Training After 40 with Prof. Draculino – Jiu-Jitsu for Everyone

“So I think that the outlook, the big picture, is always life improvement.” Prof Draculino


There are many Gracie Barra students who are over 40 years old. Many are professionals who train jiu-jitsu for self-defense, physical fitness, and self-defense. How should the 40+ age GB student approach their training differently than the younger students?

Prof Draculino shares his experience and advice on how to enjoy Jiu-Jitsu for all of you over 40 Jiu-Jitsu lovers

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Q: One of the common questions we hear from people is “I’m 40+ years old. Am I too old to train jiu-jitsu? How do you answer such a question?

Prof Draculino: If you are 40 years old and older, if you think that you are “too old” to be training Jiu-Jitsu, I think that you have to understand that Jiu-Jitsu for you is actually more important than before. Almost every other age that can start – including kids – when you are 40 you actually have to be physically active in an activity that can bring you good physical shape. It can bring you confidence. And more importantly, it can bring you peace of mind, for stress relief in life. A less stressed life I would say.

So I think that even if you don’t aspire to be a great competitor, or have great results or whatever, this is very small compared to what Jiu-Jitsu can bring you in life as a whole. I definitely think that every 40 year old should go and sign up at a Jiu-Jitsu school. A good one – preferably Gracie Barra? – as soon as possible.

Q: Do you feel that the 40+ Jiu-Jitsu student needs to train any differently than the 20ish aged students? The number of sessions per week, the intensity of rolling, etc.

Prof Draculino: I believe that every single student has different goals, different capabilities, different dispositions, of time, etc. One thing that most 40+ years old have to deal with a little bit more often with potential injuries, family problems, etc. I believe that the adaptation that a 40-year-old has to do – if you compare for example somebody who is in his 20s – is first to accept that nature is nature.

You are not going to have that same vitality, that same physical condition, and the same drive as a young buck. It’s not going to happen. But that doesn’t mean that you can not train hard. That you can not be smart about your training. And you can also use your experience. Not just in Jiu-Jitsu but in life in general, to take you to really big heights in Jiu-Jitsu.

I believe that a 40-year-old has to obey a little more about the time of recovery. And also listen to your body really well. In regards to what you feel. In regards to what is expected of the next training session. Also, I think that old mentality – that I live for – is that you should never say no to any training partner that comes. It doesn’t matter the size, the height, the age, the weight. I think that after 40 years old that you have to be smart about getting good partners to train with.

Q: How can the 40+ jiu-jitsu students look at their training – in terms of mental outlook or attitude? Is there perhaps a different set of expectations?

Prof Draculino: I believe that a 40 years old and up student should look at Jiu-Jitsu as a way of development and as a way to improve your life overall. That’s the number one goal. Everything thing else is secondary. But it’s funny because whenever you have this mindset, everything falls into place. You get better in Jiu-Jitsu, you win possible competitions that you want to do in the Master’s division, you get happier, you get less stressed, and everything in your life improves.

So I think that the outlook, the big picture, is always life improvement. Number one. In all areas. Nowadays I train jiu-jitsu of course, and the biggest reason why I keep training after almost 40 years on the mats… actually more because I started judo when I was 5 and I’m 50 now – so the main reason for me is to be less stressed, for me to take all of my natural aggressiveness away and for me also to be in an environment that I am between people that respect each other, that love each other, and take care of each other even though we try to choke each other out and etc all the time (laughs). That’s the magic of Jiu-Jitsu!

Q: For older jiu-jitsu students that have been training for many years, how do they deal with the diminishing of their physical capacity – compared to their athletic prime? This can be a difficult thing to accept for aging athletes.

Prof Draculino: I can relate 100% to this statement. That we have to accept that nature takes place and that we are not going to be able to physically perform in our 40s like we were in our 20s. That’s a fact.

So what do you really have at 40+ years old that we can use to our advantage in regards to that fact? We can use our experience. We can use our deep understanding of techniques. And you can use also a mindset – even though it’s going to be very unlikely that you can get a higher level than the 20s athlete and smash him or her; you have to make peace with that this is going to be very, very hard.

So what do you do when you train with them? You use your experience inside your capabilities. You train your defense more. You are going to try to nullify their game and stop their actions for a little bit. And normally what happened to me for example is that I was always a very fast guy when I was younger. Very fast. Extremely fast in all areas. Like on my back, passing the guard, on throws and takedowns. And of course over time with all of the injuries, my speed pretty much decreased a lot. So what do I have to do to compensate for that?

Nowadays my game of pressure and weight distribution is WAY better now than when I was young. That’s a fact. That’s something that you guys have to think about. You also start to be a little smarter on not wasting good opportunities during training or competition. This all comes with experience. We use our experience in all fields to keep going.

Q: Lastly, what are the habits that you have that allow you to perform at a high level at 50+ years of age?

Prof Draculino: I’ve been on the mats for most of my life and I was always in sports. That helps you know. Even though I have to deal with a lot of injuries, and I had a lot of surgeries and etc. The fact that I was always involved in sports helps me because I have all of these years as baggage for me to understand my body better. To have a really healthy state in regards to the difference with other people my age. Like a lot of people my age – over 50 – they’ve pretty much given up. I wouldn’t say that I perform at a high level. A HIGH HIGH level. It’s complicated to say.

But I perform in a way that I can be happy by being a good training partner to ANYONE. That’s my goal. My goal is to keep improving and life through jiu-jitsu and have peace of mind. That’s my #1 goal. But also all of these years of training and dedication – training even when you don’t feel like it – and dealing with injuries, being more experienced with situations that happen with your life. All of that makes it possible for me to be a good training partner to ANYBODY in this world. Of course, high-level people will smash me and submit me. That’s a fact. I’m not just 50 years old. I’m small and light and full of injuries. (Laughs) But I can guarantee that it doesn’t matter who – it can be the biggest champions in the world right now – it doesn’t matter the weight – whoever…will have a good training session with me.

That’s my goal. That is priceless. Not just for me but a lot of my peers my age – they are and will be good training partners for a long, long time.

See also on GB Blog: GB Inspiration: Prof. Flavio Almeida on overcoming struggles

GB Inspiration: Prof. Flavio Almeida on overcoming struggles

Writer: Mark Mullen, Gracie Barra Black Belt