For Masters and Seniors: Beginning Your Journey in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
May 1, 2013
Learning a Few Tricks Along the Way
I’ve noticed a growing trend in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu; more and more people, specifically men aged 35 and up, are starting to train in the arte suave. As a member of the Masters and Seniors division, I can say that I’m glad to see a rise in the number of training partners the same age as myself. And though we come from all walks of life and our reasons for training may differ, we do have one thing in common: on the mats they have to learn to deal with the strength and vigor of younger guys. I started training at age 28 and, while that’s not exactly old age, I was older than all of the other students by at least 8 years, and a few of them more than 10. As the resident ‘old guy’ I felt a lot of pressure to hold my own with the younger guys. It was tough going and I nearly gave up on BJJ on more than one occasion. Fortunately, however, that was not the case. Eight years later I still have to contend with the lions of the next generation, and even though it’s still difficult at times I’ve learned a few tricks along the way.
The beautiful thing about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is that it was designed to help the weak defeat the strong. As a way to level the playing field, it’s tailor made for us older guys. We are BJJ’s most perfect candidates. Now I’m not saying that Masters and Seniors are weak. I’m just pointing to a fact that many of us aren’t ready to admit; at our age, have lost at least some of the all-around athleticism we used to have in our younger days. And what abilities we do have are often a little slower when compared to that of our younger counterparts. We have to do things differently, and in such a way that our attributes are highlighted. It’s like the parable of the old lion and young lion, sitting on a hill overlooking a herd of gazelle. The young lion says to the old one, Hey, let’s run down there and catch a gazelle. The old lion replies, No, let’s walk down there and catch ALL of them. The moves and techniques of BJJ allows us old lions to do this effectively, to walk and still catch the gazelle, and therein lay its strength as a martial art.
Fixing the Mental
Before we can hit sweet moves on the mats, we have to learn how to survive. In our case, that usually involves the onslaught of the younger lions. Let me tell you, this isn’t always easy. Young lions can stick, move, slip, dash, and dive. They can cut all the angles and slip into all the pockets. And if that weren’t enough, they’re strong and full of fight. So what do we old lions do?
The first, and most important, thing we can do is what a former coach called ‘fixing the mental’. Fixing the mental is, quite simply, accepting a situation for exactly what it is. In our case, our situation is we have to deal with stronger, faster, more athletic opponents on a daily basis. It’s an uphill battle and even though it can be incredibly difficult, we must tell ourselves to remain positive; young lions are athletic and aggressive by nature and it is useless to resent them because of their physical abilities. Resentment and complaints do not lessen the effects of their abilities, nor do they help us to get better.
Instead we confirm what we already know: Yes, they are stronger. Yes, they are faster. I will get tired and I will get frustrated. I will get tapped out, I know this. It will be difficult, but I am ready, I am capable, and I will not quit. After all, why should you? At this stage in your life you’ve weathered many a storm. You’ve held down career responsibilities, possibly even family ones as well. You’ve survived deadlines, meetings, hectic work schedules and sharing an office with the company suck-up. You’ve potty-trained kids, taught them to ride bikes, patched up their boo-boo’s, hauled them all over creation to soccer practice, gymnastics, band recitals, and cleaned messes that looked like forensic crime scenes. Not only do you know that nothing worthwhile is easy, you’ve lived it. BJJ is no different. So smile, you’ve got this. Let the young lions roar as loud as they want, when they come you’ll be ready.