being an old man, bjj, improvement

Old Bones

I’ve been doing  a lot of thinking lately.  About,  you know, stuff.  Something that has been stuck in my intellectual craw for a little bit is the idea of passion over talent, experience over the fury of youth, and generally just growing into something good, if you are willing to give it time.

Two events have made me think about this.  The first is turning 30.  I turned 30 a month ago, and it really wasn’t a big deal at all.  I’m not saying that I’m aging gracefully, but I don’t really think it’s good for your psyche to fight the clock too much.  But 30 is a big deal.  I have a lot of friends and acquaintances that can’t seem to fathom the idea that 30 has shown up, knocked on their door, came in made a bologna sandwich, and made itself a permanent house guest.  I’ve decided to settle on the idea that it’s what you do with your time, not how much time you’ve lived.

Applying it to BJJ, I was a white belt for three years.  Three years is a long time to be a white belt, and it rankled me. But look at how I spent the first two years of my training.  Coming to class three times a month, making excuses, just being resistant to the process.  But in the last year of being a white belt, I came to class three or four times a week, took the time to learn, ask questions, and care about my progression.  And to nobody’s surprise, I skyrocketed in skill and ability. For the first two years of training, I was passive, like a log.  And I thought everyone else had a problem.  Then I took control, and became an active decision maker in the direction of my bjj career.

The second event is seeing one of my favorite bands, the Swingin’ Utters a few weekends ago.  A California punk band that started in the late ’80s, they have been touring and putting out records for 25 years.  They’ve seen success, but not the type of success typically associated with the music industry, where you drive a Rolls Royce aroun, with a gold mounted toilet attached to the trunk.  The success the Swingin’ Utters have seen has been the grinding, hard-won kind.  I saw them on a Friday night with about 100 people other at a bar.  I was inspired by how much fun they were having, when someone else with less passion would have easily thrown their hands up around say, 1993, saying they’ve had enough of playing tiny clubs for $500 bucks. But here is, 2011, and they are going strong, because they love it.

And there are a lot of lessons to take away from that, at least for my life.  One is, don’t worry about how long something takes to happen. Just start.  Just commit. In my experience (I am thirty, after all) things will work  themselves out if you are willing to put the time in.

The second big lesson for me is who gives a shit how old you are?  In a youth fetish culture, it’s easy to feel left by the cultural wayside with each birthday, becoming increasingly clueless and irrelevant.  But that doesn’t really matter if you are doing something that matters to you.  With time, your experience will become richer and more meaningful.  This is how I feel about BJJ.  It’s personally relevant to me, although probably not to the cultural zeitgeist at large.  So when say, Ke$ha’s cultural currency is bankrupt, I’ll still have something important to me, rather than the next ephemeral thing.

Which leads to the third lesson I’ve learned lately.  Pick what’s important.  My relationship with punk rock and bjj seem like an odd couple, but to me, they are extraordinarily important.  They stay with me.  I try to be good to them, and for a long time, they have been good back to me.  I’m not one to say what should be important so someone, but I can’t imagine getting a lot of mileage out of just surfing you-tube videos  and watching Extreme Make Over.

Sorry to get so philosophical. In my old age I am allowed to complain about things.  Next post I’ll tell you about my croup and how I can tell if it’s going to rain from the felling in my old bones.  Then I’ll tell you about my six wonderful grandchildren: Cody, Hunter, Taylor, Tyler, Kaiden, and Tiffyny.


5 thoughts on “Old Bones

  1. I also turned 30 a few months ago. I feel ok about it, but that could be because it hasn’t fully sunk in yet. It will probably hit me at 31, as right now I can still shrug and think “it’s alright, earlier this year I was in my 20s.”

  2. Pingback: Blogsphere Report, July 2011 | Combat Sports Review Blog

  3. Nice…I ran across this lamenting my 2 years at white. The fact that belt colors even exist annoys me sometimes, and others, I enjoy the color around my waist (my school does green between blue and white).

    I started training 2 weeks after turning 30 and while I feel like I started late, emotionally, I’m glad. BJJ is no joke and plays with your emotions. It helps to be a hardened 30 year old to get through all the frustration and ego trips.

    • Thanks for the comment!

      It’s very easy to say “just go along with the process, and you’ll get your belt when you get your belt.” But in practice it’s a bit harder.

      The best advice I try to give people, is to be on your coach’s radar. Go to class, compete, and take an occasional private. It gives your coach a constant assessment of your progress. They are only human, and the best advocate you have is yourself.


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