Aging and sadness in BJJ

Just some late night, slightly buzzed ramblings.  The Gracie Academy closing and rorion giving away stuff thread got me thinking.  FRAT warning

 

Sometime between UFC 2 and 3 I started my BJJ journey.  I was in the later stages of being 16 yo and in high school.  I worked at a movie theater and a friend lent me a copy of the first two UFCs on VHS.  I watched them and became immediately fascinated.  I grew up watching ninja shit in the 80s so I had a connection like many of us to the “power” of martial arts.  Anyway, I was so fascinated I even went down with my dad to the original Gracie academy and met rorion and Royce for their intro lesson (taught by a blue belt named Sam).  Since the GA was 2 hours away from my home in Bakersfield I ultimately enrolled at the local “freestyle jujitsu” school that my friend told me does the same Gracie stuff.  Over the next year and a half I became one of the schools best students.  I used to frequent the newsgroup rec.martial-arts and defend GJJ nonstop.  I talked to all my friends about GJJ even though most of them had never heard of it or the UFC.  I felt invincible.  It was only later I realized the school was fake and had previously been a hapkido school until the ufc started.  I guess I lucked out though because the instructor was teaching off of the Gracie instructional set so I was actually getting decent lessons and learning basic GJJ.  After training there I ultimately had to move away to go to UCLA.  I had a hard time training at UCLA because of academic requirements.  However I did sign up to train with Gokor at the hayastan dojo.  I trained for about a year or so before stopping to focus on school.  I’m not sure if I learned much but I thought it was cool to be a part of this grappling crowd that was “better than BJJ” in my eyes.  I eventually moved to St. Louis for med school and joined a mostly no gi gym.  The main instructor was great and mostly learned off of tapes but could easily thrash me.  I value his teaching.  By this time the mousel forum was up and going and I was an active member.  I guess at some point it transitioned to the underground.  I was on here daily whether training or not talking about BJJ.  

 

Down the road I joined different gyms and ended up with a blue belt around 2005, 11 or so years after I started.  It was crazy being a blue because I still remembered the time when there was only one blue belt in my hometown and he was pretty much untouchable on the mat.  I was very inconsistent in the years to come.  Training for a year or so then taking a year or so off.  I didn’t earn my black belt until December of 2015.  21 years after starting.  During that time I watched BJJ change a lot for the worse.  It went from the days of a fighting art that triumphed in a vale tudo match ending with the crowd chanting “Jiu-Jit-su!” into a sport in which people watch the clock and work for points.  It went from the art where your focus was to mount-punch-choke into berimbolos and inverted guards.  I remember when the whole idea of half guard itself was new!  

 

Through this time I have also watched my daughters fall in love with BJJ, win multiple championships, then completely lose interest.  It devastated me.  We all trained together for hours at a time every day.  When they stopped training I had no desire to go back.  It has now been about 3 years since I have trained consistently and even though I don’t want to lose the skill set, deep inside I don’t care anymore about training.  I’m 40 yo with a fucked up body and no desire to get on the mat.  I get on these forums and read posts about absolute bullshit.  I mean complete and utter ignorant bullshit.  Usually when someone posts something historical that I know the answer to and think everyone should know, i end up reading everyone’s dumb ass replies and it turns me off to wanting to participate.  I have to remind myself that while I’ve been involved in this for almost 25 years, all of these newbies haven’t.  They weren’t there when the GIA tapes were on fire and all of us were making copies and showing our friends.  Talking about which Gracie brother was the best, etc.  Talking about the BJJ food chain in which Rickson was on top followed by Rigan Machado.   

 

It makes me sad getting older and seeing the newest generations have no concept of what it was like for us in the beginning.  No knowledge of the history.  It’s makes me sad to see BJJ go from a focus on fighting to a sport with stupid moves you could never do if strikes were involved.  It makes me sad that my daughters were champions and then didn’t want to do it anymore.  It makes me sad that even though BJJ has been one of the most important parts of my entire life, I don’t care or have any motivation to train anymore.  It makes me sad I have put in so much time and destroyed my body, but those skills will rapidly fade if I don’t keep training.  It makes me sad that if I decide to start training again, some dick head 20 yo purple belt will go as hard as possible to get the tap on me as a 40 year old black belt, when I am just trying to get back in shape and stay uninjured.    Do the long term negatives outweigh the positives?

 

Anyway, just feeling a bit down tonight and wanted to spill some thoughts from my mind.  

 

I just sipped 3ozs of bourbon with the wife...so sharijg your  "buzz". ;p

 

I share your pain...physically and emotionally. In my case, my children dont train with me unless I actually force them to come downstairs to the mat, and that is rare. To me, this is the biggest burden to bear. It means I have almost nothing to motivate me to train. What little motivation I havecomes from comaraderie with my friends and the practical need to maintain a little skill for the JiC scenario or Id be an ev3n more useless fatass if I didnt train. If it werent for my friends wantijg to train and showing interest in learning some of the things Im already starting to forget, I probably would have walked away, like Ive already mostly done with firearms and other martial arts.

 

Physically, Im a wreck, not all tthe fault of jiujitsu, butcertainly made worse by it. I 5hink over the last cople of years Ive settled into a blah-state.....mostly just kinda trodding along in most of the things I do. Some of this has to do with the homelife with a mother in law in advanced alzheimers.....evrrything about daily/family life is fubared for last 3 years. I think the little bit of training I manage to do is mentally positive, but physically negative.

 

And yeah jiujistsu is something I almost cannot identify with anymore.

 

So yeah....I know the feeling.

 

Excellent post. I'm 32, a brown belt, and I'm starting to see a decline and it scares me. Thanks for sharing your story. You're way more experienced than me so I doubt my advice will mean much, but I say go on the mat when you feel like it, when you get the itch...but don't force it and don't make it a chore. Maybe you won't be as conditioned or polished but at least you'll be happy. 

I can feel your pain but.....

When I was 29 and in maybe the best shape of my life when it comes to strength and power I rolled with Joe Moreira who was around 50 at that time. Smaller, older, not as athletic as myself. I was a brownbelt at that time.

He kicked my ass effortless. He tapped me manby times while rolling for an hour without matching my level of youth and fitness.

I am 41 now and I feel age can be a challenge that will help us to develope and effortless and smooth form of BJJ.

BJJ can transendent age more than Boxing or Muay Thai or Wrestling and there is a lot of growth even for someone who is 40+ and doing the sport for more than 20 years.

So there is hope. Don´t give up.....

the sport and the martial art are 2 different things for sure and the funny thing is there are way more people who would benefit from the art than do the sport but for some reason they we just cant get organized.

id say change how you train and maybe where youd be shocked at the diversity out there in terms of programs but with the sport being so well organized its taken the name of the art and become the public face..

you talk bjj today that means leg locks and bolo's not fight applicable concepts for the most part.

time to change that..

I feel you, man.

I was "late" to the party...I didn't see the UFC until 1996. I visited SoCal in summer of 1997 and took a handful of classes at the Gracie Academy (also taught by "some blue belt") but I was hooked. I came home and someone gave me Kipp Kollar's name, so I started training with his crew. We would get together on weekends and watch ppv or just some of the VHS sets that were floating around. I did my first tournament back before he was calling it NAGA (NEGC anyone?).  

Back then we didn't know anything, and it was rare you'd even meet a blue belt, but we were so happy to be on this new journey.  

I trained with a couple different groups and was unsatisifed. I had just about given up on BJJ until I met Roy Harris in 2002 and immediately started training under him.  I knew the only way to really get good would be to make this something I could do every day, so I started a training group in late '02 and rented space from the karate school where I had grown up (and was still teaching). In 2005 we had grown so much that we moved to our own 7000sf facility, and that's when things really took off. From 2002-2012 I had the privelege of teaching so many wonderful people, at my gym or in seminars all over the place. We offered 10 different martial arts. I trained morning and evening most days. Lots of guest instructors, lots of travel.  So many great friendships grew out of that facility. 

In 2012 I burned out. 

It was a mix of a lot of factors - the struggle to keep the business growing, prepping for my BJJ black belt test, dealing with problems in my relationship at home, launching a program at the gym taught by other instructors that I just didn't coordinate properly...  I burned out.  And the worst was the realization that I had never pondered what would happen if I didn't want to run this gym for the rest of my life. I got a job offer that I couldn't refuse, and I jumped. The crew that took over my business and I failed to discuss a lot of our expectations (because we had never done this before), and as a result the transition burned some really long-standing personal relationships. I'm grateful for the ones that have been rebuilt, and I'm sad for the others (but still trying). 

Now I'm in a weird place. I miss BJJ terribly, and I have been making some small opportunities to get back into teaching, but right now I can't do it regularly. Rolling has been a disaster because I'm out of shape and out of practice, so I tend to get injured by aggressive newbies half my age who see the belt and can't chill.  I've got a training partner who drills with me.  I need to drop some weight, but I'm starting to get my skills back. 

I think a lot about running a school again. I can't escape how joyful it was to train every day, sharing the mats with great people and their good vibes. My body can't do what it used to, but I'm not quite 40 yet and it could certainly do better than it's doing now, pushing a desk all day. 

In the interim since I sold my gym, I've worked for an international franchise and seen so many best practices that I wish I had known back then. And I'm finishing a Master's Degree all about designing training experiences, so I've got a lot of resources to help me get back in. Sometimes it's strange to think about going back, like it's a previous chapter, but then other times it feels strange not to assume I'd go back. One way or another - I have more to contribute to this community.  

I know the landscape has changed - YouTube and berimbolos and whatever else the kids do nowadays. But I also know there's a lot of beauty in what we experienced back then, and we can bring that back again. It's not gone. It's not over.  We remember, and we can do it again. 

~Chris

I get that physical decline is a bummer. I'm 37 and have been feeling it myself. I haven't competed in 7 years and don't plan to ever do so again, but I train because I enjoy it, and I can't see that ever not being the case.

Claude Patrick - the sport and the martial art are 2 different things for sure and the funny thing is there are way more people who would benefit from the art than do the sport but for some reason they we just cant get organized.

id say change how you train and maybe where youd be shocked at the diversity out there in terms of programs but with the sport being so well organized its taken the name of the art and become the public face..

you talk bjj today that means leg locks and bolo's not fight applicable concepts for the most part.

time to change that..

I've said it before too much opposition on here, most older people just need Gracie University stuff and light training as well as most non-competition practitioners too. Focus should also be on learning an art, training made to minimize long-term degradation of the body. There is no point training "hard" if you are not competing. It will simply wreck the body. You are going to get steam-rolled by competitors who are in better shape, younger, train more, and know the latest moves you haven't seen, so why worry about it? A belt that doesn't compete is not the same as a competition belt and should be treated differently since the objectives are different.

In Judo, most older people don't get belts for competition. Most older participants focus on helping with instruction, focus on kata, Judo philosophy, and being part of a community. No one will ever say to a 50 year old, "hey, you get beaten regularly by green belts" or other such BS I see in BJJ. It's ridiculous.

Most people do not need the latest sport BJJ moves, and in some ways I think it really limits their understanding of the art.

Just my perspective and I stick by it.

I agree HotSteppa. I think a issue w some people is that they relied a LOT more on physicality and athleticism than they realize even until their black belt. And now that they are entering their 40s they essentially see they have to play catch up, hence why some people are so fascinated by "invisible jiu-jitsu" (i.e. the details you should have been focusing on vs taking athletic shortcuts to win a rd). If anything it should be seen as a challenge to really focus on technique.

All the sport whining is a bit laughable as honestly you don't have to rely on that stuff as A game material. Instead learn it to make sure your body remains pliable and strong. As if you are in your 50s and can pull off a berimbolo in DRILLING ONLY you are physically in damn good shape.

Jesus, ya’ll ever hear of flow rolling? Lol

Got my blue in 2004, been training off and on, lots of breaks to finally get my purple at 47.

BJJ has definitely changed, however I'm pretty happy learning the new leg lock attacks and entries and be on the mat with the youngins.
When I started leg and ankle attacks were looked down on, now they are a staple and I dig the change.
Doesn't bother me that deep half is not a good mma tactic or that berimbolos aren't something I'm going to master soon.
Change is constant man, embrace it.

Our gym has a lot of competitors and folks training for comps, it's no big deal, I just tap to neck cranks way earlier than I used to.
For sure, it does not pay to be stubborn with submissions.

Sure, I may not be able to roll as hard as I could in my 20's, and need to use ice and recover a LOT more...but it's still super fun, which the point anyhow.

I think the fundamental problem with BJJ is the lack of separation of competitors vs. non-competitors. This is also made worse by a lot of schools which 'want to compete', yet 99.99% of people training BJJ are not real athletes, in the sense of competitive athlete, yet they want to 'compete and tap someone'. This is a real problem.

In Judo/Wrestling for instance, real athlete means, 2-3x daily training, people who started at age 6 and by 20 are solid competitors. By 23, most retire. Then they coach, help others, etc. Nobody thinks they can train the same way at 38 as they did at 17. And nobody cares.

BJJ is not like that, it lacks the community aspect and layers of involvement. It lacks this structure. You have people starting at 19 (!) and then think they are somehow real athletes and competitors, and this gets mixed in with the rest of the crowd.

99.99% of people I trained with in BJJ are not athletes, even though they compete a lot and somehow think they are. Then they train hard with non-competitors, who get affected, etc. Its a real mess IMO and it leads to older people being disappointed, etc.

I don't know who managed to convince people that starting a sport at 18 and competing in some event, that somehow they are an athlete. That is total confusion.

judom2 - I think the fundamental problem with BJJ is the lack of separation of competitors vs. non-competitors. This is also made worse by a lot of schools which 'want to compete', yet 99.99% of people training BJJ are not real athletes, in the sense of competitive athlete, yet they want to 'compete and tap someone'. This is a real problem.

In Judo/Wrestling for instance, real athlete means, 2-3x daily training, people who started at age 6 and by 20 are solid competitors. By 23, most retire. Then they coach, help others, etc. Nobody thinks they can train the same way at 38 as they did at 17. And nobody cares.

BJJ is not like that, it lacks the community aspect and layers of involvement. It lacks this structure. You have people starting at 19 (!) and then think they are somehow real athletes and competitors, and this gets mixed in with the rest of the crowd.

99.99% of people I trained with in BJJ are not athletes, even though they compete a lot and somehow think they are. Then they train hard with non-competitors, who get affected, etc. Its a real mess IMO and it leads to older people being disappointed, etc.

I don't know who managed to convince people that starting a sport at 18 and competing in some event, that somehow they are an athlete. That is total confusion.


I mostly agree with this sentiment although there are serious competitors who started later in life. Lucas Lepri started BJJ in his mid-teens and of course Cobrinha famously didn't take a BJJ class until he was 21.

I do agree that the way BJJ throws hobbyists in with serious pro athletes is pretty unusual and can lead to problems if not managed carefully.

HotSteppa - 
Claude Patrick - the sport and the martial art are 2 different things for sure and the funny thing is there are way more people who would benefit from the art than do the sport but for some reason they we just cant get organized.

id say change how you train and maybe where youd be shocked at the diversity out there in terms of programs but with the sport being so well organized its taken the name of the art and become the public face..

you talk bjj today that means leg locks and bolo's not fight applicable concepts for the most part.

time to change that..

I've said it before too much opposition on here, most older people just need Gracie University stuff and light training as well as most non-competition practitioners too. Focus should also be on learning an art, training made to minimize long-term degradation of the body. There is no point training "hard" if you are not competing. It will simply wreck the body. You are going to get steam-rolled by competitors who are in better shape, younger, train more, and know the latest moves you haven't seen, so why worry about it? A belt that doesn't compete is not the same as a competition belt and should be treated differently since the objectives are different.

In Judo, most older people don't get belts for competition. Most older participants focus on helping with instruction, focus on kata, Judo philosophy, and being part of a community. No one will ever say to a 50 year old, "hey, you get beaten regularly by green belts" or other such BS I see in BJJ. It's ridiculous.

Most people do not need the latest sport BJJ moves, and in some ways I think it really limits their understanding of the art.

Just my perspective and I stick by it.

i agree but the gracie's are not and have neveer been the only people offering jiujitsu in its entirety .. the pressure now just really seems on because of the great job and growth the sportive side of the art is doing expanding world wide gi no gi and even mma

but the martial art is treated like a pet rock that can never change or needs the gracie stamp before any move be made :) dont get me wrong i love what they are doing but no one is bigger than the art

Everyone has NOSTALGIA for when THEY first started...

I just turned 49 and started BJJ in the mid 1990s. I have my own "feels" about that era and a strong belief that in the 90's BJJ was at it's zenith, before it started getting a little too goofy with some of the sport-only moves.

But, I've heard people wax poetic about when THEY began BJJ in the 2000s or after 2010. To them that was the "cool" era because back then________________.(Fill in the blank).

Yeah, we're ALL  nostalgic for when we started and most of us, to some degree, also seem to lament changes to the art, no matter when it is that  we began. That's just how people are wired.

 

 

 

 

 

Some people are holding the legacy of bjj alive.  I would argue that Saulo and Xande teach a style of bjj that’s great for fighting and doesn’t require youth. 

39 now, I used to train hard with a focus on BJJ that would work gi, no gi, and MMA.  I was always hurt, surgery on both knees, messed up shoulders, and every class was a war.   I eventually quit for 5 years.

 

Now after seeing an old training partner make black belt I'm back and train like he does. I train sport BJJ. The mindset is to always evolve and play the game.  Yes some of that involves techniques that wouldn't work in a street fight. I have fun every class and have technique to always refine.

Looking back on my life it was kind of silly to train so long like that with no intention of fighting.

Old school BJJ is alive and well, always evolving. It isn't in GIA tapes it is in the cage. So I just watch that and enjoy the progress. 

judom2 - I think the fundamental problem with BJJ is the lack of separation of competitors vs. non-competitors. This is also made worse by a lot of schools which 'want to compete', yet 99.99% of people training BJJ are not real athletes, in the sense of competitive athlete, yet they want to 'compete and tap someone'. This is a real problem.

In Judo/Wrestling for instance, real athlete means, 2-3x daily training, people who started at age 6 and by 20 are solid competitors. By 23, most retire. Then they coach, help others, etc. Nobody thinks they can train the same way at 38 as they did at 17. And nobody cares.

BJJ is not like that, it lacks the community aspect and layers of involvement. It lacks this structure. You have people starting at 19 (!) and then think they are somehow real athletes and competitors, and this gets mixed in with the rest of the crowd.

99.99% of people I trained with in BJJ are not athletes, even though they compete a lot and somehow think they are. Then they train hard with non-competitors, who get affected, etc. Its a real mess IMO and it leads to older people being disappointed, etc.

I don't know who managed to convince people that starting a sport at 18 and competing in some event, that somehow they are an athlete. That is total confusion.



There's so much truth in this.



I've always liked the ranking system in Savate:



Everyone starts as no glove, then it goes blue glove, green glove, red glove. At red glove you can now compete (you can't compete before that because you're not prepared!) and you can sit for basic instructor exams. But more importantly, ranks diverge at red!



If you just want to be a competitor, you can go from Red glove to Bronze glove with some wins, then eventually Silver glove (which is like their black belt). 



If you're not trying to do a ton of competition, you go from Red glove to white glove, then yellow glove, then Silver.



A Silver glove is expected to have the same level of technical ability whichever course he or she takes. I think there's a lot of wisdom in this approach. 

shen -


Everyone has NOSTALGIA for then THEY first started...



I just turned 49 and started BJJ in the mid 1990s. I have my own "feels" about that era and a strong belief that in the 90's BJJ was at it's zenith, before it started getting a little too goofy with some of the sport-only moves.



But, I've heard people wax poetic about when THEY began BJJ in the 2000s or after 2010. To them that was the "cool" era because back then________________.(Fill in the blank).



Yeah, we're ALL  nostalgic for when we started and most of us, to some degree, also seem to lament changes to the art, no matter when it is that  we began. That's just how people are wired.



 



 



 



 



 

So much truth to this...

I have good news & bad news. The bad news is we're all gonna die someday. The good news is nothing you ever did on the mat matters, & quite frankly nobody should care about your BJJ history except for you.

Lighten up, Francis.