“He must be a wrestler,” I thought. “A wrestler is way more likely to understand my obsession with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.”
Not only did he wrestle, but he was also a referee for local meets and tournaments.
Eagerly, I leaned in and told him about my current Jiu Jitsu training and an upcoming tournament.
I got more and more animated as I explained my progress and my goals. It was all going so well, until he responded with a question.
“How long do you really think you’ll be able to keep doing that?”
His question jolted me back to reality. As I answered him, I simultaneously made my plan for a quick escape.
I will never be too old for Jiu Jitsu.
The cause and effect is reversed. Quitting the activity that causes me to celebrate, learn, and grow is what would age me. I am not old, because I train.
Use It or Lose It
Look around you. The majority of people are losing strength and flexibility as they age, but it isn’t inevitable. Jiu Jitsu practitioners stay strong and flexible, because they are using their muscles and stretching into new positions constantly on the mats. It is when we give in to age and remain still that our body begins to decline.
When I am moving and training, I find myself eating healthier, hydrating more, and getting in higher quality cardio. With Jiu Jitsu, I get all of this without the monotony and boredom that used to accompany me to the gym.
The longer I train, the easier it is to engage in healthier habits. I train 5-6 time a week. Not only do I not have time to go out to the bars or chomp on movie popcorn, I simply do not want to. Doing so negates my training. When I falter, I feel it. This pulls me right back to a healthy lifestyle.
People who train find themselves getting stronger, healthier, and more flexible. As they gain endurance and put in time on the mat, it pays off in muscle gain, increased stamina, and weight loss.
I see the effects of Jiu Jitsu around me. I love watching my training partners’ bodies be transformed by the sport.
A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste
You can’t read a book or listen to someone talk about Jiu Jitsu for long without the chess analogy surfacing.
Jiu Jitsu is a mental game. It is a game of knowing how to counter a move and of knowing the counter to your opponent’s counter. The possibilities are endless, and the best Jiu Jitsu practitioners know how to strategize and bait their opponent.
When training, my mind is constantly reeling. Changes aren’t just in my thoughts, but also in the brain itself. As I play, the brain activity stimulates and connects nerve cells, increasing neural plasticity and staving away memory loss.
Each move my opponent makes stirs bits and pieces of knowledge. Each submission or tap adds information to the growing Jiu Jitsu database in my mind. It is an infinite puzzle, one that will never grow old and one that will never be solved.
For the longest time, I failed at meditation. Every time I sat down to still my body and calm my thoughts, it would have the opposite effect. A meditation coach tried to correct me by letting me know that I shouldn’t fight it.
“Let the thoughts in. Acknowledge them. Then let them pass by,” she explained.
Easier said than done. Those thoughts would linger, build up, and take over. Shortly after sitting down to meditate, I’d be planning lessons, ruminating on my day, or making grocery lists.
But not on the mats.
On the mats, I live in the present. My focus is narrow and clear. I’m thinking about exactly what is in front of me — my body, my partner, the technique.
Jiu Jitsu is my reprieve; it makes everything else in my life more manageable.
After the longest days of teaching and fighting to make the world a better place, I feel heavy. My shoulders hunch inward and my posture collapses. But when I step out onto the mats, I leave all of that behind. I am lighter and more free.
I am in the present. I am neither my gender nor my age. I am the best version of myself.
The Great Equalizer
It is only off the mats that I think about the ages of my teammates. Some of us are in school, others have houses and families. A few of my training partners are close in age to my own son.
But Jiu Jitsu relies on technique. Technique beats youth, speed, and strength. With Jiu Jitsu, a much smaller person can control and submit her larger opponent.
When a teammate is struggling to free himself from the grips of my triangle choke, he is not thinking about my age. He is thinking about survival. (Or tapping, sometimes he is thinking about that.)
Never Too Old
The longer you wait to start training, the older you get. I started my journey almost two years ago, and I am a baby in the art of Jiu Jitsu. However, I am at least two years younger than when I started, and I am two years closer to achieving my dreams.
Jiu Jitsu is a journey — one that it is is never too late to start. No matter what I learn, there will still be those who are farther down the road, and others who are running to catch up with me.
No matter where YOU are at, it is never too late to jump over to this path and start training.