The idea that grappling is universally beneficial for the body doesn't quite hit the mark. Brazilian Jiujitsu is a challenging and physically demanding sport. It's often associated with the vigor and resilience of youth. However, my good friend Rick Ellis has released two instructional courses on BJJ tailored specifically for older grapplers (Old Guy Cheat Code & BJJ Old Man Style). I thought it would be valuable to hear his insights on this subject.
Some people say BJJ is a young man’s sport. Do you agree?
It's certainly easier when you're young because your body is so adaptable and resilient, but plenty of older athletes, myself included, train Jiu Jitsu safely and effectively. So no, I don't agree that BJJ is only for the young.
That said, as an older athlete, you do need to prioritize health and recovery in a way you don't when you are young. You must be more careful with your body. You must pay attention to the volume and intensity you train at to stay safe. If you can do those things, there is no reason why you can't train forever.
I’ve noticed that older grapplers prefer gi over nogi since it can be slower paced. Personally I have always loved both and age hasn’t changed that. What’s your take?
I love the no-gi game. There's a purity to it, an honesty, that appeals to me, even though it can be more dynamic and faster-paced. I've always trained both styles, so I’m comfortable with either. And while I do employ some gi-specific techniques, the fundamentals of Jiu Jitsu apply universally, so the majority of my game works whether I'm in a gi or not.
I know you cover the topic in great detail in your instructionals but what is one thing you recommend for older grapplers?
I generally recommend lowering expectations. You're not going to be as effective at Jiu Jitsu as you would be in your physical prime, so you have to accept that your younger, more dynamic opponents will have an advantage. Be OK with that. Be OK progressing at a slower pace. Don't compare yourself to your younger training partners. Instead, accept that you're on your own journey and you are only competing against the old you.
And what is one thing you DON’T recommend for older grapplers?
Over-training. I've seen many people come to Jiu Jitsu as new students, fall in love with the art, and start training at an unsustainable volume. A lot of physical adaptation must happen to train Jiu Jitsu because the movements are unlike anything we do in our everyday lives. That takes time. The joints, the ligaments, and the muscles must adapt. So take it slow. Build a physical foundation that will allow you to train safely and listen to your body. It's OK to take time off. It's OK to take rounds off. Refrain from training to the point where you constantly feel beat up. Leave some gas in your tank when you leave the dojo.
What’s your favorite thing about jiujitsu?
That's a hard question to answer because I love so many things about it, but if I had to pick one, I love how Jiu Jitsu has helped me become a better person. I'm more physically capable. I'm healthier. I’m more fit. I'm stronger mentally. I'm more capable, more resilient, calmer, and more focused. The person I am today is very different than the soft, sedentary guy who started Jiu Jitsu 18 years ago.
Thanks for sharing your wisdom Rick.
Be sure to check out Rick's instructionals right here!