10 Tips On How To Age Gracefully In BJJ


By Emily Kwok [Princethon BJJ]

BJJ is a very physically demanding sport. A workout can leave you feeling wasted more often than not, yet grounded at the same time. Most people can’t bear to be as uncomfortable as you’ve been for the last hour of your life and survive to speak about it the next day. 

Many of us are today not who we were when we started training. We may not like to admit that. Actually, we probably despise thinking about it. There are all sorts emotions and feelings people have about losing their youth and BJJ is unkind as it really pushes you to your max. The worst part is, BJJ doesn’t care about your age. 

We can’t stop getting older but we can certainly help reframe our perspective so we can continue to love what we do. Below is a list of helpful tips I’ve had to either tell myself or counsel a friend or student in along the way:

1. Remember That Every Day Is A New Day

Sometimes our bodies don’t work the way that we want them to. That’s ok. Do the best you can each day and know that you gave it your best effort. If you are consistently feeling unsatisfied with your ‘best’, ask yourself if there is something you can do to improve the situation vs. just feeling bad and ‘old’. Are your joints stiff? Maybe some PT or yoga will help. Feeling gassed? Maybe extra cardio or a diet overhaul is in order. Try to think about productive solutions vs. blaming your age. 

2. Compare Yourself To Yourself, Not Everyone Else

You probably didn’t start BJJ to be able to pat yourself on the back because you tapped everyone in your class out right? So why start now? Chances are you fell in love with training because of how it helped you inch towards self improvement everyday. Continue to ‘self improve’ and don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. They are all on their own journey, just like you.

3. You Don’t Have To Be One Of The Cool Kids – You’re A Grown F****** Adult!

Listen, we aren’t in high school anymore. Don’t be offended if the 18 year old brown belt phenom doesn’t ask you to be their partner for class. Chances are they like you just fine, but they may be looking for someone to really beat their ass and that might not be you. Were you planning on being a 45 yr old Mundials Champ? Oh, wait, you report to work to earn a solid paycheck, own a house and have a family…but how come the cool kids didn’t invite me to eat pizza with them after class?

4. If Your Body Refuses To Move That Way, The Move Just Isn’t For You

Don’t put the pressure on yourself to lay out the trendiest new guard if you can’t contort yourself into some of the positions. It’s dangerous and you probably can’t risk being crippled. Use your common sense and know that some moves might be not be appropriate for your body. Don’t worry, there are a crap-ton more moves you can learn. 

5. Aging Doesn’t Mean You’re Incapable Of Learning, You Just Might Need To Do It At A Different Pace

If it takes you more reps, more hours, more mindfulness, so be it! It’s important to learn a new move with technical proficiency, so take your time and learn it right. There is no prize for being the fastest learner. 

6. Fundamentals Are Always Your Friend

The reason why fundamentals are fundamentals is because they are reliable, practical techniques. They are used at every level and they are the backbone of every cool new trend. There is no shame in relying on them or making them a big part of your game. 

7. Ask Yourself If You Are Thriving In Your Environment

Sometimes people retire and decide to move to Florida. Relative to BJJ: It’s totally ok to admit that you need something different at this point in your life and physically make a shift. Ask yourself if you are training the right way, in the right class or at the right school. If training feels stressful or uncomfortable, maybe it’s time for a change of scenery. See if there are more people like you working out at a different hour and make wiser choices about who you spar with. If you are in a really aggressive environment, see if there is an alternative school that is healthier for you.

8. Goals Are Good AND Goals Are Allowed To Change

You are allowed to say you want something different out of BJJ. In fact, sometimes the beauty in life is knowing when it’s time to move into a new phase. You can call the shots and if you don’t like what comes of it, you can change it again. Just be honest about whether or not you put your best foot forward and be accountable to yourself. 

9. Communicate With Your Instructor, They Should Care About How You Feel

If you find yourself in a position where you are dreading class, unhappy or nervous and can’t figure out why, go speak to your instructor. Chances are they can see things from a different light and help you understand why you feel the way you feel. Perhaps they can give you training tips, set up some good partners or have a heart to heart about the place you are stuck in. 

10. You Are Somebody’s Hero 

BJJ is not a tea party, it’s not a walk in the park and it’s not eating ice cream. BJJ is really hard work. The fact that you put yourself through the grueling mental and physical training whilst trying to be a productive member of society is a big deal. Many of your peers and your external social network hold you in the highest regard and think you’re a BEAST for what you do. Remember that.

Emily Kwok

A Master Instructor at Princeton BJJ, began boxing and transitioned to Wrestling and BJJ in 2011.



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