Combat sports are primarily dominated by younger athletes and fighters competing at over 40 years old are not common. This leads many prospective new students to jiu-jitsu to ask “Am I too old to start jiu-jitsu?”. They may want to give it a try, but are discouraged by question of if it is ok to start later in life.
There is an old saying “The best time to start was 10 years ago. The second best time is now!”
Master Carlos Gracie Jr. has been especially passionate about the philosophy of “jiu-jitsu for everyone”.
What does this mean for the over 40 years old person who is interested in trying Brazilian jiu-jitsu? Gracie Barra differentiates between “jiu-jitsu for some” and “jiu-jitsu for everyone”.
“Jiu-jitsu for some” may be defined as an academy that is focused on competition with strenuous warm ups, focus on competition and intense rolling. These conditions are ideal for the young competitor but less accessible for the new student over 40 years of age.
“Jiu-jitsu for everyone” philosophy recognizes that the classes must be inclusive for ALL who wish to improve their lives through jiu-jitsu. This philosophy is put into practice by the Gracie Barra class structure and curriculum.
The class structure provides enough movements to adequately warm up the body for the physical demands of the class, some exercise to improve conditioning and basic ground movements to help teach the body the movements required on the ground.
All without exhausting new students before the instruction starts.
The GB curriculum provides a balanced approach to jiu-jitsu in that there are self defense techniques and standup grappling instruction as well as sports bjj techniques. Unfortunately, many schools can ignore the important aspects of self defense and takedowns in favour of only tournament jiu-jitsu techniques.
The Fundamentals class is an hour in length and provides the ideal length of training time when a new student begins learning jiu-jitsu. Enough time to get a sweat going, learn some techniques and then be off to your next activity until next class.
For the older student, an intense competition oriented class might in fact be overwhelming. But if that same student takes a more measured, gradual approach to learning jiu-jitsu, their likelihood of sticking to the classes and enjoying themselves increases.
It is a mistake for the over 40 student to compare themselves to the 22 year old purple belt competitor.
The “Jiu-jitsu for everyone” philosophy has a larger view of jiu-jitsu in how jiu-jitsu can benefit the lives of children, women and over 40 students. Increased health, confidence in personal self defense and the other factors surrounding a healthy lifestyle of regular physical exercise and healthy nutrition.
Master Carlos Gracie is 60+ years old and reflects these values in his own approach to a healthy life through jiu-jitsu.
The best advice for the over 40 student considering starting jiu-jitsu: Just get started! The young competitors inspire us with their skills and high level, but they are but one aspect of what jiu-jitsu offers us.
Proceed at your own pace and train jiu-jitsu for your own reasons and personal goals.
Credits: Mark Mullen
Gracie Barra Black belt based in Saigon, Vietnam