[Image source: BJJ heroes]
I’m 43 years old, and I attended by first Jiu Jitsu class 3 weeks ago. I did wonder if I was too old and too out of shape (no exercise in the last 5 years… just working in front of a laptop, being in meetings, and then binge-watching Netflix at home). But, I’m sticking with it. I am ready for a new challenge during this mid-life crisis. It sure isn’t easy: steam-rollered by sweaty guys (they don’t all smell great), pancaked and mounted by tough girls, with a mix of intense workouts and sparring, and moving into positions I’ve never experienced before in my life… it’s fantastic. I don’t have the liberty to think of anything else during all 90 minutes of the class. And, my butt is looking firmer already.
During meditation, you become acutely aware of the body – often aches and pains, but also just being present with it. The ‘body scan’ is a common technique, systematically going through every single part of the body from your head to your fingertips, by noting what’s happening in those body parts.
Mindfulness and meditation can has given me inner strength at times, for sure. Knowing though that I can pin a man twice my weight to the ground purely through technique – especially for a small woman my age – has, honestly, been more effective for my confidence than any technique I learned while sitting on a cushion.
Martial arts in Asia have a strong connection to Buddhism. I’m not an authority on this – at what point does martial arts practice cross over into not really being Buddhist in practice? Martial arts in China and Japan for example was joined up with Buddhism culturally, evolving side by side in Buddhist cultures, so some Buddhist ideas have filtered into it. “Eastern philosophies tend to be more potpourris than is the case in the West, and both martial arts and Buddhism include heavy emphasis on concentration, meditation, and mental focus, so the real answer is probably that the pursuits have a natural affinity for each other.” [source]
When is martial arts no longer just about learning to defend oneself and clearly becomes about training for something that may never happen? I don’t know, and in a way I don’t care. Mainly because Jiu Jitsu involves no punching or kicking – I don’t have the type of personality that’s into that – some women are, and I’m all for fiery women, but I’m not THAT fiery. If you are like me that way, and still want to toughen up and get ripped in a friendly environment, BJJ (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu) is amazingly fit for purpose.
The center I go to treats beginners and regulars alike like family – my understanding is that this communal atmosphere is part of the BJJ ethos.
If you’re still in your physical prime… well I wish I discovered BJJ when I was younger… And if you’re out of shape, boy will it get you toned and in peak condition fast.
If you’re my age (40+) – you have to be a bit more careful approaching Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, but don’t let that stop you, so many older folks have discovered it later in life and are in love with it. I’ve had to back off from a few sessions after feeling new types of aches and pains, and am learning my limitations – which is new to me. I’ve also learned the potential of developing my body in new ways – strength, flexiblity, and some neat moves on how to escape from your opponent or to keep him/her down.
Another thing that makes it so suitable for my age group is that it’s low-impact – it’s all on the ground on padded mats. Great for those weak knees (mine have always been a weak spot for me after age 30). And there are people in their 50s and 60s who are practitioners, which is encouraging – how many other such physically demanding activities have people of that age group still at it?!
Links to check out:
• The centre I go to: Gracie Barra Smithfield in Dublin – run by super-friendly and multi-talented black belt and purple belt teachers, over here in Ireland from Brazil, catering to a mixed crowd in terms of age & ability
• Why women should train in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
• Can I start Brazilian Jiu Jitsu if I’m over 40?
• Why I think all women should do BJJ: and why I NEVER recommend it
• Why should women grapple