As you grow older you need to be able to adapt your training. Your body needs more post training recovery time and more time to heal from injury. You are also more prone to injury whilst training . This sounds bad but really it isn’t. The good news is there are things you can do. You just need to take a few simple steps to avoid injury and one of those is learning to pick your training partners.
Pick your training partners in BJJ
A while ago I emailed Kurt Osiander and asked him how he avoided injury whilst training, as an older guy. His email back was a simple but realistic response, “pick your training partners”. Even as a high level black belt he still takes this precaution.
When you think about it this is very true. It is even more appropriate as a lower belt. As a white or a blue belt, you may not have the technical skill to deal with big weight differences. Training with the 200 pound guy is going to be a risk, especially if you are only a 150 pounds or lighter. It is going to be hard work and really tiring. if they do something unexpected, it could quite easily lead to an injury. This has happened to me a few times, but fortunately the worse that happened was a groin shot. Yeah not fun, but easily recovered from.
The obvious solution is to roll with higher belts. Yes you will be safer, but it is really hard to practise anything other than defence or escapes. This is not a bad thing, it is a really good way to learn and a great challenge.
Plan your roll
The unfortunate reality is you have to actually start planning how you roll. This is where you learn to pick your training partners. It’s not just your training partners, its also when you roll with them. You need to pick your training partners to fit with how you feel and what you want. As an example this is what I consider when I’m rolling. At the start it’s I look for someone to warm up with. So I might look for a lighter white belt. At this point I’m not considering their age.
After this first round I will start looking for guys roughly my age and belt level. You know the guys in your academy that will train hard but safely. This is where I do consider age. As guys roughly my age will not do anything dumb. As they want to avoid injury as much as me. I am fortunate that as a middle heavy weight I don’t have to worry about weight. There are no guys at my club that are way heavier than me. There have been in the past and I was cautious with them.
After these rounds, I find a higher belt to work with. Despite being tired I will be safe. I will push myself a little with them, work my game and see what they do to screw it up. It might be a little slower than the previous rounds, which is good for me. but I can take away a lot from these rounds.
In the final rounds of the session, I will consider size, experience and age. By this point I am pretty tired. So my strength and speed are affected. I really don’t want to deal with some springy young thing at this point. (Unless I want to improve my cardio.) So the partner I would return to is someone I know well and trust.
Be polite and check
Sometime you may not be able to pick your own partner. In my club the coach will sometimes match new guys, with the coloured belts. I now always make it a point to introduce myself (being polite) but them check how long they have been training. I have made the mistake in assuming a white belt is a white belt in the past. However having now come across white belts that are, black belt judokas, professional mma fighters, or have just done no gi for years. I made it a point to check. That way I have an idea of what I’m dealing with.
Everytime you train you want to get as much out of it as possible. But as you get older you need to take a few precautions to do this. It’s not a hard thing to do. But it will keep you safe and mean that you can enjoy your training time.