Tag Archive: BJJ over 40


Stripes and Stars

Last weekend I attended a seminar given by my BJJ professor’s instructor, fifth-degree black belt Professor Ailson “Jucao” Henrique Brites. As is customary, at the end of the seminar students were awarded promotions. I received my first two stripes on my blue belt. I could go on about how I feel I do not deserve them (and I don’t feel I do!), but I realize that is not for me to judge. I put my faith in my instructors and find encouragement in a quote I remember seeing but not sure where: If you feel like you deserve it, then you don’t. If you don’t feel like you deserve it, then you do.

But the real theme of this post is not my stripes, but the stars I saw on the mat that day and draw inspiration from: The new purple belts that set the bar for the next major promotion I aspire to. The newly-minted black belts that attained such a key milestone, one I intend to reach one day (even though I’ll be pushing 55 or 60 by then). The training partners I had never met before yet who each showed the spirit of BJJ brotherhood in their help and support through the techniques taught that day. And most memorably, a practitioner in his early 60s who received a certificate of honor. In presenting the award, his instructor told how he admired his student for competing in every tournament, never missing a class, and being a “tough SOB.”

I went up to this man afterwards, and told him he was an inspiration to me in my own training aspirations, given that I hadn’t really started my BJJ journey until 43 years of age. This guy told me he had started at 45 – and not long after being temporarily paralyzed by a stroke! He suffered a second stroke several years later, and knows that a third could kill him. Yet he not only trains and competes in BJJ but also kickboxing, and fully credits these pursuits with keeping him alive.

I can’t even begin to imagine what this man has been through, but I know enough from a three-minute conversation to say that I admire him and find him to be an inspiration of toughness, discipline, dedication and enthusiasm for life. What an encouraging example of the ability to overcome obstacles, remain active and keep your “edge” well into middle age!

Up until this past Sunday, I was having a great run: out of the past 32 days, there were only five that I had not either gone to my BJJ academy or to the gym, and not once during that time had I taken two consecutive days off. But after a day of yardwork and landscaping on Saturday, I woke up completely fatigued on Sunday, did a (useless) workout at the gym anyway, did more yardwork, and crashed at 6:30PM. I (thankfully) was already scheduled to skip my Monday morning gym session and my Tuesday night BJJ class because of work commitments, but I also blew off the Tuesday morning gym workout I had been planning as a partial makeup. I think my body was telling me something, and I decided to listen.

I was back at BJJ Wednesday, but it wasn’t one of my better, high-energy nights, and my right shoulder was on fire at the end. There are still a few other nagging injuries as well, but I’ve listened to my body enough already this week.

Thursday is often a day off, but having not worked out today that’s now only one workout in the past four days, and two workouts in the past six – if I can even count Sunday’s pathetic showing.

The recovery time was needed. Age is no excuse not to train intensely, and “overtraining” is an overrated concern. But under-recovery is a more legitimate thing to worry about at 40+.

Still, I was hoping to keep the pace up for a few more weeks, knowing that a vacation/travel-related break is coming up and I can rest then. But with a huge workload at the office these next couple weeks before I leave, it looks like I will have to stop pretending I am a professional athlete until after I return.

Once the momentum stops, it’s hard to get it back. But that’s a topic for another day.