How many years it was since I first put on a BJJ Gi and stepped on to the mat with North East BJJ Black belt Pete Irving i'm not sure but be assured its possibly more than I care to know....However after feeling the pangs of a lost love a couple of times of late firstly whilst being lucky enough to train with the Competition team at Gunnar Nelsons famous Mjolnir back in January and then at Lee Kirtley's Dungeon BJJ club in Yarm last month filling in time during a photoshoot for Fuji Kimonos (June 19th 2015) mixed with the simple fact I hate doing out and out cardio work and have gained a few post 40 pounds of late I decided the only thing to do was get my lazy fat ass back onto the mat and do something I actually truly loved not so long ago.
The Gracie Barra Newcastle Team in 2004; Sadly Dave Elliot not on Photo..
I doubt I can really blog about training past 40 without mentioning a little background.... After about ten years of Boxing and Wing Chun around 2002 I hooked up with a bunch of guys who all had a love of this new fangled MMA thing(Well it was new at the time). After a lot of bouncing from club to club one of our number a youthful Mister Peter Irving found the talented Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighter Dave Elliot whom after turning up once to our little gym Green Lane in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear we all joined his club in Wallsend, Newcastle donning a BJJ Gi
for the first time in my case. This was the start of a journey for all of us and one that almost certainly changed every life it touched in our small group. After just over a year I was training in London and got my Blue Belt, receiving it proudly from Mauricio Gomez at Marc Walders Academy in East London. By 2015 I could probably write a book on what had happened within our group but to stay on the subject matter the fact I hadn't donned my fading and slightly moldy in places blue Machado Kimono in at least 5 or 6 years possibly more is pretty much the point. I guess telling the world how good Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is for all round strength, flexibility and cardio vascular fitness might be like a guy who just bought a Porsche blogging about the fact its pretty fast but as this article is aimed at maybe a whole bunch of guys who haven't had a life in martial arts as I have but maybe have always liked the idea but maybe had life through their twenties take over but now like me could do with a hobby with the benefit of removing some of the pounds their business lunches and stress induced drinking has resulted in. Speaking of stress again without wishing to state the well trodden ground of the last 40 years of Government health advice I don't think there is a better stress cure than Martial Arts training whether it be of the pugilistic form of boxing or Muay Thai or the more civilized mats of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training....It amounts to the same thing in that the worries and stress of your everyday life fade into the background and life in the moment can begin, a state most of us should try to live in and few of us achieve but the core and essence of many Eastern philosophies which are at the heart of martial arts practice. BJJ has grown massively as a sport in the UK since the time I first got involved the sport has changed in many ways both in popularity and to some degree in the people it is now attracting. When I first got involved Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was a core part of Mixed Martial Arts training therefore it was quite often the case that the practitioners it attracted were doing the sport as part of something else not purely or the sake of doing Jiu Jitsu whereas now I am seeing much more of a shift toward the opposite with the practice of BJJ being the point not a secondary concern. So back to the point of the article which is returning or perhaps coming to the mats at a more venerable age. After my first couple of sessions back I remembered very quickly how tough physically BJJ is even in the basic drilling; When boxing or kickboxing you are tested in terms of cardio but unless sparring a lot you are not really being beat up all the time and although anyone reading this who has done neither sport might think I'm nuts here I can tell you that being punched (or kicked for that matter) a few times in sparring is nothing compared to being twisted, scraped and sat on (This is underplaying it!) for 2 hours solidly. However on the plus side I also began to remember how tough it makes you which in our sissy Western world of easy everything will soon make your body remember its actually not so fragile and in every day life toughen you mentally too. Flexibility can be an issue so getting in to a stretching regime might really make sense, maybe a bit of Yoga or Pilates once a week to complement your BJJ; I was always naturally flexible but at 42 I instantly found I was not quite as pliable as I once was and knew it was time to train that a little more than waving my arms around three times then lying on the mat. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a complicated and deep martial art; it has so many aspects that in time it tends to retain smart intelligent people who relish the mental as well as physical challenges of the sport. If you are looking for a sport or hobby which is multi faceted and will retain your interest beyond lifting weights or running then BJJ could well be your shot. I guarantee it will make you fitter, tougher and stronger than you are today. Equipment for BJJ
The only thing you absolutely need for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a BJJ Gi (Aka kimono) If you are just starting and happen to have an old Judo gi then that will do but sooner or later you should buy a dedicated Jiu Jitsu Gi as the fit and cut are quite different to those of Judo. Expect to spend around £80 for a decent Gi and don't skimp as buy cheap will result in buying twice rather quickly. My recommendation for a starter Gi is the Excellent and at £79.99 inexpensive Fuji All Around Gi
which is strong, durable and will last for many years. Sizing wise it varies with build but BJJ sizing goes from A1 - A6 however A5 & 6 are truly for Giants! A1 is for very small guys 5'5 and smaller with a light build, A2 upto around 5'10 depending on build; A3 below 6'2" and A4 for taller guys. Build will effect the size especially if you are sat kind of in the middle of the range (I'm between an A3 & A4 as I'm tall but slim) Other than the kimono you might consider a gumshield for sparring as stray headbutts or elbows can happen but the real tip if you are in your 30's or later are some knee pads!! You can spend a lot of time on your knees in BJJ and a set of inexpensive knee protection will be worth their weight in gold after a few months training. Find knee pads here
. As a sport BJJ is pretty inexpensive compared to most for both the cost of doing it averaging at £6 a session or equipment wise you need not spend more than £120 in total for a gi and the other useful bits you need however it could start a journey that will change your life! Main Image Author Alex Wright with BJJ Black belt Leo Negao