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Still crazy after all of these months

July 26, 2012

Dear readers.  It has been so long since my last post, over two months, that I was beginning to accept the idea that this little experiment in blogging had run its course. Work demands and the duties of being a new daddy were so consuming that maintaining blog seemed a silly luxury.  After all, I reasoned, it’s not like anyone really cares that much if some old dude starts training jiu jitsu.  Or stops, for that matter.

But then, I received a comment from a gentleman in Manchester, UK. It read (initially quoting me):

“Week 1. I Am completely awesome….Week 2. I SUCK!” – I’m so glad it’s not just me brother :) I can’t even remember how I happened upon this website but I am glad that I did. Keep pushing forward bro – there’s a bunch of us out there doing the same :)

He was responding to my post on the ego roller coaster I found myself on during the very beginning stages of training BJJ.  That post was almost six months old by now, but it still hit me – there may actually be people out there who give a crap about all this stuff.  People who, when they notice the blogs have stopped, conclude that I gave up.  Just one more middle aged dude in mid life crisis who tries out some new path but soon gets dragged back down by the relentless gravity of aging.  I realized that this might all be about more than just me, and I hated the idea that someone else starting down this path may have lost just a little wind from their sails from my apparent failure.

Well, I am happy to say that, while my blogging may have entered a hiatus, my training in BJJ has definitely not.  I got my third stripe in May and am still at it.  And it’s fantastic.  I continue to develop, though perhaps not as quickly as I’d like at times, and I feel stronger, healthier and more alive than ever.  I just re-upped my gym membership for another six months and hope to get my blue belt before the end of the year.

But a belt is a piece of cotton. That’s not the point.  Training BJJ has radically altered my body and my mind in so many ways.  Example: I just went on a shopping spree for new pants as  all my old ones were falling off (and believe me, no one wants to see that).  Turns out I had dropped 3 inches in waist size since starting last December.

Not that there hasn’t been a bump or two along the way.  Recently, I was out of town for almost a month visiting family and, though I managed to train a handful of times at Gracie Barra gyms in Chicago and Minneapolis (BTW, shout out to all the wonderful folks at both those gyms who were so welcoming) I couldn’t maintain the 3 or 4 times a week minimum I try to stick with here in Albuquerque.

When I got back, I was so exited to dive back in that I trained 6 days in a row, twice on a couple of days.  It felt great.  But I was a little rusty I suppose, and feeling the mile high altitude.  Maybe because of that, or just my over excitement at being back to it, I sustained a string of minor injuries.

First I came home with a black eye I got from an unintentional upkick while passing someones guard.  Baby Momma was a little concerned.  Then I got my nose smushed by a shoulder during a sweep.  I thought it was just a friction burn, but when I got home and wiggled the bridge of my nose, “click, click click”.  Busted.  But not badly.  Still, Baby Momma was now very concerned.

Then, about a week and a half ago, I was rolling with a very nice but much heavier and and pretty aggressive young guy.  I had a little more experience and did fine, but a some point I noticed that my little toe was hurting.  When I looked down, I saw that it was now pointing about 20 degrees south of normal.  Don’t even know how it happened.  It didn’t hurt badly, even when I pushed it back into place.  I even finished the class.

But by the time I woke up the next day it was all black and blue and swollen.  The toe also had a new little zigzag thing going on. Again, clearly broken. Baby Momma was now not concerned at all, as she had already completely given up on my sanity.  “Just don’t get killed,” she added.

So now I’ve got to wait a bit to get back to it.  I taped up the toe and am working out every day so that I don’t lose my strength and conditioning.  My foot swells up a little after, but it would be riskier, I believe, to go back in crappy shape and risk even more injuries.  And its nothing a little ice can’t take care of.   I imagine I’ll be back at it in another week or two at the most.

So there you have it.  For anyone out there starting out in their “mature” years, don’t give up!  Maybe it feels like all those techniques are the physical equivalent of learning Chinese.  Maybe you wake up after the first week and feel like rabid wolverines have been chewing on your tendons all night.  Believe me, it gets better.  And don’t let my tales of dings and dents dissuade you, either.  In fact, the occasional black eye or broken nose is WAY less painful than being sore, exhausted and out of shape.  And these injuries are minor annoyances that will go away soon enough.  The knowledge, confidence, strength and conditioning, that sticks around.  So, to me, the total tally is clearly in the positive.  Or maybe I’m just crazy.  Like a fox.  Or a rabid wolverine.

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20 Comments
  1. Grant permalink

    Hey just stumbled upon your blog while looking up toe injuries from BJJ funny what google gives you some days, Just wanted to say keep posting or else I will find you and choke you and you wont know how to defend it. Great writing bro, keep training and congratulations! 50 is a state of mind.

    • Deal, if I quit, you can come find me. Thanks for the props. Now buddy tape that toe and get back at it!

  2. Dude, Good Blog, I am a 52 year old Purple Belt, just reading your blog for the first time. Good stuff, I often find myself learning slower and taking longer to pick up moves, than my 13 year old Black/Orange belt son. My wife has been coming to class with us on and off for the last three years (5 years total for me and my son) She seems to act as the “devils advocate”; in short she comes up with all the reasons why we shouldn’t train ..ie it’s raining, my stomach hurts, I’m mad at you, we just ate, I hurt my leg in the last class, I have a few more phone calls to make, I’m tired, I need to cook/ The list goes on and on. Still, to have her along( she has a blue belt) and everyone training hard is a blessing in and of itself.

    I look forward to reading your blogs while I’m stuck here at working watching the front door of a large hospital (I’m in security). Please talk more about what you do for pain. Right now I use “Tramadol” which has some habit forming elements.

    I have also been on and off the “Gracie Diet” (I have two copies of the book) I need motivation in that area. My endurance is always a problem as is my getting moves confused and mixed up..in other words I will do part triange/uma plata move and expect it to work. Also since I am a big guy 6’3 250lbs, I often like to let the other person win a little, in order to give them confidence in rolling with a big guy. The down side to this style is I often find myself in very bad positions and it wears away on my ego and self esteem example, last week I got tapped by a two striped white belt via Gilliton/front choke (I can’t spell either ;-( because I came in with my head down, virtually giving him the move, when he clamped down and cut off my air, only then did I realize, this guy is super strong and has learned good body positioning in his year and a half in jiu jitsu. I beat myself up for days after that event. I look forward to talking and learning from you and the others

    • Hi Ernie, thanks for reading. As you are a purple belt and I have a couple of months to go just to get to blue, I won’t try to give you any advice on technique. But I will say that you should definitely not beat yourself up over tapping to a lower belt or letting yourself get into bad positions intentionally. It is undoubtedly the best way to learn. And I don’t think you can pay too much attention to belts alone anyway. For example, a 25 year old athletic one-stripe white belt with a strong background in wrestling is going to have a big advantage over me, as I’ve never grappled in any form before last December. I think its also important to remember that, for 99.9 percent of us, no matter how long we train, no matter how much better we become, there will still be someone who can tie us in knots. So it’s best not to compare yourself to others too much, except perhaps to measure your progress.

      I think you are very lucky that your partner and you can share a passion for BJJ even if her’s is a little more tempered by other life demands. My partner is very supportive of my training, but has no personal interest in BJJ (which is too bad because she is very strong and flexible and I think she would be amazing at it). I’m just grateful she sees it as a plus in my life, even if I get mildly beat up in the process. Maybe if you de-link your training from hers, there would be less stress. Then she can bow out when she needs but you can still train.

      As for pain, I try to stay away from medications other than ibuprofen. Just seen too many folks get hooked. Most of my pain is joint related and I find ice, low-impact workouts (on non-training days) and diet can make a big difference. I have, in particular found that avoiding red meat and dairy really helps with joint pain. If I eat a lot of cow, for example, I wake up with knuckles so stiff I can’t make a fist. I don’t rigorously follow the gracie diet, but I do drink a lot of green vegetable juice – check out the post “worlds most dangerous vegan” for a recipe. Seems to help as well. And I can’t overstress the importance of working out on days I don’t train. If I take off a week and do nothing, then go back to class, I’m hella sore after. But if I do daily low-impact exercise and stretching, I’m fine. Hope some of that helps. Thanks for the feedback and keep training!

      Blake

  3. Just found your blog, awesome. For all us over 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 guys this is an inspiration. Thanks

  4. alonsobjj permalink

    This Is so cool page, im 30 and i thought im old for bjj but already started ando i just got my second estirpe im so happy and lets keep moving !!! 😉

  5. colin permalink

    I’m not sure how I got here – I was looking for something to do with the 50/50 position – but so happens much of this applies to me too. started BJJ just after reaching 48 – that was 3 1/2 years back, was awarded my purple belt a couple of months back. I had quite a bit of experience with other martial arts but nothing really grappling based so it took a while to change my mindset. Still able to hang with most of the blue/ purple belts in our gym. I struggle with big guys though – I’m 1m 72, 75 kg ( 5′ 7″, 155 lbs I think) Have entered a few tournaments but in SE Asia (I train at Evolve MMA in Singapore) there are not many ‘seniors’ or ‘masters’ events and even when there is it just tends to be a blanket ‘master, 35 years and above’ category. nevertheless last year I managed to win the blue belt masters in the Hong kong Open championship and have probably a 50/50 record (that number again) in matches in other tournaments in SE Asia. have had my share of injuries (always seem to be carrying an ache or a pain somewhere – it just moves around) but fortunately nothing too serious or which has kept me off the mat for extended periods. I typically manage to train about 8-9 hours a week – my daughter has been training in the same gym for the past 2 years (she has 4 years of boxing and muay thai training and 6 years in aikido as well) and one of my sons is a boxer so my wife is used to it (she doesnt always like it though) Hope you keep training and I’ll check back on your blog to see how you are doing. If I can be of any help just let me know.

    • Awesome! Always good to hear about another “old” dude keeping it real. Congrats on your success and thanks for reading

  6. Please keep the posts coming as 50 something woman 6 months into BJJ they reassure me that i am not mad and alone! My last experience with martial arts was judo over 30 years ago. I am absolutely hooked on BJJ and my only ambition in life is that blue belt.

    • Will do, Deirdre, got a post in the works. Still at it, one year plus and edging closer to that blue belt. Keep it up!

    • Hugo permalink

      Keep going Lady, it’s people like yourself that give inspiration to the world.
      Train & roll.

  7. Hi – I’m 53, have been training just under five months and have one stripe on my shiny white belt. I recognise everything people here are saying! Just in the last couple of weeks, I can suddenly pass guard and control other more experienced (and in some cases bigger and stronger) white belts who have been crushing me the whole time up until now. Seems I reached tipping point where I have a slight idea what’s going on now! I train more often than quite a few of the other white belts and that seems to make a difference. Only injuries so far are a black eye (my first ever), an occasional bashed nose (not broken yet!), a few accidental elbow and knee strikes to my head and a cauliflower ear. My ribs hurt 24 hours a day for the first couple of months but that’s settled down now. I do make sure to get in very early and do extra stretching and warm-ups, though, and I think that is helping avoid injuries. Glad to hear there are other oldies who are relatively new to BJJ!

  8. Russ DeMott permalink

    Just stumbled upon this blog today. As a fellow blogger–albeit about bankruptcy law–I appreciate your efforts. To those who don’t blog, you really can’t appreciate the time and energy involved in writing a good blog post.

    The humor and transparency of your writing is great. I just started BJJ and Judo a month ago and have been sore ever since. I’m also overweight but have lost 20 lbs in the last two months. Exercise to me had always been boring, but I enjoy the mental challenge of BJJ and Judo. Physically, I still have doubts that I’m up to it, but with each session, I can feel myself getting stronger and in better shape. Also, continuing to drop weight will help. I also could relate to the emotional roller coaster you write about. One moment feeling good I did something well, the next wondering what on earth my 47-year-old self is doing in this class. Keep blogging, the posts are really enjoyable and motivating to us other old guys.

  9. Deb permalink

    I came across your blogs at a time when I was feeling a bit defeated and they have been very inspiring! I am a 50 year old woman who started kickboxing/BJJ about 3 years ago. I love it! Sometimes it can be a bit rough, recently I took a blow to the teeth (yes, the mouth- guard really works!) and then I injured my neck/shoulder. Adding insult to injury a friend’s husband told me I was “crazy”, “too old”, and didn’t “belong”…etc. I considered taking a break but decided not to. I am in the best shape of my life, am not crazy, or too old, and the people I train with (aged 20 through 60) never make me feel as if I don’t belong there! The best way to overcome any negativity is to hit the mat and keep training!

    • Hugo permalink

      We belong were we make it. As for those comments from that “friend”; they ‘re completely inappropriate, border line with “insult”. Do what you feel happy & fulfill with.

  10. Hugo permalink

    I’m past 50 too…few years ago already.
    Thanks for sharing your journey.
    Yes, there are many like “us” doing what we like, that’s (I believe) not the point. The point would be for those so many old past their so called ” prime”.
    Your experience with the old Mommy are also shared, my too gave up… My in-laws are contemplating the same too ( they still would prefer seeing their son-in-law playing cards 2-3 times a week) but the point is people like”US” needs more, much more to feel Alive.
    Jiu jitsu matches that feeling.
    We do care about been injured. Much more than the young turks we roll with.
    We must face that face again at home if we get sore or injure, they don’t. We must choose weather to risk it or to miss days at work due to injury.
    (When I was a young turk , weren’t we invincible too?).
    Arm bars, shoulder locks, toe holds, kimuras, omoplatas, chokes, twisters…. Name it, been there too.
    I’m at a Gracie Barra in Montreal. Just survived & endured for about year and a half to reach the Blue belt.
    I feel am a prize game for the young newbies since the strong ones can make me tap with their speed & endurance ( not a comfortable place to be for a Blue belt but the fact is, I rather tap to those kids than risk an injury),
    Curiously enough , and consistently too, I feel I do much better with older, or senior belts. Perhaps they train for technic and pure fun instead of training to proof themselves, I don ‘t know.
    Right now, I have a broken toe (since a week already). That was the point that made me embark in this and write you.
    You made me laugh. Made me see my wife’s face the times I get back home and something is sore or injured.
    Some of my friends came to see the classes, one actually did one!!!
    They all freaked out to experience the paste, the intensity, the flow, the risk of the class. Their common ground (opinion) been ” that’s like fighting for real.., that’s hard!!!”
    My too sons (10 & 5) also joined in. As you may see, I too have to joggle with all that. But must mention the Gracie Barra approach is excellent. When timetables don’t mach in one school, I go to the other. The environment is as good as it can get and the teaching is just top notch!!! Went on vacation and trained too at another facility with no inconvenient at all, I even felt like home at the other schools.!!
    So , as for your journey, keep going. You’re not alone. Thanks again for sharing your views/feelings .
    Good rolling.

    Hugo.

  11. Erwin permalink

    Just found out about your blog, I am 49 and started boxing again and will start BJJ this week…thanks for your inspiring blog!

    Erwin
    The Netherlands

  12. Mike permalink

    2 years after your last post and people are still reading! I just read every post and enjoyed it thoroughly. I’m a 40 year old and starting BJJ within the next 2 weeks after a few trials at local schools here in Las Vegas. I want to make sure I find the right fit before I jump in with both feet and then it’s game time! Hope you’re still rolling and progressing!

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