“Wrestling in college started to feel like “work” to David (Jacobs), and by the end of his collegiate career, he was ready to be done with it. The positive that came out of it was that when he found BJJ in his 30’s, his experience with wrestling made him take a different approach to it.”
About the author: Sam Joseph is a 3rd degree black belt, head instructor and owner of Buckhead Jiu Jitsu in Atlanta.
It is common for people to focus on what we do not have as opposed to what we do, and that bothersome practice often finds its way onto the BJJ mat. As a coach, the number one regret I hear from my adult students is that they wish they had started training Jiu-Jitsu sooner. The reasoning is simple: if they had started sooner, they would be more advanced and would be in a position to accomplish more in the sport. While there can be a lot of validity to that point of view, I counter that starting your Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu journey as an adult can also bring substantial advantages…here are some of the main ones!
The Advantage of Perspective
I love the saying, “BJJ is a part of life and not visa-versa”. This is not to minimise how important Jiu-Jitsu is nor the impact it can have on lives but to speak to the belief that the proper perspective actually allows people to have more fruitful BJJ journeys.
The late David Jacobs, a former division 1 college wrestler, was very well known in the BJJ community for being a great competitor, excellent instructor and prominent referee. David had a reputation for always having fun around the practice and competition mats. As we came up together, I got to see his love for the sport and culture firsthand. That is why I was surprised when he told me how much he disliked wrestling in college. Wrestling in college had started to feel like “work” to him and by the end of his collegiate career, he was ready to be done with it. The positive that came out of it was that when he found BJJ in his 30’s, his experience with wrestling made him take a different approach to it. He was committed to enjoying himself and the process while he pushed his limits and drove towards his goals.
David resolved to have fun every day and as the days turned into months and the months to years, he ended up having an incredible BJJ journey. The perspective David gained from his experience as a young man served him well as he found BJJ later in life. If he had found BJJ as a young man, without that perspective and the insight it gave him, he may not have been in a position to fully enjoy it.
BJJ Can Counter-Balance Stressful Parts Of Our Lives
At Buckhead Jiu-Jitsu, people get to say a few words when I award them their next belt. About a year ago, I was honoured to promote Dr. Cederic Pimentel to blue belt. Cederic had been a great student and everyone at the gym was happy to see him get what he had fully-earned. After eloquently thanking his teammates and coaches, Cederic talked about how much BJJ had come to mean to him and why and it was incredible.
As a well-respected doctor, his days were literally filled with “life and death” choices and situations. That would be take it’s toll on anyone but it was easy to see how a kind and caring person like Cederic would especially empathise with patients and feel the weight of the work. Cederic talked about how BJJ, the sport and the community, helped refresh him whenever he was able to train. He talked about the power of participating in such a positive community and how it renewed his energy and strength. Again, it was incredible and it highlighted how BJJ is so much more than “who you can tap” or “what medals you can win” or “what belt you have on your waist”. Cederic’s life experience shed light on the fact that Jiu-Jitsu can help us balance our lives when parts of it are highly stressful. In his case, the stress was a natural part of his work but this can easily be applied to other types of stress (personal, financial, etc). That kind of insight only comes with age!
BJJ Can Sharpen The Saw
Author Stephen Covey made the concept of “sharpening the saw” popular in today’s culture. Covey defines it as seeking “continuous improvement and renewal professionally and personally”. One of the ways we potentially benefit more from BJJ as mature adults is how it can help us sharpen the saw in other aspects of our lives.
Recently, I got to celebrate a good friend, Alex Jutis, earning his black belt receiving his black belt from Renzo Gracie black belt, Paul Creighton (Creighton Mixed-Martial Arts). I met Alex as a white belt and saw his rise in BJJ parallel upswings in his personal and work lives. Alex’s ascent through the coloured belt ranks personified the concept of using BJJ as a tool to make the rest of one’s life better. Alex trained consistently and competed often (and successfully) but his goals went beyond tournament wins and rank advancement…he used BJJ to energise himself personally and professionally! Today, Alex is a decorated black belt with multiple IBJJF titles won across the United States and Europe! But, even more importantly, Alex has a happy home life and growing business and I believe the “sharpening” he experienced on the BJJ mat has been a big part of that!
BJJ Can Be Icing On The Cake
The vast majority of BJJers are not full-time athletes or aspiring academy owners. They are people looking for exercise, a new hobby, self-defence and a place to meet new friends. Academies are full of hobbyists and part-time grapplers who fit BJJ into their already full lives.
As adults, we are more likely to have things “figured out”. We have established home and professional lives and are looking for things to simply enhance what we have. Jiu-Jitsu can provide a means of exercise, meaningful social interaction and fun and that is great icing on the cake of life!
I believe people find BJJ at the perfect time for them. Some find it at an early age and begin a life-long love affair with the sport while others come to the mat later in life…that’s just how it goes and it is futile to wish for someone else’s experience. The important thing is that once we start, we allow the Jiu-Jitsu journey to be a positive part of our lives and we appreciate all the ways BJJ can impact us! If you started BJJ as an adult, focus on the aforementioned points and take your appreciation for your unique BJJ experience to another level! See you on the mat!!