It’s a question that many people have asked themselves when deciding to start Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but what age is ‘too old’ to join a BJJ gym? While it’s certainly more likely to come to the mind of masters competitors, it’s not exclusive to them and people of all ages have found themselves doubting whether or not they’re starting too late. It’s easy to end up thinking that way too, especially when competitors just seem to keep getting younger and younger. Teenagers are regularly competing and winning on the biggest stages at the ADCC and IBJJF world championships, and many of the sport’s top competitors started training when they were just children.
What Age Is ‘Too Old’ To Start Doing BJJ?
There’s an old saying that starts: ‘The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago…’ and of course that applies to BJJ as well. The best time to start any sport, or any activity at all really, is simply as early as possible. Children can start training in BJJ essentially from the moment they’re able to walk, and that’s what many of the sport’s top competitors have done. There’s a major issue surrounding this though of course, as small children don’t have a whole lot of agency in these decisions. Unless you’ve come into contact with BJJ at some point early in your life and it’s made enough of an impression on you to beg your parents to take you, you’re basically relying on them to make that decision for you. Because of that, the vast majority of recreational practitioners didn’t start as children.
Is It Too Late To Start In Your Teens?
While it’s true that many competitors start the sport during their childhood, a lot of them would never have taken it seriously until later in life. After all, not every gym on the planet is a childhood champion factory like Art of Jiu-Jitsu and most of these kids start training at a much more leisurely pace. Because of that, someone starting BJJ in their early teenage years could very easily catch up to those that started almost a decade before them. It’s not unheard of for high-level competitors to find the sport while they’re in high school and Gordon Ryan only started when he was 15. The later into your teenage years that you start, the more difficult the road to the top will be of course. It takes the average recreational practitioner around ten years to reach black belt so at 19 you’re still likely to reach the black belt level before you hit 30, and even that is at a pretty leisurely pace.
Are Your 20s ‘Too Old’ To Start Doing BJJ?
If you’re already in your 20s when you start questioning whether or not you’re too old to start doing BJJ, then the answer is more about what your goals are. If you’re aiming to be a world champion, it probably is too late at this point unless you’ve got a wealth of prior Judo or wrestling experience. That isn’t a reason to not start at all though, and it’s definitely possible for someone in their 20s to compete at a local or national level with success as they move up the coloured belt ranks. Once you reach 30 you can start competing in masters divisions against other competitors of the same age too, so becoming a black belt masters world champion is definitely within reach.
What About Your 30s?
30 and above definitely isn’t ‘too old’ to start BJJ, especially seeing as those masters divisions exist for this exact reason. It still isn’t impossible for someone starting over the age of 30 to reach a high level in the sport either, as Amanda Magda started training Jiu-Jitsu at the age of 38 and managed to win an IBJJF European Championship in the adult division at 46 years old. Naturally this is going to be an incredibly difficult challenge to overcome, but the physical difference between those just under and over 30 aren’t that profound yet. Many competitors over the age of 30 still compete alongside 20 year olds and for those who can’t or don’t want to, thousands of athletes travel to the IBJJF masters world championship every year and practitioners in their 30s can always find matches in the same age at any belt level.
Is 40 ‘Too Old’ To Start Doing BJJ?
Picking up any sport at the age of 40 is always going to be difficult, and it’s definitely commonplace to feel like you’re ‘too old’ to start once you’re deep into your 40s. That isn’t a good enough reason not to try at all though, it just means that your goals need to be reasonable and achievable at every stage. Rolling with adult (under 30) competitors even in training is going to be difficult, as it’s a sad fact that the difference in age is going to lead to a few physical advantages. Obviously that means that finding similar-aged training partners is going to be a benefit, but training with the younger competitors is still just as valuable. Just like a lighter person does when rolling with people who outweigh them, or women in BJJ do when rolling with men, adjusting expectations is key when training with someone significantly younger.
What About 50 or 60, Is That ‘Too Old’ For BJJ?
Adjusting expectations in training is even more important when starting BJJ at 50 or 60, but you’re still not ‘too old’ for the sport at all. Finding training partners of a similar age is going to be hard, and finding competition at the same weight and belt level as well as age will be very difficult. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen though, and you’ll quickly find yourself grabbing any opportunity to train with someone the same age with both hands. It’s always important to look after yourself in training, but obviously your tolerance for risk decreases with age. Tap early, tap often, and protect yourself at all times. With that in mind, it’s still not too late to start BJJ at the age of 50 or 60 and the sport can bring undeniable benefits to your life.
It’s Never Too Late To Start Doing BJJ
This is where the second half of that saying comes into effect: ‘The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, the second best time is now’. Time is finite, and you will literally never be as young as you are right now. You might have missed your chance of becoming the best grappler on the planet, but it’s a certainty that you will become a better grappler if you start today as opposed to next year. If you’re someone who is truly questioning whether they’re ‘too old’ to start doing BJJ then the simple answer is always no. Take advantage of however much time you have left, and start now.