time is too precious to do things you don’t enjoy. So enjoy your Jiu-Jitsu journey and all that comes with it. What you’ll probably find is that not only does it keep your mind sharp, and your body fit. But it’s also a great form of stress release, and overall incredibly rewarding. Anthony Bourdain started his BJJ journey at the ripe age of 58. What he describes as being the last thing in the world he could have ever imagined doing, let along enjoying. Yet despite that, he’s now hooked. “At my age to learn an entirely new skill is deeply satisfying”.
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