Is a Black Belt on Your Bucket List?

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I’m approaching my 4th decade on this earth and while my wisdom is growing stronger, the aches and pains are more frequent then ever.

Exercise and lifestyle objectives have overtaken my previous 20 year focus of career and money. I’m starting to realize that the next 20 years will be a progressive deterioration to this body temple that I have sporadically abused, frequently over indulged, and only seasonally exercised. I need to find something that hooks my interest and keeps me fit and strong.

Having started my exercise choice as Rugby and surfing until University replaced it with drinking booze, and focusing on my career. I have struggled to maintain a progressive, interesting, and affective exercise program that doesn’t get boring. I’ve altered between weights, Kettlebells, Yoga, Muay Thai, Boxing, and Cross Fit. I couldn’t seem to get any to stick, especially in the challenging London winter time.

Then I tried Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. And I found my solution.

After overcoming the initial barrier of rolling around with a sweaty guy, I soon became intrigued with “Human Chess”- the most accurate description I’ve heard for BJJ.It is a full body workout that improves your cardio, strength and flexibility. But even more alluring is the countless puzzles that need to be solved in every “roll” with every opponent.

I think back to my school days and how I used to revere anyone with a Blackbelt-it showed commitment, physical empowerment and a mystical element that I never thought I possessed. Bruce Lee with his ripped abs and fancy moves seemed unobtainable and discipline and time needed couldn’t compete with a day of good waves, or bad girls, or cold booze.

As I started my BJJ journey later in life, I’m acutely aware that BJJ coloured belts are the hardest to obtain, and the most consistently protected in the modern martial arts world. There have been some freak athletes that have got their belt in 4 years through full-time training and a genetic gift of learning, but the average is 8 years from the time-honored reputable Academies. One of the wise lessons I’ve learned in my life is that I only truly value something that has been hard for me to obtain.

But if Al Bundy (Ed O’Neil) can do it starting at 48, then I have a path to follow.

Our club (Richmond Fitness Club) is forming a great group of likeminded people nearing middle age with similar training rules as me:

  1. Don’t get injured (Tap early, no crazy neck stacks, slams or rapid leg-locks)
  2. Train at least 3 times per week (and including Yoga or stretching)
  3. Drill the basics continually and spar in every class

We are focusing on learning the cerebral part of BJJ- breathing, countering and body position.

I recently went to my first BJJ seminar under the great Roger Gracie. Here is a guy that has done it all in BJJ. 10x World Champion that is now focused on putting all the martial arts together in the challenging MMA world. Despite his countless years of learning, competing and teaching thousands of people, he still corrected a basic positional problem with my Kimura with the patience, passion and insight of a natural mentor. So even the best don’t get tired of the fundamentals, and are still passionate about helping white belts get better.

My coach Tommy, himself a Roger Gracie Black belt, is only serious about one thing in his life- BJJ. I asked him what will it take for me to keep on the BJJ Blackbelt journey despite the hard road ahead and my impending middle age. “Tap early, then think about avoiding/escaping that position. Train hard, train often, and just keep turning up”

BJJ is not for everyone, it is challenging, frustrating, enlightening, puzzling. Somedays you feel like a world-beater, other days you feel like you are going backwards. But one fact remains.

I am now a martial artist, and I will get my Blackbelt, in the hardest art of them all.

Why not book in for your free trial class here at Richmond Fitness Club?


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