Am I Too Old for BJJ? ( How Late Is Too Late To Start )

Are You Too Old For BJJ

One common objection I get when I tell people about BJJ is that they believe they are too old to get started. However, I have seen countless people start BJJ after 40, 50, and even 60 years old. Some of them still train with us and even have their black belt.

Since technical skills in BJJ are prioritized over strength, athletic ability, and speed, your age will be less of a factor than it might be with other martial arts. However, older adults need to train properly to avoid unnecessary injuries.

Of course, just because you can train in BJJ, does not mean you will be able to keep up with everyone. Depending on how old you are, there are probably some techniques and drills you will want to avoid or limit. That said, there are many drills and techniques you will still be able to learn.

So even though you are likely not too old for BJJ, this does not mean you can do everything. Of course, most of the people asking this question are not in their ’70s and ’80s.

Instead, most are people in their 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s thinking that they have missed the chance to learn BJJ. If this is you then there is still plenty of time to jump into this amazing martial art.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a great sport for people of any age, but older adults will have different considerations and different training methods due to physical fitness and life circumstances. To learn more about how to start learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as an older adult, keep reading.

Why BJJ Is The Best Martial Art For Older Adults

This is a newer sport, developed at the beginning of the 20th century by the 5 Gracie brothers in Brazil who adapted it from a traveling Japanese judo teacher.

Judo means “the gentle art” since it involves no striking but only holds, chokes, and throws. It focuses on grappling and getting the opponent on the ground. This is the art BJJ was adapted from.

However, Helio Gracie being smaller than his brothers learned how to adapt techniques to be even more effective for smaller or weaker grapplers.

BJJ started to pick up steam in the 1990s after the first Ultimate Fighting Championship. One of the co-creators of the first UFC was Rorion Gracie.

BJJ’s Effectiveness For Older Or Smaller Grapplers

The Gracies had the will to prove that BJJ was the most effective fighting style in the world. Royce Gracie who was a smaller guy compared to many of the other competitors was the winner of the first UFC.

They purposely chose Royce over his brother Rickson because of his size. Royce was smaller than Rickson and they knew it would make a bigger impact watching a smaller fighter dominate larger opponents in the cage.

The UFC proved to the world that BJJ was an effective martial art even against bigger and stronger opponents. Though BJJ had already been around for some time but this is when the world started to pay attention.

BJJ Has Divisions For Older Grapplers

There are age divisions in the sport of BJJ. When you reach 30 years old you are then considered to be in the Master’s division in IBJJF competition. There are more master divisions after hitting certain ages after this. For example:

  • From 30-35 you compete in the  Masters 1 division
  • 36-40 Masters 2
  • 41-45 Masters 3
  • 46-50 Masters 4
  • 51-55 Masters 5
  • 56 -60 Masters 6
  • 60 and Up Masters 7

These are the age divisions of the North American Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation. Other tournaments seem to be somewhere in line with these numbers as well.

You will also be able to compete at your current belt level. So don’t worry if you are 40 and just getting into BJJ and want to compete. You won’t be set up against a 25-year-old black belt.

Instead, you will compete against another white belt within the same age bracket as you.

Starting BJJ After 40

If you’re over the age of 40, or possibly even 30, you’re probably already familiar with some of the ways age can affect the body, especially in terms of physical fitness. You may lack some of the strength, flexibility, and agility of your youth. Recovery time will also likely be longer.

There’s more to consider beyond physical abilities. Your life situation, including your work and home/family life, might be considerably different than younger grapplers.

With many more things consuming your time, you may have to carve out time to train. It also means you need to be more focused on the time that you put into training.

That said, don’t make the mistake of comparing yourself to younger grapplers. It is not a fair thing to do to yourself even though it is hard to avoid if you are a competitive person. Just focus on improving your skills and getting better every week.

40 years old is not too late to start at all. In fact, this can be a great time to start. Many start BJJ after 40 because they want to get their kids into BJJ. Doing BJJ with your kids is a great way for your family to bond and stay active.

Can Seniors Practice Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

Even seniors can take advantage BJJ. In fact, BJJ is recommended as one of the best martial arts or forms of self-defense for seniors. Since it doesn’t involve striking like some martial arts but instead relies on technique, balance, and leverage, it’s considered a good sport for seniors to practice.

BJJ and other martial arts can help seniors retain their independence by keeping them physically fit and agile, but it does more than train the body.

BJJ is more than just exercise or sport; it involves a mind-body connection and can improve concentration, mindfulness, and other mental faculties.

Another benefit for older adults is the community and social connection engaging in a sport provides. For seniors who may live alone or are more isolated, participating in a BJJ class can provide a much-needed social connection.

That being said, I am not implying that seniors can keep up with or even do everything younger participants can do in class. But you can still participate in BJJ.

Tips For Starting BJJ After 40

While the younger crowd can train harder, the 40+ folks need to train smarter. It’s always a good idea to consider the following:

  • Gear: Knee pads, ankle braces, wrist supports, getting whatever you need to protect any sensitive joints or other areas is just the smart move. Since older people will take longer to recover from injury, it makes sense to be proactive and protect yourself.
  • Warm-up: Although everyone can benefit from warming up cold muscles before you use them, older folks can’t skip this the way the younger crowd can without paying the price of soreness or possible injury. Take your time to warm up and cool down properly.
  • Eat and sleep well: Add diet and sleep to the list of things that younger folks can get away with skimping on with that older people need to be more aware of.
  • Take caution with injuries: Whether you injured yourself in class last week or you have a bad knee from a decades-old accident, make the accommodations you need.
  • Keep Realistic Expectations: Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but you will likely not be able to keep up with people in the class that are half your age. Just focus on improving yourself and having fun.

Benefits Of BJJ After 40

BJJ can be challenging, but there’s a wealth of reasons why people of any age should start. Here are some of the top reasons you should give BJJ a try. 

  • Exercise and fitness: BJJ is a very active sport; It is great for cardiovascular and muscular development. It will improve your cardiovascular fitness, strength, conditioning, core stability, flexibility, and balance.”
  • Mental training: BJJ is much more than brute force or physical prowess; it develops concentration, equanimity, problem-solving ability, mindfulness, humility, confidence, and more. In a 2019 study, BJJ training was even shown to reduce symptoms of PTSD and major depressive disorder.
  • Self-defense: Practitioners of BJJ train to incapacitate or immobilize larger, stronger targets than themselves using particular techniques and leverage.
  • Community: Naturally, if you join a BJJ class or team, you’ll be learning from, practicing with, and even competing against others. This is a great way to make friends and be a part of a larger community.
  • Knowledge and learning: Learning BJJ is a great way to not only keep your body sharp but also your mind.

Getting Started ( Its Not Too Late )

The first thing you need to do is find a gym and get started. You can also learn from online programs as well. To get you started I’d suggest checking out our free programs and community! Lastly you will need some basic gear.

  • Gi/Kimono Jiu-Jitsu: Traditional Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu uses a gi or kimono, which includes a cotton jacket and pants as well as a belt. The belt color signifies the grappler’s rank.
  • In No-Gi Jiu-Jitsu, grabbing of clothing is not allowed. Generally, a rash guard is worn on top, with a special kind of shorts on the bottom.
  • Mouth Guard: You will also want to purchase a good mouthguard for BJJ. This is simply to protect your teeth and mouth when training. 

In Summary

With all the benefits it provides to older adults looking for exercise, self-defense, or even just community, there’s little downside to giving BJJ a try. Even if you are 30, 40, 50, or even over 60 years old.

A popular Chinese proverb goes, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today.” Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu embodies this attitude—it’s never too late to start.

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