Starting Jiu Jitsu after 40? Or 50? It’s possible if you find the right Jiu Jitsu School
Whether you’re returning to jiu-jitsu after years of being away or coming to your very first class, it can be intimidating to take those first steps into the gym. There are additional challenges for those who are over the age of 50 or even 40. Most of the people who are your age may be in a similar place as you professionally or with respect to family life, but most of them will be far more skilled than you. Meanwhile, most of the students who are at the same experience level as you will likely be significantly younger than you and want to train at a higher intensity.
This can give you the feeling of being a fish out of water, especially as you’re trying to get your bearings during your first few days at a new gym. This is totally normal. However, if you end up feeling this way for more than a few weeks, it will eventually start to weigh on you. Eventually, you may start to question your decision to start taking classes and you may abandon jiu-jitsu altogether.
Not All Schools Are the Same
This doesn’t have to happen. Though the core elements of jiu-jitsu are the same no matter where or how you learn jiu-jitsu, not everyone teaches it the same way and not all schools share a common mindset. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to jiu-jitsu.
As Ryan Young of Kama Jiu-Jitsu observes in the above video, different schools will cultivate different environments. In most cases, the instructors will dictate the school’s environment and will shape the students’ outlook. In time, this attracts more students who want to train in a specific kind of environment and eventually schools become magnets for those who want to train a particular way. “Every school has a certain demographic,” Ryan says. “They cater to a certain type of student.”
Some schools may end up attracting people who are interested in learning self-defense, while others may attract people who are interested in sport jiu-jitsu. Some schools may attract more professionals with families who view jiu-jitsu as a hobby. Some schools may attract people who are single and want to pursue a career as an MMA fighter. Clearly, these different sets of people are going to have different goals, and if you don’t share these goals, you may not feel as though you fit in.
Moreover, comradery is a big part of jiu-jitsu classes. Developing friendships makes coming to class fun and helps to ensure that you keep up with your training. If you don’t have a lot in common on a personal level with the people in your school, that may be another sign that it’s not the best fit for you.
Finding a Home
No matter where you live, there will likely be at least a handful of different jiu-jitsu academies that you can attend, and you should do some research before your first class even starts. If you have friends, relatives, or coworkers who are taking jiu-jitsu classes, you may want to ask them what the environment is like in their schools. Not only will they be able to give you a good idea of what to expect, it also means you’ll know some people at the school should you decide to start taking classes there.
Additionally, read through the schools’ websites, look at online reviews, and check out jiu-jitsu message boards in your area. If you do decide to go to check out a school in-person you should talk to the instructor and some of the students. More than just asking them what the environment is like, you should try to get to know them personally. If you don’t feel like these are people who are going to share your goals or make learning jiu-jitsu fun, you may want to check out a different school.
Finally, age can be a factor. If you’re a 35-year-old with a background in wrestling, you’ll probably be able to roll with classmates who are in their 20s. You may be a little sorer than them the following day, but you’ll be able to keep up. If you’re a 48-year-old professional who wants to get back into shape and learn the basics of self-defense while all your classmates are under 25 and want to spend each class smashing on each other, you’ll likely find it more challenging to keep their pace and you’ll be at an increased risk of injury. Being injured and unable to train is no one’s idea of a good time; it’s also hard to get in shape or stay in shape when you’re not 100%.
Starting your jiu-jitsu journey or getting back into jiu-jitsu at an older age is about finding a place where you feel comfortable and safe. In addition to finding a school and an instructor who shares your goals, it also means finding classes with students who are going to help you meet those goals and continue developing your jiu-jitsu.