Am I too Old to Start BJJ? Yes and No!
Updated: Feb 12
An inside perspective of a bjj practitioner who started later in life and why its a love/hate relationship.
You’ve been walking by the gym for a year lookin at the people inside. You’ve thought about going in and trying a class but something always stops you. You think because you’re in your mid to late forties you’re too old. You’re unathletic and/or uncoordinated. Everybody in the gym looks like they’re having fun but, BJJ looks incredibly complicated and maybe even dangerous. Golf. Golf is a much better option, you tell yourself.
But now you’ve done it. You’ve walked into the gym, your first class is about to begin and you’re absolutely petrified. Because you are in your late forties, you are unathletic and you’re definitely worried about getting hurt.
I know, because that was me. I started doing BJJ when I was on the cusp of forty eight years old, I’m fifty one now. I’m unathletic, uncoordinated and while I thought I was in good shape, I definitely wasn’t in BJJ shape. As anyone who does Jiu Jitsu will tell you, the only way to get into BJJ shape is to do BJJ.
And yeah, I’ve gotten injured...a lot, but hey that’s why God invented scar tissue. It’ll build up over time and you’ll be okay.
I’ve learned a lot about myself doing BJJ. I know people my age, former athletes or just athletic coordinated people in general who took to Jiu Jitsu like a duck to water. I didn’t and in many ways I still haven’t.
If you have just started or are in fact about to start, understand that it’s never too late. You may struggle and that’s fine too. But if you stick with it the rewards are surprising and numerous.
The trepidation you feel before class is something almost everyone has experienced. I know a brown belt who’s been doing BJJ for ages and he told me he was nervous for years before every class. This guy is not like me, he’s good, damn good and not just because of experience. He’s athletic, coordinated and slick as hell. So if a guy like that had nerves before class, understand that it’s totally okay to feel what you’re feeling.
What about your path, your goals for BJJ? I have mine and you’ll have yours, just like he has his.
I am not good at Jiu Jitsu and I’ll most likely never be great, but I’m making progress. As for being fit, that’s improved as well. When I first started I couldn’t even go a full three minute round before gassing out. Now I have days where I can do round after hard rolling three to five minute round. Sometimes upwards of seven (or nine if I’m feeling really sassy) in an hour of open mat. To some people that won’t sound very impressive, but for me it’s a major achievement.
There is nothing like the feeling of being Jiu Jitsu tired. Drenched in sweat after an hour of rolling is one of the greatest feelings you can have.
Sure, the next day when you get out of bed your body will sound like it’s made out of bubble wrap as you limp to the shower, but even that feels good. It feels like an accomplishment. A stupid, stupid accomplishment.
This next bit may sound corny but I think it needs to be said for those of us starting out in our late forties. As we get older it becomes harder and harder to make friends. While there are d-bags everywhere, the vast majority of the BJJ community is incredibly welcoming.
When I first started BJJ most of my friends were more like friendly associates in my industry. Now I have an incredibly tight knit group of friends and I met all of them on the mats. I don’t mean we’re gym buddies, I mean we’re friends. We hang out, go to dinner, we’ll catch a game, movie or concert (pre covid) and the conversation is not just about Jiu Jitsu, though of course we talk about BJJ a lot. We’re obsessed so we talk about it. But we also just talk about life and the topics will range from the philosophical to the incredibly moronic and ridiculous.
I don’t care about advancement. Stripes and belt promotions mean nothing to me. Never have. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to get a stripe and hell I may even get promoted one day but I just can’t get up the energy to care about that. That’s not my goal.
My goals in BJJ are simple. Get better at it, get healthier, roll longer, work on overcoming my fears and of course nurturing the friendships I’ve made on the mats and will continue to make.
Your goals can be the same as mine, your goals can be completely different. It’s up to you. You can get anything you want out of Jiu Jitsu but never compare your progress to someone younger, more athletic or who excelled at the sport after their first week. They’re on their own journey and you are on or about to start yours.
Starting Jiu Jitsu in your late forties or fifties is probably a bad decision. But you’re never too old to make a bad decision, and BJJ is really one of the best bad decisions anyone can make, especially at our age.
Jonathan Latt (BJJ Addict)