Last week I explained that you’re never too old to start training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. This week, I want to give you some behind the scenes details about the exact game that I recommend to a lot of my students 30 and up who are working with my in private lessons and in my Masters Class.
Jiu jitsu players 30 & up have to develop a game that that maximizes their strengths and minimizes weakness. I love doing this evaluation through a private lesson. There is no better way to dedicate time and create a truly custom plan for each person like a consistent schedule of private lessons coupled with group classes to work on the things we learn with your training partners who don’t know what’s coming! In the first private lesson, I like to roll with my students first and talk with them & find out exactly what type of athlete I’m working with, what type of pre-existing injuries do they have coming in? Etc. If I'm rolling with him and there's a lot of hesitation in his movement, I like to figure out why. Is it conditioning, fear of aggravating a prior injury, what’s going on? That will give me all of the info that I need to develop their ideal game and plan their training.
One position that I love for Masters/ 30+ people it’s the deep half guard position. I have a few older former wrestlers who train with us, one guy is in his fifties and I explained the position this way to him. “A deep half guard position is a single-leg takedown turned upside down.” Like all of my students, especially the 30+ clients, or anyone with a day job, this guy is concerned about staying healthy and making sure that he doesn’t aggravate any old injuries. In his particular situation, he has quite a few injuries that he sustained from his days as a division one college big-time wrestler. So, he needs to be careful, but he still wants to train, and he knows that ANY physical activity has calculated risk. He knows what physical contact is, he’s not afraid of that, but he’s 50 years old now & he’s got to be a little more deliberate and a little more careful.
In the private lesson, I get them in the deep half position and talk about how you don't have to rely on any athleticism. (Even when you have it!) You don't have to rely on flexibility. You don't deal with any fast exchanges with somebody who's a lot younger, stronger and faster than you. You're really developing a strategy and a plan that works best for you at your age and your physical ability. The first private lesson is the most critical one I teach, because hits closest to home because we are stripping away the stuff that won’t work and teaching them how to “play within themselves.”
Next, I like to put people in what I call the power positions, where they are at a disadvantage. I’ll take mount, side, and back on them, just from a flow rolling pace. What I'm trying to do from there is get them to learn how to get to the deep half position from all three of my power positions. After they get comfortable in the ‘disadvantage,’ and learn to unlock the patience and survival that the young players don’t always have, they learn a sweep or two and turn the disadvantage into an advantage. When we get to this point, I see them develop a sense of ‘getting comfortable with the uncomfortable.’
It usually takes me less than a half hour to actually do this. As soon as we do this, the light switch is flipped on and the responses I get from my students on this is that it's a finally a platform that allows them to be comfortable with who they are and how they want to play their game. They start to realize that even at their age, they can play a style that's very, very difficult for their opponent to deal with, no matter who the other person is. It's a strategy. It's a game. It makes it fun and now we’ve got a focus and direction for their much longer journey in jiu jitsu.
The Psychology Behind the Strategy…
I find that this is very successful for people who are really at a physical disadvantage against other people. The whole point of this deep half game is that it's the opposite way of thinking of every other guard. You need everyone to smash and mount you for you to play this guard. If they don't smash and mount you, you can't play this guard. Well, what does every younger, faster guy want to do against somebody who is physically weaker or slower? They mount you, try to smash, and play their game on top of you. They're not running away from you. So, the deep half guard plays and baits the younger BJJ player and feeds them into the game every time.
It’s using the most common reactions and instincts in jiu jitsu, the desire to tap someone from mount, back, or side, and flipping them against your opponent. It also plays into the psychology of the people. Younger players are going to pounce on these power positions, because it feels like the right thing to do right now. The older player who is comfortable at a disadvantage and understands that they need the other person to think that mounting him is a good idea. They need the other person to think, the attacker to think, that being in side control is a good idea for them. They need the other person to think that being on their back is a good thing for them. It's not that we're letting them, but what we're doing is we're accepting the fact that this is a set up, and a strategy. It feels wrong, but that’s what makes it right and effective.. And so tough to deal with!
My 30+ jiu-jitsu players get to play chess and bait the younger strength players into giving away a pawn to get your knight in position. With a unique strategy, Jiu Jitsu players can be very competitive against younger stronger opponents.
The key to success here is working with your body type and your skillset and taking advantage of the fact that you've got life experience. Your brain is working better than it did when you were 18 years old, that’s your greatest asset, and we’re going to use it. My most successful Masters students have learned this strategy. They have learned to play ‘within themselves.’ That’s why it’s never too late to start training, to find your style, and to become a successful jiu jitsu player at any age.