Unfortunately, not everybody in the BJJ community discovered the gentle art during their physical prime. If you step foot in any BJJ academy around the world, you will see men and women of all ages training on the mats. However, there is a different mentality in perspective and training between the “under 30” and “over 30” crowds on the mats. While the younger grapplers can put the “pedal to the metal” and push their physical limits on and off the mats, the older ones need to live and train differently due to physical limitations, work, family, and other life obligations. As a person on the wrong side of 30, I will refer to my approach and trainng as “Old Man Jiu-Jitsu” or “OMBJJ.” Here are five traits of OMBJJ.
Need to warm up and cool down: While a young teenager or a fit person in their twenties can jump right into training without a warm up, a practitioner of OMJJ needs to complete a thorough warm up and cool down to prevent injuries, inflammation, and maintain flexibility. While this is recommended for athletes of all ages, the young and limber can get awa to go from 0 to 100 in less than 6 seconds, while their older training partners need to acknowledge their limits and manage their risk in order to consistently train.
Knee, elbow, and ankle braces: When I played intramural flag football in college, I wondered why an older teammate in his early thirties wore knee braces. After years of running, jumping and lifting weights, I totally get it now. Since I joined the wrong side of my thirties, the wear and tear of athletics and life will have have lead to issues arthritis, tendinitis, and inflammation in the joints. Pads and braces are another trait of OMJJ, as the compression braces and additional support help with comfort, stability and peace of mind. Additionally, a nice lube of Tiger Balm or Icy Hot before and after training will keep the muscles loose and the sinuses clear.
Wish I started when I was your age: OMBJJ players like to tell young people how lucky they are to start training at such a young age. “I wish this was around when I was your age” or “Take advantage of this time before you get too busy with work and family.” In many cases, OMJJ guys and gals discovered the sport later and life and use it to get back in shape, learn something new, take on a new challenge, or fill a void in their life. It is a fun and social hobby for most, but a piece of them wished they started in their teens or early twenties, since they would likely be further ahead in their journey.
No slacking during training time: Training time is precious to OMBJJers since they have busy lives with work, family, and other obligations. Getting 3 to 5 hours per week for a hobby is hard to negotiate, so they want to get the most of it. While younger and freer students might have a hard time paying attention or slack off during drilling, the OMBJJ player are serious since they know how hard it is to find the time to train and are busting their tail at work to pay for the classes.
I still got it: OMBJJ guys might not proudly and loudly gloat about it, but they feel really good on the inside when they get the better of their younger peers during live training. They aren’t as fast or well-conditioned, but they hold the advantage in old man strength, wisdom, and technique that comes into play when rolling with a younger training partner. It might not happen every round, but when the OMBJJ practitioner gets the better of a younger training partner, a part of the OMBJJer will tell themselves “I still got it” or “not bad for an old guy.”
Bonus: Can’t get away with eating crap: When you are young, you can eat burgers and fries an hour before working out and run up and down a basketball court with no problem. You can even go out drinking all night and wake up on 2 hours of sleep to train at 9 AM. Once you get old, your body can’t handle eating the wrong meal before or after training or process alcohol the same way it did when you were 21. Part of OMBJJ is understanding nutrition and how to eat before and after trang to optimize energy levels and recovery.