Many Gracie Barra instructors like Head Instructor Marcio Feitosa – a multiple time World Bjj Champion – tell how they would enjoy sitting around the side of the mat after training and listening to Master Carlos Gracie Jr. tell stories. “Carlinhos” as his friends called him would convey his philosophy on training and the jiu-jitsu lifestyle to the students.
My favorite quote of Master Carlos Gracie Jr. was contained in an interview he did for Grace Mag:
“I don’t get this obsession with all of the acrobatic guards. They are efficient, sure. But they’re fleeting. Your body has difficulty understanding them for too long. I say this from my own experience. The lumbar region, for example, as strong as it may be, will never be armored against the passage of time. Jiu-Jitsu is for your whole lifetime, and by that line of reasoning you can rest assured that the basic techniques like the closed guard or this open guard I enjoy doing, will never abandon us. At 70 we’ll still be capable of performing them with plenty of mobility. That can’t be said of the tornado guard or the berimbolo.”
Beyond discussing what specific guard a jiu-jitsu student should be specializing in, this quote teaches a bigger lesson about how to approach your jiu-jitsu training.
Master Carlos is asking the student to look at their jiu-jitsu training as a “lifestyle” and not be short sighted and focused only on the next tournament. Some sports positions stress the back and neck and carry a greater risk of injury to the students.
Statistically most students (after blue belt) who quit jiu-jitsu because of injury problems. A student training should be training in such a way as to protect themselves at all times – especially the vulnerable areas of the body.
Nothing stops your progress in bjj faster than being off the mat because of injury. There is an old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.
Secondly, Master Carlos stresses a jiu-jitsu based on the basic techniques that do NOT rely as much on ones personal, athletic attributes. “…the basic techniques like the closed guard or this open guard I enjoy doing, will never abandon us.”
Physical qualities as speed, flexibility and endurance gradually diminish as the body naturally ages.
If a practitioner wishes to continue to enjoy the jiu-jitsu lifestyle well into middle age (Master Carlos continues to train after his 60th birthday) they must develop a jiu-jitsu not as reliant on athletic attributes.
Timing, precision, strong defense, technical solutions are all more important once the athlete gets past a certain age.
“Jiu-jitsu for Everyone” is having jiu-jitsu a part of your lifestyle after the student is no longer actively involved in competition. Healthy eating, dealing with stress through exercise, maintaining healthy body and spirit all extend beyond the narrow world of competition.
This advice is especially valuable for those student beginning bjj after the age of 35. A popular question is: “I’m over 40, is it too late to start bjj?” No it isn’t! But the older beginning student of bjj would do well to consider the advice of Master Carlos Gracie Jr. in their approach to learning jiu-jitsu.
Credits: Mark Mullen
Gracie Barra Black belt based in Saigon, Vietnam