I am 46 years old and will turn 47 in 2020. I have been training Jiu-Jitsu since 1997. I grew up wrestling in High School and College before turning my attention to Jiu-Jitsu and MMA. I fought my first MMA in 1998 and my last fight was in 2010. During that 12 year period I was extremely hard on my body to say the least.
Training Jiu-Jitsu after 45
At the end of my MMA career I had two knee surgeries and a three level neck fusion surgery. My knees are great considering I have not had an ACL since 2003. (Yes, I fought my entire UFC career without a ACL). Long story, but I tore my ACL in my final match of the Ultimate Submission Challenge and never had it fixed. (Being a broke fighter with no insurance meant I didn't find out I had torn my ACL until 2007. During a knee surgery in-between UFC fights).
The injury to my neck is still bothersome. I have weakness in certain areas that won't ever come back. Most days my neck hurts. I am still able to train Jiu-Jitsu daily. I have competed in Jiu-Jitsu a few times since the fusion. I still enjoy competing when I am healthy. Which brings me to the subject I wanted to write about.
Training as we get older
How can a person train as we age, stay in or get in shape? I am not as athletic as when I was younger. I am not as flexible as I once was. I tried yoga and did it once or twice a week for almost a year. I did not like it. I am currently trying a 15-minute version of yoga. Yes, I know it probably isn't as good as doing an hour or an hour and half class. But I hate the time that I spend doing it. Maybe if I can a shorten the duration, I won't hate it so much. Driving 30 minutes for a 1-hour class. Then shower and drive 30 minutes home kills a lot of time doing something I do not enjoy. But if I can do 15-minute session at home and hopefully get 90% of the benefits I would make that trade.
Lifting hurts at 46 years old. Before Jiu-Jitsu in 1997 I loved to lift. But after I found Jiu-Jitsu I have not lifted as much as before. And I do not enjoy it the way I did before either. Being strong took a back seat to choking people. After I hurt my neck and had to have the neck fusion. Doing squats or dead lifts makes my back hurt. It hurts so much after those exercises, that walking, sitting, and laying down are uncomfortable. After talking to my doctor and some trainers. We decided that those exercises are no longer helpful to my goals. This is frustrating. I do not like not being able to do squats or dead lifts. But it is a part of life we all have to deal with. Aging and reality that we are all getting older.
Things I can do
Yoga, pull ups, Core Exercises, (planks, abs ect.), Run, Bike. Now what do I do? I have tried to love yoga. I do not love yoga but we will give the 15-minute yoga a chance. I am able to run. But I do not run far. I usually run 1 to 2 miles. Not very far but for my goals and the results I want that distance is perfect. (I recently busted my Bersa Sack in my left knee. That put me out of Jiu-Jitsu and running for over 2 months. I am not a 100% healed from that injury but I am back on the mat and running for last 8 days now.
The other thing that I can do is train Jiu-Jitsu. Yes Jiu-Jitsu makes my neck and back sore. But not as bad as some things. And I enjoy training. It adds way more to my life than the discomfort of a few injuries could ever take away. And I am still good at Jiu-Jitsu, so that helps.
I love training. I love competing and I plan to do both as long as I can. Can a older Mat Junky stay on the mat? Yes. We have to understand our limitations. (No upside-down guard for me). With certain partners I need to be careful and protect myself. For instance, guys who out weight me by 70-100 plus pounds. I don't take a lot of double leg shots from my feet anymore to protect my neck. (If someone pulls on my neck it will hurt for days). So, I play a more conservative game then I use to.
My advice for the lower belts that are older:
- Pick your partners. If someone is to rough it is ok to tell them you are going to sit this round out or you want to roll with someone else.
- Know your limitations. Berimbolo might not be the best move for anyone that is older. Or for anyone's overall neck and back health.
- Find the right school. The right school should have a qualified and invested head instructor. The instructor needs to run class in a way that is productive for everyone's training. When the instructor sees a mismatch that a potential student could get hurt, he will break them and find new partners for them. Even during drilling this is one thing I am always on the lookout for. There is nothing productive coming from a pairing of two individuals over a hundred pounds apart.
- Take it slow. Start in Beginner Class, drill and work your way back into Advanced Class. Then still take it slow. No one is judging you. I yell to push the team, not the individual. Meaning I am saying everyone find a partner but if you need to sit out just let me know. I do not want you to get hurt and not be able to train.
- Come to class. If you are late still come to class. If you need to leave early, still come to class. I do not consider it disrespectful to show up late of leave early. Just tell me or whoever is leading the class hello or goodbye. Most of my students work. Most have family obligations. I would much rather you get two rounds of training in before you have to go then not train.
- Warm up match. I usually start with someone who has good Jiu-Jitsu that is not spastic for my warm up match. Longevity in Jiu-Jitsu has everything to do with choosing the right partners, always.
See you on the Mat.