Firstly, what got me into BJJ? I have been active all my life reaching high grades in both badminton and squash. I ranked in NZ for both. After injuring my back in 2017, this made these sports painful. My son is a 4 tag white belt in BJJ (in Aussie) and when I said to him I needed something to get fit, he said to give BJJ a go as he thought physically I’d be able to do it without further injuring myself. So at 60 years of age, I went looking for a club close to work and home, and it’s there I found the Bucklands Beach BJJ club… The rest is history.
Sat 6th April 2019: This was my first class where I went to see if BJJ was for me. I didn’t have a gi so I just went in my exercise gear. I went a little early and met Andy (Medcalf) the instructor. He showed me a few moves to help me get out of guard which I ‘tried’ to use during my rolls. He introduced me to some other team members, everyone was so welcoming and helpful. In my first roll I was submitted in about 20 secs. So I rolled again and again. Every time being submitted by numerous different moves by my opponent(s). Within 30 minutes, I was so tired but I didn’t take a break and did the whole class. After that first class I knew I wanted to continue. This was a new experience and I loved it. I’ve never been so tired in my life but it was exhilarating. I remember sitting on the top step getting my strength back before I spoke with them.
Things I needed to do:
Get fit and lose weight
Stop trying to overpower my opponent
Relax when rolling (my opponents advice)
Learn through looking and asking questions
Promise to myself to go to classes 3 times per week (wife permitting)
For the following days, I could hardly move! (True story) I work in the Ambulance service and my partner had to help me get into the Ambulance! I kid you not. I was also bruised over my arms, chest and abdomen. That’s part and parcel of rolling I’m afraid. I had a great experience and I was doing it with guys and gals who are happy to help.
Perseverance for me is the key. I’m getting to know more of the members. The atmosphere is great. Andy has instruction nights where he shows us certain moves then we get to practice it with our partner. It looks so easy when Andy does it. Everything he shows us is ( and looks) like common sense, so easy. It’s putting what you see into actions – that is the problem (but fun).
I must get the fundamentals right (try to!). This is going to be a challenge.
Even though I had decided to join after the first class (of course) my wife was worried I was going to get injured (blah blah blah) you know the over-protective thing! Anyway, I joined without her knowledge. I have injuries (quite a few actually) but my philosophy in life is to get on top of it and cope whilst having fun. Assessing what you can and cannot do. Knowing your limitations.
That second week was a hard one and I can still remember it. I met James for the first time, a really nice guy, young, enthusiastic, and (in my opinion) a very good grappler. There was no pussy-footing around. Straight in for the lapel, then the arms, then down I went. He was in full guard, legs around me. Really tight (crushing actually!). During our roll he kept advising me to break his guard before doing anything, as whatever I was trying to do was not working. His grips were so tight. Eventually I did break his lock around me (maybe he let go a bit I’m not sure, probably did) so I managed to get side guard… Hmm, now what do I do? I will always remember that, I was battered and bruised, especially in both arms. On thing I remember him telling me was ‘grip, position, submit’. Get a good grip so you can get a good position so you can submit your opponent. I know it sounds ‘easy’, well it isn’t……trust me. What I experienced with James was what grappling was all about, and I learnt it. It’s about not giving your opponent anything, you have to fight for it and look for openings.
Despite my body saying NO, I went twice more during the week and rolled with a whole lot of people with totally different styles, and ways of getting you in awkward positions to submit you. One thing I noticed during the second week: I was not nearly as tired and I actually walked down the stairs without hesitation. During my second week I feel I should have been concentrating on ‘NOT’ being submitted and getting my defensive abilities up. At the moment I need to concentrate on one thing and try and get good at that. So my goal now is to stay rolling for as long as I can without being submitted. If I get submitted after 20 seconds, I will then roll and aim for 45 seconds before I get submitted. Early on I learnt, keep your arms in and not spread out to the sides (to keep your balance) – I got arm barred in seconds. It’s easier to say that as you think you are going to be off balance if you don’t. You won’t be off balance, but teaching your brain that is the problem. During the second week I borrowed a gi as you really do need one. The loaned one was good but you MUST wash it immediately after use as they will stink if you don’t. Not to mention they will rot due to the sweat… And believe me you sweat!
I’m still going three days a week, but I attend BJJ depending on my work schedule, so the days I go are never the same. A lot of the guys go to the Tuesday and Thursday (double hitter) no-gi classes, then straight after do a gi class. I found the double on Thursday especially hard on my body. You’ve got to remember I am 60! I don’t know why I love the exhaustion I experience. The exercise, the interaction with my club-mates is great, long story short – my other half stepped in and stopped me from doing the second class. I think maybe she is right. I do know other club members have had a few ‘discussions’ about training and time spent at BJJ. It happens, just go with the flow. This sport is like a drug, it is so addictive. If I was single and younger I’d be there every night if my body would hold up!
I think week three was a turning point for me as it was the first week I went for one full roll without being submitted. He was a 2 tag white belt who is way above my skill level but I ‘survived’. I told him not to hold back as my goal was not to be submitted. You see, it was this week I found YouTube and the videos on BJJ. I spent hours looking at submission holds (still a little above me at the moment) and good defensive techniques. Just looking at them gives you knowledge. Something may stick.
Slowly but surely I was surviving and enjoying every second of it. One submission hold I can do with competency is the Kimura and it was this week I got my first submission. He was another relatively new white belt like me. I think we were both surprised when I got it on. We both had a laugh, him stating ‘how did you do that?’ I replied ‘I saw it was there so I went for it’. I took the opportunity when it was there. Slowly things are starting to gel and my confidence is increasing.
Another good week at the club. I get to hand in my loaned gi and I purchased my own one (blue). I watch the others in the club roll and how they move. It is so fluid. I’m still concentrating on not being submitted but I am now trying more stuff during the roll with my opponent. I am now looking for an opportunity to ‘try’ and put on a hold. In essence, I’m giving it a go. Not too successful but it’s about trying. I do get myself in a little bit of trouble giving the opponent an opportunity to put a hold on me but I have to cope and defend.
I roll with some of the older members who have been teaching me as we roll (thanks Josh and Malcolm). They don’t hold back, they just say as we roll, “go the other way” or “come on, pass my guard”, “an arm bar is on”. They realised when they made an error so indicated for me to take advantage. I rolled with Andy and got annihilated. I am 97kgs and he rolls me over like I am nothing. It’s all technique. When I watch, I can see what he does, but when rolling it is a totally different scenario.
One of the hardest things I find is passing your opponents legs. A lot of it is technique and seeing the opportunities to pass.
My work this week has stopped me going on Thursday night. I like Thursday as a lot of club members come and it’s good to catch up. So, this week it will be Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. For me, I cannot do two sessions in a row, I’m just asking for trouble physically.
That day in-between seems to be a happy medium. Nothing new, roll wise, this week. I’m just getting some good exercise and still learning. The days I went were as usual, fun with some good rolls. There is a competitive streak in me and it wants me to do more! It will come in time, I’m patient. You cannot run before you can walk. I’ve been thinking of competing even though I know I have not been doing BJJ for very long. There is a tournament coming up. I know I will not stand a chance but I still want to do it. I suppose it is about getting out there and trying it. Never be afraid to give it a go.
I feel comfortable in my own skin doing this. I am happy to roll with anyone at the club, happy also to be submitted by other members, but after being submitted I have a quiet think to myself, ‘why did that happen?’ I am analysing things more. I know my ability to execute moves is still lacking but at least I am trying to work things out in my own mind. I always have Andy (and others) to bounce things around to try and improve. Although my goal is still not to be submitted, I am now trying things. The problem is, I don’t move like some of these younger guys and gals. Man they are quick. I know Andy has always said it’s not about flexibility but there is a degree of flexibility you need to have. I am like a piece of 4×2. I will continue to work around my ‘disabilities’. I can say for sure since starting my fitness has improved dramatically and I have lost kilos in weight. I haven’t had a ‘time-out’ in ages where I felt I was just too tired roll. That’s a good sign.
Not much to add for this week. I have not been tapping out as quickly as I should, maybe a recipe for disaster! I have been trying to get out of trouble once I’m in the ‘crap’ or so to speak. For example: I’m in an arm lock and it is starting to hurt a bit, I ask myself ‘is there any movement I can make to get my thumb down, or just try to use my strength to stop it?’ Andy has said to me ‘tap out’ earlier. I am always thinking ‘what can I do now?’. Obviously I don’t want to get hurt but it’s just weighing things up as I go. I have no doubt every person who takes up this great sport has their own thoughts on how to proceed. As the instructor can only do so much, the rest is up to you.
Well, I will start tapping out a bit earlier as my right elbow got a bit of a hammering when I was rolling with James. In the end, I just couldn’t change things with him and my arm got bent a little too far. Nothing that a Voltaren won’t fix! it aches a bit (well, quite a bit actually). I learned my lesson. Yes Andy you were right, say no more. Although slightly injured, with my elbow, still turn up to class. The bruising has also decreased on my body. The people I am rolling with aren’t able to exert as much force on me, thus reducing the bruising. Good sign. What is also good is that people want to roll with me, and that itself is encouraging.
This was a slack week for me. Got to the Saturday class but that was it. My son is up from Wellington so I spent the rest of the week at the beach. The Saturday class was actually pretty good. Not as many people turned up so there was more room on the mats to roll and not collide with other people. I keep asking questions like ‘what did I do for you to do that to me?’ A bit of debrief also doesn’t hurt one iota. No matter what happens on the mats, enjoy yourself – I do.
A number of our club members (adults and kids) were competing at the Barfoot and Thompson stadium in Kohimarama. This was the tournament I was looking at participating in. Andy said to give it a miss this time and just come and watch. I took his advice. I wasn’t working so I went for the day, just watching and cheering on club members. It was a great day. Supporting your club, I believe, is just as important as turning up to training. I suppose it acknowledges their accomplishments, win or lose.
That is the way I see it, everyone joins for their own reasons. This was a short week for me as I had to work. The two days I did go were full on (to be honest every session is full on!). What I am finding is that I can sustain rolling for longer periods of time. I went a full five minutes without being submitted and I felt I defended well. I was absolutely knackered though. My opponent was, I think, a two or three tag white belt. It was a really good roll and he said he did not hold back. After 10 weeks, am I possibly getting better? The answer to that is yes.
Still not good on the offensive moves but I am learning to get out of trouble (like keeping my arms in rather than at my opponent’s side for balance. If I don’t do it, they arm bar me every time!). Enjoy the company, learn something new. What else do you need?
I rolled with a lovely gal called Jen. I remember rolling with her when she first joined the club. She was so meek and mild… Well now she absolutely goes for it. Full on! What I’m trying to say is that things will change for you as you develop and learn this sport. It was great to see her ‘come out of her shell’. She almost triangle-choked me this week! She also got her first tag. Well done Jen.
For the first session in the week, I arrived late to the class due to work and only got 3 rolls in, but I’ve got to say they were some of my better ones. I was rolling with a blue belt and saw an opportunity to put on a wrist lock, AND I GOT IT. To put perspective on the situation I was totally fresh and he was knackered, but the way I see it a tap out is a tap out!
On the second night, I just went for everything I could see and I was trying a host of different stuff. Got out of a few submission holds which was really good, but I wasn’t able to put any on. By the end of the night I was totally spent but feeling good.
A new member turned up (name eludes me at the moment) and we had a roll. It was good tussle. He was (is) a black belt in Judo from 25 years ago. He managed to get side control and I thought I defended well. To be honest I was quite comfortable underneath as he was using a lot of energy trying to submit me which he didn’t.
Then I rolled with Andy. I know he is way, way better than me and he knows what I’m going to do before I do it, so this is what happened. I’m trying desperately to take control of his legs starting from the feet and moving up. Somehow my feet (and body) are off the ground and I’m toppled over. As all this is happening in one fluid motion, I am thinking to myself ‘what the hell, how did he do that?’ Actually more colourful language was going through my mind! I think I survived a lot better than I usually do, he didn’t suffocate me like normal! Feet are a big part of this sport and they are something I need to get better at using. Thanks Andy – as usual, a good lesson.
My third night is tonight where we have a seminar with the world No. 1 Woman’s BJJ fighter, Bia Mesquita (10x World Champion), coming to give us some lessons. Looking forward to it.
News flash… I entered in the BJJ Nationals on the 28th September. I’m going to give it a go and experience the competition first hand. For me, this about getting out there and having fun, whilst also watching others compete. I’m nervous but on the other hand really looking forward to it.
Have fun and enjoy the atmosphere, you will not regret it.
This post is the first entry in our new series ‘Bucklands BJJ Diaries’ where we’ll be documenting some of our student’s personal BJJ training stories. We hope you enjoyed it! Stay posted as there is more to come.