Some might call it mid-life crisis, the gray itch. Whatever you want to call it, sometimes we middle agers get inspired to do something that might seem crazy to casual onlookers, and perhaps even to our friends and family members. For me, it wasn’t dance lessons or sky-diving, and on my budget it sure wasn’t a convertible; it was Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
I always hated traditional forms of exercise. Even as a child I hated running in circles around a track. The only forms of exercise I enjoyed were those that didn’t seem like exercise. Tell me to run a mile and I would have rather walked on broken glass, but give me a paint ball gun and tell me to capture a flag and I’d run from break of day well into evening. For me, exercise had to be fun, and for it to be fun it had to be challenging. I had to feel that I were learning something interesting and even practical. That’s not an excuse; it’s just how I’m wired. Probably some of you will identify with me in this.
BJJ – Better Late Than Never
In any case, as I got older and accumulated more and more of the responsibilities that come with adulthood, exercise sort of fell by the wayside. Now, I never was very athletic to begin with (huge understatement), but knowing that I needed to try to stay in shape I joined this or that gym or athletic club and got on those treadmills and exercise bikes, and hated every moment of it. Invariably, I would make excuses for not going and eventually could no longer justify the price of membership. Probably some of you will identify with me in this as well.
Time passed…a lot of time.
Then one day I enrolled my son in a BJJ academy in Bloomingdale, Il., the one that just happens to belong to Comprido Medeiros. Sitting in on my son’s classes, watching from the sidelines, I found myself more and more intrigued by the intricacies of the gentle art. This was a profound martial art, an intelligent martial art, a highly effective and efficient martial art, and, best of all, one that didn’t require its practitioners to do flips, high kicks, or other feats of athleticism. It dawned on me that this would be perfect for a middle ager like me.
After doing a bit of research on the internet, I quickly realized that if I were really interested in training in BJJ, to do so under someone like Comprido would be a once in a lifetime opportunity. That was it for me. I was sold. Now, I just had to convince my wife.
While she was understandably reticent (after all, what wife leaps at the idea of her middle-aged husband rolling around on the floor with other men wearing pajamas), she ultimately supported the idea if only to see her out of shape husband get some exercise. So I signed up. The rest is history, or at least history in the making.
Now I’m not going to lie; it is hard…very, very hard. Astute readers of this website know that BJJ, gentle art or not, is intense, regardless of one’s age. Still, getting started in something like this at my age (I’m in my forties) was quite daunting. The warm-ups alone were more exercise than I had done in years, and then came the training, not to mention the actual sparring.
In addition the physical side of things, there are psychological obstacles that you have to face as a middle aged white belt. Most of the other students are younger than you. Your coaches are often younger than you. At your age, you are probably used to sharing your wisdom and experience with others, not finding yourself in a position to be taught by those younger than you. You’ll have to be able to deal with that. As they say, you have to leave your ego outside the mats.
But the benefits far, far outweigh the hardships. For one thing, you will get in shape…quickly. You will find yourself with more energy than you had for a long time. You will feel good, and feel good about yourself. You will learn a martial art that is second to none, and you will have fun doing it. And your friends will stop their joking and snickering after you show them the standing arm bar you learned the other day.
And there are advantages that come with being a middle aged white belt. By now you are an efficient learner. That isn’t to say that you’ll necessarily catch on to the various techniques faster than your more youthful teammates, but it is to say that you are wiser. You know the dynamics of weight, balance and movement better than you think, and better than most of the younger folk. You are a good observer, identifying the key points of training faster than you would have in your teens or twenties, and by now you are pretty much undistracted and unaffected by peer pressure, etc.
Written by Matthew Cotta
The best thing about BJJ as an activity for middle aged persons like me is the fact that it is designed for people just like us, people who cannot rely upon strength and speed, the advantages of youth. BJJ is about knowledge and technique, about anticipation and foresight, things that actually give us an edge. Remember, BJJ is often described as a physical chess match, and, well, we ‘old timers’ definitely know how to play chess.
So you see, BJJ is not limited to young boys and girls. It has no such boundaries or constraints. BJJ is for everyone, at any age. The late Grandmaster Helio Gracie (may he rest in peace) showed us that up until his late eighties could still practice the art actively.
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