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How long do our bodies last? Can you train into your golden years?
The definition of perpetual motion is, “[T]he motion of a theoretical mechanism that, without any losses due to friction or other forms of dissipation of energy, would continue to operate indefinitely at the same rate without any external energy being applied to it.” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
How cool would that be? For anything really, but more specifically for us. For these “Mortal Coils” as Shakespeare’s brain child Hamlet put it, to last forever.
Unfortunately for us God built in a fail-safe. We call it Thermodynamics. Who knows what He calls it.
The first law of Thermodynamics states that matter/energy cannot be created nor can it be destroyed. The quantity of matter/energy remains the same. It can change from solid, to liquid, to gas, to plasma and back again, but the total amount of matter/energy in the universe remains constant. Okay, so the energy in a light bulb, is the energy in your iPhone, is the same energy in a turkey sandwich. Is just switches from form to form, place to place, forever into eternity into the far reaches of the universe.
It’s the second law that’s a bummer.
The second law of thermodynamics is commonly known as the Law of Increased Entropy. This is the law that is most important to my point. It states that while quantity remains the same (First Law), the quality of matter/energy deteriorates gradually over time. It’s the basic tendency of a system to break down. For things to fall apart. Hot coffee set out on a counter gets cold. Why? Where does the heat go? The fabric of your favorite pair of jeans wears out. Why? What happens to the molecules that make up the fibers which make up the material? Have you ever dropped a hand full of marbles on a tile floor? Why do they erratically and explosively disperse? Why don’t they just bounce in place forever? Staying uniformed, tidy and perfect. Why do they stop bouncing at all?
Entropy. Entropy is why. The tendency of a system to deteriorate and slow down. Energy disperses and flies off into dark alleys of the Andromeda Galaxy, and things fall apart. Unfortunately the same principle applies to us. We don’t last forever. As we get older this fact becomes more apparent, and more painful.
Injuries are a part of life. You live long enough and you’re going to get hurt. Carrying groceries in from the car, walking down the stairs in the dark in the middle of the night to get a glass of water while you’re still half asleep, heck I’ve thrown my back out picking up a decorative throw-pillow whilst making the bed. True story, don’t tell anyone.
If you’re an active person, let’s say you go to 24 hour fitness and lift and trudge through thirty minutes of cardio twice a week, your chances of injury go up. And if you train and compete in the world of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu that “chance” becomes an inevitability, and you are pretty much guaranteed a storied list of ailments to nurse over your career on the mats.
Combat sports are just that… combat. You are using your body to physically subdue, submit, or pummel another human being until they are no longer theoretically a threat.
Age is cruel mistress in this game. As you age in the Jiu-Jitsu world, you get placed on a sliding scale. As your pure testosterone filled, youth driven athletic ability wanes, your earned wisdom and experience increases. The hope is that as you age and train, your intellect advances at the same pace at which your body falls apart and you maintain your level of ability with your teammates. That’s the hope anyway.
As I stated in my earlier posts about Jiu-Jitsu, I didn’t jump into this world until I was thirty years old. By thirty I was already in a constant state of repair. College football did a number on me. Torn rotator, herniated lumber disks, thin meniscus, etc… etc. But I tell you what, I was exponentially more “Peppy” at 30 than I am now at 42.
Since I began my journey I have had:
- 1 shoulder surgery (I need another)
- A Lumbar Micro-Discectomy on L-4 and L-5 (Probably going to need another at some point)
- Full ACL Reconstruction in my right knee + a Meniscus that looks like a shredded piece of notebook paper
- 5 dislocated fingers
- 1 dislocated toe
- A torn calf muscle
- 1 popped elbow capsule
- Torn ligaments in my right wrist
- An uncountable number of bumps, bruises, blisters, bloody lips and noses, and black eyes.
The point is I am never “healthy”, nor will you be if you choose to commit yourself to Jiu-Jitsu. At 30 I could still “Pop”. With adrenaline I could torque my body into unnatural positions and explode out of a bad situation. Now, today, I have had to alter my game a bit.
As you age you must adapt. Your body changes and if you want to continue training into your 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and so on, you need to make certain physical concessions.
Everyone says that Jiu-Jitsu is a pride-less sport. In theory yes, that is in the club charter, but in reality we all have a bit of hubris that drives us. We don’t like to lose. We enjoy victory.
When I began Jiu-Jitsu I was a bull. That was my game. I played top. I dreaded being on my back. It made me feel like a helpless upturned tortoise. I was strong, aggressive, fast & quick (there’s a difference) and athletic. I prided myself on smashing people from the top. I ate people’s guards for breakfast. I passed people’s guards and crushed them in side-control. My instructors gave me a nickname that I still go by today. “Passodor”. It’s a fun way to say, “The man who passes” or “The passer man” in Portuguese (I think?). That became my identity. I passed. White-Belt through Purple I passed.
But as I have aged and progressed in my Jiu-Jitsu journey, I have adapted. I’ve had to. Injuries made it necessary. After my shoulder surgery I rehabbed and had to adapt. Now, if I’m on bottom I will simply give up a position and let people pass to my left because I still have no shoulder mobility. I can’t lift it above my head to this day so I protect it. I roll with that in mind now, it’s just second nature. It’s a part of my game. I keep my left arm close to my chest and wait. My right knee has made it near impossible to play any closed guard game, so now I’m an open guard / spider / half guard guy.
But here’s where the pride part comes in. If a person happens to get a hold of my left arm and I can see where they’re going with it, and I think that there may be a chance it’s going to be put into a painful position… I tap. Preemptively. Before they have a chance to finish the move. No pride. I have to.
Basically I’ve had to accept that I will never be a world champion Jiu-Jitsu player. I am a 42 year old hobbyist. I get in to train maybe twice a week if I’m lucky. I have two young sons who now also train, a career that makes training consistently difficult, and a body that screams at me for days after a hard training session.
I let people pass. I have to let people put me in bad situations. I have to let people win. Reason being, I want to be able to walk tomorrow. I want to be able to hold my kids above my head at the park. I’ve had to put Jiu-Jitsu into perspective as I’ve aged.
It is a great workout. It’s fun. It is a place where I can hang out with some good friends I’ve made over the years. It’s a challenging sport where I can still experience a level of the competitiveness that still drives me, and that has pushed me through my high school and college years. I get enjoyment and fulfillment from training.
I am a brown-belt hobbyist Jiu-Jitsu player and if The Lord Jesus allows my body to do it, one day I will be awarded my black-belt. And if that happens I will be eternally grateful and proud of that accomplishment. It will mean that I dedicated over ten years of my life to a sport which I love, and that I was lucky and blessed enough to do something with my body that a very, very, very small percentage of the world’s population are able to do.
So to my aging Jits brothers and sisters out there, keep training. Ice, heat, Advil, repeat. Take the time to properly warm up. Stretch. Listen to your body. Adapt, and simply enjoy the time you are on the mats because it is finite, and you don’t know how long you’re going to be able to do it.
Nick Gerasimou is currently a Brown Belt under Juliano Prado at ‘Total MMA Studios’ in Tustin, CA. He is an author and educator and his works are available on AMAZON.
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