Here is a little about my BJJ Black Belt journey.
I picked up BJJ in my mid-twenties, a long time ago. Of course, I loved it, just like all of you. I would mostly go twice a week because that's all my back and knees could take. It was the golden years of JJ in SC and we played rough. Grappling tournaments were divided into training time: less than 6 months, 6 months - 2 years, and 2 years and above. Neck cracks were fully legal in all 3 divisions. And effective. We would imitate moves from magazines, pro wrestling, or even drawings from old books.
I found the sport very hard on the body and accepted that I'd never get a Black Belt. I decided that was fine and I'd just ride this thing until the wheels came off. I moved and changed schools often and went twice a week with months off in between. At 10 years in, I finally got a purple belt but I would still need significant rest time between classes.
I got lucky and found a job with free time in the afternoons to workout. I made it a mission to find a supplemental workout to improve and shorten the rest time I needed between BJJ classes. I experimented with weights, cardio, fitness balls, bars, jump rope, swimming, you name it. I would notice improvements but as I pushed the supplemental workout harder, I would get small tweaks in my joints and they would end up getting worse during mat time.
A big turning point happened when I focused on simple bodyweight exercises with the emphasis only on strengthing the joints. All of a sudden, I was able to not only do more BJJ but more soccer, hiking, and all kinds of things that also improved my fitness. I then picked up the Wim Hof breathing method which lowers inflammation but also works perfectly for long slow simple bodyweight joint strengthing exercises.
So, I finally got my Black Belt at 40, easily rivaling the fitness level of my 20-year-old self. I even did some Fight2Wins on stage in front of friends and family, which is an amazing experience, and any of YOU can do it too. I recommend finding a supplemental exercise routine, learning how to align your back and joints with stretches, and don't quit.
I move a lot but was fortunate enough to be a member of great schools:
- Jerry Brewer, Relson Gracie, Charleston, SC. Relson's style is awesome. Jerry is the perfect representation of the instructor that I inspire to be, making everyone in the room better and feel like family.
- Phil Migliarese, Balance Jiu-Jitsu, Philadelphia, PA. High-level instruction and a room full of savages.
- Dean Lister, City Boxing - Victory, San Diego, CA. I mostly only remember the women he would bring back from Brazil which obviously was not made in the US and must have been better than any ADCC victory.
- Diogo Gomes, Fabio Prado, Rio Combat, Almeda, CA. Diogo creates a family atmosphere and has an amazing facility.
- Kurt Osiander, Ralph Gracie, San Francisco, CA. Kurt is one of the warmest and most fun people to be around. He'd roll 6, 6 minutes rounds with us after every class and was quite inspirational.
Brown and Black
- Matt Darcy, Dave Camarillo, Guerrilla JJ, San Jose, CA. They have created an intimate and inviting atmosphere and they made it sustainable for classes with 40+ students multiple times a day. Awesome program and there are always people of every size and shape to roll with.