Martial Arts training of any kind runs a risk of injury. But anyone who trains in BJJ for a while knows that we literally play with fire. Like small children if you play with fire you’re probably going to get burned. But training at 40 or 50 plus years old you really have to be extra careful especially at the early stages. It doesn’t mean you can’t play in the sandbox with the rest of the kids…you can. You’ve just got to take that life experience that you have been gifted with and use it!
- Be careful with “Live” Takedowns! There’s always an inherent risk when two standing, resisting bodies collide into each other in an attempt to off balance the other and topple them to the ground. If you’re a hobbyist and have no plans to be on the podium at the next mundials, live takedown training might not be in your best interest. By “live” I am referring to resisting bodies, not drilling with a degree of compliance. Mindful takedown drilling is generally the safest option to avoid unnecessary injuries. Limiting your takedowns to drilling will help you still develop a decent takedown skill-set without destroying your body in the process.
- Recovery is EVERYTHING! I have personally found that as I approach 50 years old that I have to put more vigor and energy into my recovery than I do at perfecting a technique. Recovery can include: hydration, epsom salt baths, ice, massage and of course stretching. If you follow my blogs and videos you know that I am a huge proponent of stretching as a part of your daily ritual. I always joke that, “these days I stretch more than I roll!” I say that because the type of Jiu-Jitsu I like to play usually has something to do with me being upside down. If you like to mess around with inversions and other challenging positions you will need to create the right vessel to do it safely. Even if you’re not an inverted, upside down grappler…you still want to maintain a healthy range of flexibility.
- Foot-locks invite Foot-locks! I love foot-locks and always have. Anyone who plays with foot and leg submissions knows that if you attack with a foot-lock the counter is usually another foot-lock. So if you attack with a foot-lock you also invite your partner to foot-lock you. Then it often becomes a game of who can squeeze faster and there’s a very small space between tapping and injury. Once that threshold is crossed the resulting injury is usually pretty bad. And it’s not your shoulder or elbow either…it’s your leg and now you can’t go to work or pick up your kid! This doesn’t mean that you have to abandon lower body attacks. Just be more mindful of who you can safely do them on and who you cannot. You can also find partners who are willing to play “catch and release” and not, “rip off my leg”.
- Don’t be a ‘slave’ to your ego! Remember, you joined Jiu-Jitsu to improve your life, not ruin it. You shouldn’t have to endure injury after injury to practice the “gentle art”. You can practice and safely train Jiu-Jitsu whether you are 8 or 48 years old. But you have to set some perimeters on yourself so you are being logical and reasonable and not allowing your ego to guide your decisions. My number one rule for myself is, “I don’t roll until I’m warm!” I don’t care how old they are or what belt they are, I don’t roll until I’m warm. Think of your body as having three temperature settings: Cold – Warm – and Hot. The first setting, cold means you just walked onto the mat. You should never roll cold. You need to warm up your body by utilizing movement based flow drills that allow your body to be reintroduced to the movements of live rolling…not “traumatized” by them. Once your body is warmed up and lightly sweating then it’s time to roll. You also have to be mindful of your partners physical and emotional state. Are you still cold, but they’ve been on the mats longer and are all hot and heavy? Therefore you have to be conscious of which partners you can handle right away and those you cannot. The same goes for knowing when to stop too! I’ve seen far to many injuries happen over the years from guys doing that “last” round when they knew they should have stopped! Listen to your gut not the voice of the cocky 20-year old that asks you to roll one more time but you really know better…Remember, the reason you know better IS because you’re 48 years old!
Thanks for the article. I’ve been training for 11 years and I’m 52yo. I know my limits and can vouch for all the points in the article but it doesn’t hurt to hear it again.
Before rolling with a youngster, I quickly go though my current but minor injuries (I’m not rolling if I’ve got anything major) and ask him not to pull my arms out of their sockets. He takes it easy and I have a good roll.