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3 Rules For the Over-40 Grappler

3 Rules For the Over-40 Grappler

By Scott McDonald: BJJ brown belt and author of Bjj Morning Chokes

At 40 and beyond, your attitude and commitment changes (like your body and the distribution of hair). Here are 3 quick rules to remember when you’re facing the challenges of being a grappler on the seasoned side of 40.


If you’re like me, your biggest critic is yourself. You’ve had times in your life when you’ve felt like peak performance is close at hand and your fitness goals are within reach… And then life gets in the way. Because one thing about being a man in your 40s is that the generation that came before us weren’t expected to be anything more than husbands, fathers and workers. They were expected to let themselves go. So many of them thought of themselves as old men by the time they hit the big four-oh. In the 60s, 70s and 80s, if you were a guy who stayed fit and kept extending his limits, you were in the minority. And yet now we’re expected to balance all of the same pressures of work and family, but we look in the mirror and hate that dad bod that looks back at us. So whatever else I say, remember rule 1. Most of the time you’re trailblazing this lifestyle. You’re not an elite athlete, you’re emulating one to improve one aspect of your life.


As a grappler, I think I have it easier than most. When I walk into the gym, my friends there are pleased to see me. We’re a supportive crew even when we’re hanging shit on each other. I’m an independent guy but the thought of doing the grind alone without their support is terrifying. This could be why I manage to build 4 sessions into an otherwise stacked week. But in a couple of months I’m moving to a new country, and I’m going to try and maintain the momentum I’ve built into my grappling, so I’m going to try and remember rule 2. I’ve found the best way to build collaboration with other people is by giving them my time. I coach when I can because it forces me to get to the gym when I don’t want to. I offer lifts to the instructors: not because I’m a suck-up but because it gives me a commitment to be there on time. And in return, I’ve found that when I’m working on a new technique, there’s always someone happy to pay back.


One thing that happened when I hit 40 was that suddenly I was always rehabbing an injury. And those injuries took much longer to overcome than they had in my 20s and 30s. But the people who bounce back most strongly from injury are the ones that treat it with respect. Do the rehab work like you know you should. Maintain a semi-decent diet. You’re not dying, you’re just out of the gym for a while. You’re still the athlete you were before and you will be again. The other way to respect your down-time is to keep your study up. Take stock of your game and the aspects you’re looking forward to pursuing when you return. Look at technique vids, write yourself a new program or look at drills you’ll incorporate. These are all the things you don’t have time to do when you’re training so now is your perfect opportunity. Because if you’re like me, you’re going to get injured again. I’d love to hear if any of these rules resound with you. All the best with your Old Man Strength journey and keep training. Like the label says, if we can’t out play them, we can still out work them!

Scott McDonald’s weekly posts about BJJ training and coaching for the every day human can be found at

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