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For Masters and Seniors: Beginning Your Journey in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

GB Masters & Seniors

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.

Old Lions

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 Gracie Barra Seniorsguys. 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 exactlyGB Master's Division 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.

Contributing Writer
Caston Nathaniel
Purple Belt
Gracie Barra of Clear Lake, TX

11 responses to “For Masters and Seniors: Beginning Your Journey in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu”

  1. Jeremiah Soileau says:

    Interesting read…..

  2. Eddie says:

    Excellent article, Mr. Nathaniel. You points are well articulated and your experience in jiu-jitsu shows through your words. Well done.

  3. john lammons says:

    caston,
    great job!!!!! i cant see anything out of place, very good article. next do something along the lines of brathing, staying relaxed, and having fun with bjj, to be able to go longer on the mat !!![for old guys]. also maybe supplements, and the importance of sleep.!!
    good job bro!!

  4. Rob Smith says:

    Well Done, Sir. As a 50+ y/o martial artist, I find the sayings of old age, experience and Training can offset Youth, speed and Strength to be so true!

  5. John Gauntt says:

    Experience and treachery has a more consistent track record than youth and passion both on and off the mat. :)

  6. Rain says:

    Informative article if I knew what the abbreviations meant, although I did manage to figure it out as I read through the article. Thank you Caston Nathaniel for all the hard work and thought that you put into this article. I can almost sense the amount of pride that you feel as you are working out.

  7. Romeo says:

    Agreed…starting in earnest as a 46 year old (three years ago), this article is right on the money…I do BJJ for me, not anyone else…and I am past comparing myself to the youngsters…

  8. Just read this excellent article. It was super timely for me as I deal with injuries; pulls, strains, bruises, breaks, etc., when my mind still thinks I’m more able than my body allows. Dealing with a calf strain for the last two weeks is incredibly frustrating. But the truth is, it’s a hit to my pride. I was in MMA for over 23 years. I’ve trained, fought, bled and endured thousands of hours of training and refining my body to do what it didn’t want. But now I’m 44 years old. I haven’t trained seriously in any form of MMA for almost 15 years. And now that my hearts been captured by this beautiful art, the proper assessment of my new reality must wisely be taken into account without becoming discouraged. Thanks for the breath of fresh air.

  9. verlow says:

    I started training and just earned my first stripe. I am 40, and train with guys much younger than me, my son including, who is 12. The oldest guy in my training group is 28. It is hard to keep up, but I have the advantage as I have realized that brute force is of little use. I take advantage of that when we roll, and come out on top almost every time because young guys want to show they are tough while I just look to apply technique and strategy to compensate for my lack of “gas”, stamina, e youthful vigor. And they have began to realize it to when I explain to them every time how a guy who almost dies during warm-up exercises can submit most of them in the first 3 minutes of fighting but can never last more than 5 minutes rolling. I am working to get there, but the thing I like about BJJ is that it is complete. You start training and the challenge is to survive the warm-up. With time, you start to survive the warm-up and look to last at least 2 minutes rolling (it doesnt matter if you are beaten every time). All you have to do is attend training and try to follow along. There is no shame if you run out of breath, collapse on the ground, as long as you are trying, people are there to motivate you. Today, I am not worried about when I will get my next stripe, or my blue belt. I just want to keep up and maintain and improve on my current state of fitness, and do my instructor and training partners proud. Happy Xmas, people!

  10. Aaron Holt says:

    Thanks for the reminding outlook! It’s a great objective approach!!

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