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Too old to roll? Can I start BJJ if I’m over 40?

Through Professor Marcos Nevel, Gracie Castle Hill can trace its lineage directly to Grand Master Helio Gracie. Grand Master Helio trained until he was 95 years old, stopping only 10 days before he passed.

There’s an obvious difference between Grand Master Helio, who practiced martial arts since he was 16, and a 90-year-old who tries Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) for the first time. But many people who are as young as 40 would like to try BJJ but think, even at 40, their time has passed.

Thankfully, that’s not correct.

BJJ academies around the world have practitioners who began training in their 40s, 50s and even 60s. Famed chef Anthony Bourdain, for instance, started at the age of 58. So no, broadly speaking, you’re not too old to start training.

Here the old Jiu-Jitsu adage rings true: “The best time to start training was 10 years ago. The second best time is today.” That said, there are some precautions and responsibilities older men and women need to consider after they begin martial arts training.

gracie castle hill adults classes

Rest, recovery, diet

You can definitely start your Jiu-Jitsu journey in your 40s, 50s and even 60s, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be as easy as starting it at 18. There are two factors to address if you’re an older guy or gal starting grappling: recovery and flexibility.

Arguably the biggest difference between a young person and a middle-aged person when it comes to athletics is recovery time. Many aged between 18 and 25 can train 3 hours a day on a bad diet and poor sleep and still be relatively OK. (For the youngsters reading, that’s not an endorsement. Eat and sleep better!) This isn’t an option for people over 40.

If you plan on taking up BJJ, you’ll need to do your best to get adequate sleep. By now you should know what a good night’s rest feels like. Try and get that as much as possible. You’ll also want to have a diet rich in vegetables, relatively high in protein (think 3 or 4 servings of meat, fish, eggs or another primary protein source a day) and quality carbohydrates. Excess sugar can cause inflammation and slow down recovery, so you’ll want to think about cutting some of that back.

You’ll also want to get a decent stretching plan down. Warming up is essential, but every class at Gracie Castle Hill involves a warmup. It’s the warmdown that many people miss, and that can improve your recovery. Similar with stretching. Just 10 minutes of stretching, like in the morning after you wakeup or at night before bed, can reduce the wear and tear everyone gets from martial arts training.

People over 40 often think they’re more frail than they really are. In reality, your injury risk isn’t as high as you think — as long as you work on your flexibility and recovery.

BJJ is hard for everyone

A key element of Jiu-Jitsu is its complexity. If you’re older, you may be especially weary of martial arts and may think that BJJ is too hard for you because of your age. The truth is that BJJ is hard for everyone.

When you start, it’s likely that grappling will be confusing at first and that your Jiu-Jitsu partners will be able to easily out maneuver you. The important thing to realise is that this is how BJJ begins for everyone. You may feel like you’re learning slowly, or you may feel overwhelmed, and think you’re experiencing these things because of your age.

Nope, BJJ is complex and difficult. No one is good at it at first, and everyone, short of prodigies like BJ Penn, feels like they’re not learning fast enough. Young and old, athletic and out of shape, rich and poor, BJJ humbles us all.

Gracie Castle Hill has a culture that teaches respect and caring for our grappling partners. You’ll regularly get paired with younger, bigger and more athletic opponents, but they’ll make sure you’re safe. They won’t go easy on you, per se, but won’t manhandle you like they may try to manhandle their fellow 25-year-old classmates, for instance. Still, even at the best of times, BJJ can be demoralising.

This isn’t to paint a scary picture. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is incredibly satisfying. Once you feel its magic and catch the bug you’re likely to become addicted to it, like we all are at Gracie Castle Hill. It’s rewarding, but it’s not easy. But don’t think it’s hard because of your age. Just know that it’s part of the Jiu-Jitsu journey for all of us!

What you don’t want to do is try BJJ in 5 years and decide that you should have given it a go today. Come into Gracie Castle Hill for a free introductory class.