Jiu-Jitsu is often referred to as the gentle art but more often than not it does not always feel like that. Some days you wake up aching and even the most simple movements are painful.
As you get older these knocks and bruises become slower to heal and you may find that your body is not able to train at the same pace that it once did.
Additionally, many people have unrealistic training schedules which can result in injuries and long periods off the mat.
Training hard as you get older is possible but it requires a bit more planning and strategy. By developing a smart training approach there is no reason why you cannot train everyday. Here is some of my top tips on how to ensure that you stay on the mats as much as possible.
The best way to avoid injury to any part of your body is to strengthen the surrounding muscles. For example strengthening of the Glutes (butt muscles) is proven to significantly reduce the risk of knee, ankle, hips, calves, abductor, and achilles injuries! A strong set of glutes acts as a stabilizer for all these parts of the body and protects them from injury.
Jiu-Jitsu players should focus on strengthening of the posterior chain (group of muscles at the back of the body including the glutes). By strengtening the these muscles you can help to stabilize the joints and muscles required for BJJ and it will also lead to better overall movement of your body.
A specific gym program and reformer Pilates are two excellent ways to help you build these muscles. It will also help develop your overall strength and improve flexibility. It is often tempting to skip the strength training in favor of Jiu Jitsu but at least try to get 1 session in per week.
This sounds so obvious that I was almost not going to include it. Do you stretch everyday? If not, try to begin with a simple 10 mins in morning. There are many great resources for BJJ specific stretching including Yoga for BJJ.
Increasing your mobility and gently stretching tight and tired muscles is proven to alleviate the risk of injury. Improved mobility will also improve your game by allowing you to perform maneuvers and escape from positions that you could not do so from previously.
Sparring is often the most fun part of training. It is when you get the chance to test your skill in a live environment and measure yourself against your teammates. If you are competitive it can be easy to fall into the trap of uncontrolled sparring as you attempt to wildly best your opponent. In controlled sparring you need to recognize when it is time to accept a position and also recognize when it is safe to turn up the power. This comes with experience and is a vital skill to learn if you want to stay healthy.
If you still find sparring too heavy going then sit out a round or two. If desperate to practice a particular technique you could also do some work with a grappling dummy.
Don’t be afraid to say no
Lots of academies do drills and warm ups that may not be possible for people with injuries or limited mobility. Many times I see people that I know have particular injuries participating in these movements because they do not want to make a fuss and be seen to be sitting out. My advice is to sit out now so you wont be sitting out permanently!
Listen to your body
Listening to your body does not mean taking time off the mat every time you get any ache or some mat burn. Listening to your body means getting to know your body and knowing when a particular muscle soreness or weakness is at risk of developing into something more serious.
For example if you have a history of spraining your ankle you should know that the ankle takes time to recover and by continuing to train you will slow down the recovery process and run the risk of further strain and/or long term damage.