Confessions of a hobbyist black belt

It’s interesting that much of what we see and hear from Jiu Jitsu black belts comes from well known guys and world champions. We form much of our understanding of what it means to be a black belt from these guys. It’s certainly a worthwhile goal to aspire to the achievements of the greats. There is much to be learned from listening to Rickson, Saulo, Marcello,  or any of the big name black belts. Their experience and knowledge of the game is invaluable. They are experts in what it takes to get to the highest levels of the art.

What is often missing is the voice of the hobbyist. The student who has a full time job, maybe a family or other demands and chooses to not dedicate the bulk of their life to the art. This is where the vast majority of people who study Jiu Jitsu live. Either by choice, circumstance, or necessity we are part time grapplers. We enjoy the art as much as anyone and aspire to be the best grapplers that we can be but we are realistic that we don’t choose to train in a way that will make us the next world champion. This is the realm of the hobbyist.

It’s okay to be a hobbyist. There is no shame in it and it doesn’t make you any less of a Jiu Jitsu student. Everyone has their own role to play in the art. A good thriving school has many hobbyists in its ranks. We need people who are successful parents, professionals, educators, tradesmen, students, doctors etc. These people give the school a wonderful diversity and richness that it wouldn’t have if everyone was full time athlete. A healthy school has people of all ages, races, incomes, men and women, hobbyists and dedicated athletes. Each has an important role to play in creating a rich tribe that nurtures everyone’s aspirations and respects everyone’s path through Jiu Jitsu. With that said here’s the voice of a part time hobbyist black belt:

Confessions of a hobbyist black belt

We have a hard time with all levels of student. In a roll I can have a very tough time with even white belts. There are times when I try my best and can’t get a sweep, or submission that I want. I can find myself unable to execute basic techniques. I can be flustered and stymied by something that a white belt does naturally. Yesterday I rolled with two different white belts that I could not submit from guard bottom. I tried my best for triangle chokes, armbars, uma platas, and couldn’t pull them off. Their posture was too good and I couldn’t break it. What I’m trying to say is that black belt doesn’t always mean that you dominate the other guy. I’m not likely to get tapped out by a white belt but I can be frustrated by them pretty consistently. Much of the time Jiu Jitsu is still a struggle regardless of who I’m rolling with. From the outside it may look like I’m having an effortless time in a roll but I can assure you it’s almost never that way.

There is a lot about Jiu Jitsu that we don’t know. I remember when I first got my black belt thinking how different it felt than what I had imagined. I thought I’d have a real mastery and understanding of Jiu Jitsu at black belt. Nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve been a black belt for several years now and there are so many things I don’t understand. I still can’t manage a collar choke from guard bottom. I can’t do an effective hip bump sweep in a live roll. I have no idea how to execute a berimbolo sweep. Honestly, I’m still perplexed by guard passing. Most times I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing. I get guard passes all the time but it feels mostly like luck or that I’m finding them somehow in the midst of a struggle. It rarely feels like a well planned and coordinated attack.

We constantly struggle with training/life balance. There are many times that I’d like to go to the gym but make other choices. I see many younger guys at the gym 5 or 6 days a week. I’m lucky if I make 3. Usually it’s 2. I always want to be at the gym and would be happy to be there 5 nights a week but the stuff I’d have to give up to make that happen are too important. Many nights I have to weigh spending time with my family or spending time at the gym. It’s a hard sell to leave my family responsibilities for an entire evening. As much as I love going to the gym I have to make different decisions many times. I don’t want to look back 10 years from now and think that I got really good at Jiu Jitsu and was a mediocre family man. I’ll be honest though it’s a constant struggle. I see the younger guy’s games improving rapidly and feel a bit stagnant at times because I’m not training as much. It can be a bit of an ego buster if I’m not careful. Even at black belt I can tell myself that I’m not good enough, or dedicated enough, or not a good asset to the gym because I don’t prioritize it in the way some people do.

We have to train and roll different. I don’t have the time in training to constantly explore and find new techniques. I do experiment and look for new solutions but much of my training time is spent refining what I already know. In fact I’m constantly trying to make my game smaller so there is less to maintain. I probably have about 3 submissions. Maybe 3 guard passes. Most things I can do effectively on only one side. Making my game smaller makes it easier to maintain and grow on even 2 days a week.

When I roll I can’t go fast and hard. If I do I’ll gas after one or two rolls. Instead I roll at about 50 to 60% most times. This allows me to roll as long as I want. I can roll for hours at this pace. It also allows me to build a game that is not based on conditioning, or speed, or strength. It’s a game I can keep as I age and it doesn’t take a ton of conditioning and strength work. This means though that the young athletic purple belt will catch me in stuff. They’ll get the guard pass sometimes. They’ll get submissions. I could match them if I wanted to. I have about one or two rounds in me at young guy athleticism and speed. If I needed an ego boost I could burn up my tank in a pissing contest.

I choose not to though. I’ve come to learn that the younger guys respect me for my experience and knowledge and not because I can dominate them at will. I have value to the gym in that. I have found my place. My place is to get people’s game better as efficiently as possible regardless of strength, size, speed, conditioning, and frequency of gym attendance. I can do this because it’s how I chose to build my game. It’s an advantage I have over Rickson and other full time instructors who have a great luxury of time. Mine can’t be wasted because I choose to dedicate only a small amount of it to Jiu Jitsu. I think this is good Jiu Jitsu though because to me Jiu Jitsu is about getting the most benefit from the least amount of effort. In that hobbyist black belts can truly shine.


I’ve been surprised at how much this post has resonated with people. I’ve gotten both positive and negative responses. It’s interesting how we all bring our own baggage to what we read. People can read the same text and get completely different things from it. I wanted to clarify a few points to clear some things up. I think my writing was a bit too succinct and maybe missed a few points of clarification.

When I said that I had a tough time with white belts I’m not saying that I get dominated or lose a match to white belts. When you get to black belt level you have more nuance in your game than that. Simply beating a white belt is of little consequence. What I mean is that I can’t always impose my game at will. I wanted to dispel the myth that a black belt can do whatever he wants at any time to beginning students. This is simply not true. Not for any of the black belts that I’ve known. It may be true for the 1% at the top? I really don’t know. For the rest of us I can assure you it  isn’t true. It looks like this from the outside because the black belt is usually always winning. What is happening behind the scenes though is the black belt is changing tactics as they run into barriers. Even with a beginner there can be lots of barriers. These barriers are the “frustration” that I’m referring to.

When I say that I can’t do a collar choke from guard bottom it doesn’t mean that I don’t know how. I have taught the technique many times and know the technical details of how it works. It’s just not something that I include in my game because it has never clicked for me. People think that black belts are good at every technique that they know or every technique that they show others. This is simply not true. We have to know a bunch of techniques in order to be good coaches. It just isn’t possible to have all of them in our games. It just doesn’t work that way. Instead we learn a bunch of techniques so that we can pass them on to our students but in our personal games we choose a small subset. For me personally I keep the subset small and try my best to make things work in as many different situations as possible. A smaller personal game is easier to maintain and refine with limited time on the mat. I can teach you a flower sweep well even though I hardly use it at all.

When I talk about rolling slowly I’m not saying that you can/should never go hard. I roll once a week or so with our competition team. We have comp team classes that are designed specifically for people who compete. These rolls are designed to be fast paced and hard. I do it because I enjoy it and the competitors benefit from rolling with me. In these classes I’ll push myself to exhaustion. I don’t think it’s necessary in order to learn the art though. Jiu Jitsu is about efficiency in technique and energy. If you only roll hard then you develop a game that requires it. If you also roll light you can develop a game that works well at that pace. I’m interested in the latter because it will be a game I can have when I get older. If I wanted to compete or if I wanted a fast pace game I’d have to train differently. Training hard and “leaving it all on the mat” simply isn’t necessary in order to advance in Jiu Jitsu. It may be necessary if you want to be the 1% but for the vast majority it isn’t at all.

Lastly, I am perfectly comfortable tying on my black belt. I have watched my coach tie it on quite a number of people over the years and not a single one didn’t easily deserve it. There is nothing special about me that he would give it to me if I didn’t deserve it. I welcome anyone who is in the Portland area to come in and get a roll with me at any time though if they need to satisfy their curiosity. Or they can contact me and I’ll give them a list of black belts whom I’ve rolled with. As a black belt you have to never be afraid to throw your hat into the ring. I’ll never back down from a friendly roll with anyone for fear of not looking like a black belt.  That fear thwarts growth and has no place on the mat.

Incidentally, I heard a story from a long time black belt this weekend. He was talking about a bout he refereed at a tournament a while back. The match was between a well known world champion black belt who’s name everyone would immediately recognize if I said it. The black belt was matched up against a no name purple belt. The black belt got destroyed by the purple belt. It happens. Black belts aren’t indestructible and the cult that exists around the belt is unhealthy as it sets up unrealistic expectations. We all lose. I wouldn’t have it any other way.



  1. I absolutely love this. Finding that healthy relationship between practicing MA, being a father of two, and running a business is a tough one. But like you wrote, when you find your place and that balance, you also find yourself becoming more efficient.

    Thanks for writing this. There are a lot of us out there that need to hear that it’s OK to just be a hobbyist.

  2. This is an amazing article. That’s an answer to question that has been troubling me for the last couple of years. Thank you!

  3. I have read this three times now and I will probably read it a couple more. Great insight, lots of valuable lessons packed into one piece. Truly grateful that you shared this. Thank you.

  4. thanks so much, great to read this article. I train hard when I’m in the gym, I study when i’m outside the gym, i work on fitness & health most of the time … but at the end of the day, I’m just not a natural badass at this stuff, and plenty of people are more naturally athletes, or younger, or spend more time in the dojo, or better fight instincts, etc. I have my successes which are awesome, but i have sooo many struggles too. cheers.

  5. That is one of the best articles I have ever read on BJJ. At times I thought it was myself talking as a 50 year old student. Thank you for putting it out there much respect and admiration

  6. Thank you for sharing this. I am only a white belt. I had to take a year off to take care of an old ankle injury. I can start again August 1st but was worried because I too am lucky to get two nights in. That was really frowned on at my old gym. I felt guilty leaving my family and pressured by the professor because he expects guys to live there. This gives me hope that I can find a gym that will be more accepting.

  7. Lovely article – really great. As a purple belt in my late 40s, everything you say rings true. I’m mostly pretty honest with myself about why I train, but I do get frustrated sometimes and I do sometimes berate myself because I don’t feel as good/competitive sharp as I did when I first got my blue belt (nearly 10 years ago…).

    I’m going to re-read this whenever I feel I’m in a slump. Thanks!

  8. Thanks for this – it crystallizes what many of us struggle with. I’m mid-way through my blue belt, mid-40’s, young family … everything you wrote resonates with me. I will get my black belt one day, but I will remember this article for the rest of my journey. Oss!!!

  9. Thanks for all the kind words everyone. I really appreciate it and am touched that my experience is helpful to someone else.

  10. Brilliant post. I think the ‘hobbyist’ sector of BJJ is ignored all too often in favour of the hard core competitors or self defence crowd (not that there is anything wrong with training for those reasons), when I suspect the people who primarily just train for fun are in the majority. Everybody has different reasons for stepping on the mat and different approaches: I can’t think of anybody who has articulated the hobbyist perspective as well as you just did.

  11. Great insight as always, I love reading your articles! Although at the moment I train hard and fast more than easy and slow due to competing a lot, I do feel the change coming the older I get. I’ve always tried to have the least attribute dependant game I possibly can and I teach my students to have the same.
    Thanks for dropping the knowledge bombs coach.

  12. This is a very good writing. The thoughts and insight are great. It’s very inspiring to read this from a Black belt, and I appreciate the perspective and the honesty within it. People seem to think that when you reach black belt you’ve “made it”…that you are super human at that point. I have a black belt in another art and even in art I felt very much like you have described…and I wondered if it is the same in BJJ. I have a long way to go to get to black belt in Jiu Jitsu and I absolutely love the journey, but I can only train two to three times per week and I am getting older for sure. The post really resonated with me and reaffirms that that it’s ok to be where you are on your journey, and it’s ok to be human no matter what your rank. Thanks!

  13. Great piece Cane! You are a huge asset to the BJJ community as both a instructor and writer.

  14. Dear Professor Cane Prevost,

    Your honesty is refreshing. This article is a MUST READ. A must read expesically if you are (like) me…a 50-year-old freshly minted Blue Belt.


  15. Thank you for taking time to write this blog post. I started BJJ at 47 years old and fully appreciate many of the points you’ve touched on. Like all white belts I intend to be among the few that will tie on a black belt and often measure myself against the younger students. Thank you for you for providing a balanced perspective for a fellow hobbiest.

  16. After reading this article the only thing I regret is not stopping by to train at SBG all the time I lived in Oregon! Great article, I work in a gym and people always say why don’t I train more? If I trained more then other things wouldn’t get done and at the end of the day the gym doing well is more important then how great my pressure pass is.

    I always enjoy reading what Matt writes and by chance stumble upon your blog, glad I did.

  17. What a fantastic and honest article I have just read here, thank you so much for putting it in words for all of us to read, and it was a great way of putting it down in words that we can all really identify with, especially us over 40 year old BJJ Black Belts who don’t want to be this BJJ ultimate grappling machine just because we are a black belt.

    Actually we use our BJJ as a ‘lifestyle’ way through our training, and we must all know that there is nothing wrong with this very ideal concept, so that we train for the rest of our lives, and enjoy our training without constantly feeling like we always have to prove ourselves on the mat, especially against the lower belts, or against the younger students when we do the rolling in class, thank you and well done Sir!

  18. Thanks for the great article. I have been at this for a few years now as an older guy. This was refreshing to read. Going from White to Blue to Purple has not been what I expected. No super powers have been gained. I just know a bit more than the average Joe and have good and bad days just like everyone else on the mat. Sometimes it seems more bad than good but that is OK. In any case it has been great and I cannot see myself stopping BJJ.

  19. thank you for the great read. It is very”comforting” to read that someone at your advanced level can also get frustrated by this beautiful art of BJJ. i started BJJ on my 42nd birthday this past May. After many many years of lifting weights and two neck fusions i needed to adjust how i worked out. I’ve always thought about starting BJJ but never “found” the time with wife, kids and work. But after my second neck fusion this past September it was the perfect opportunity to finally start. I can tell you that I’ve fallen in love with BJJ, (My wife thinks i’m nuts LOL..) but Holy Sh*t it is frustrating. Being blessed with athletic ability and strength from many years of playing sports and weight training, i thought it would allow me to learn quickly and incorporate what i’ve learned when rolling with other white belts, even if they were further ahead in their White Belt experience. Boy was i mistaken. It has been a very humbling but wonderful experience. Thank you again for sharing your experiences. They’ll bring me comfort the next time i get my butt kicked by a skinny 18 year old white belt LOL….

    I look forward to reading more of your blogs. 🙂

    • It has taken me 20 years to earn my black belt in BJJ, and even now at my 50 years of age, I don’t feel like some supreme grappling genius, but obviously I feel confident of my abilities, because I have had to use many techniques from my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu & Filipino Jiu Jitsu with volatile situations at my security work, but thank goodness I have managed to restrain these violent and aggressive individuals, without injury to myself, or injury to these offenders on the street either, thank God!

      I have trained in the martial arts and boxing since I was 8 years of age, and over the last 42 years I have had many full contact competition fights, winning state, national, and also the international titles as well, actually I have had a wonderful career with over 350 fights all up!

      I also won a World Title in Professional Boxing, and 30 International Titles in Stick-fighting!

      But these days, I really do not feel the need to have to prove myself anymore, unless it is in a dangerous situation during my security work, where my safety might be put at risk, so now if I’m ever put in this type of situation, then I’m just going to go for it, because it’s either me or them, so I will go for it there, no problem at all!

      These days when I roll with my students, I tell them, if you want to go hard with all the other young guys on the mat, no problem, but when you roll with me, you had better take it easy and just roll nice, otherwise I will get the shits and hurt you, because I have done my years of hard style rolling, but these days I just want to cruise with my rolling, and enjoy the roll!

      I train BJJ as a lifestyle these days, and it brings me a lot of pleasure, plus it keeps me fit, strong, flexible, and even more technical with my approach to rolling with my BJJ partners.

      Like I said, my hard sessions are gone these days, actually I just enjoy to play, but if this is the wrong attitude to have, then please forgive me, but I will not change, simply because I’ve made up my mind to train for the rest of my life, and in doing so, I also had to learn just how to put my ego aside, especially when I roll with the younger guys, because the reality is that I’m in a different stage of my life, so I can’t expect to always dominate these much younger and fitter guys in my BJJ school all the time, actually I just want to have fun and enjoy the rolling sessions.

      Thank you for your great article, actually I feel much better now, because I never want to be considered as a weakling with what I do, but I also don’t want to be a prisoner to my ego as well, so please you take care guys!

      Regards from Professor Vince Palumbo
      Black Belt Pagels Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Australia

      • Thank you Professor Palumbo. Sounds like you’ve had quite a martial arts adventure. I’m sure you have some great stories.

  20. What a fantastic article! I cannot thank you enough for writing this. I’m only 2 years into my journey, but if I am so lucky I hope to do BJJ for the rest of my life, and I know that I will return to this article again and again. I have a busy professional and family life, and while I am completely addicted to BJJ, I know I’ll never be anything other than a hobbyist. (I’m also slow, small, not strong, unathletic, and don’t much care for competitions).

    Thanks again; I know if I ever find my way to Portland it would be an incredible honor to train with and learn from you.

  21. I love the term hobbyist; as a 48 yo white belt with a large family and a job I’m definitely a hobbyist. An addicted and devoted hobbyist….

  22. As a 42yr old Brown belt that’s been doing BJJ for a little over 10 yrs now and who has slowed my training down a good deal the last 3 years or so, due to age, spend more time with family and a very busy work schedule…this piece really hits home…well written, well said!

    I will practice BJJ until I can physically no longer do it. But as you mention, it’s good when one finds their place in the sport and their gym etc…


  23. I’ve been training for approximately 8 years now, and coaching for about 4. My development in the beginning of my journey in jiu jitsu was one of the most fun and r lighting experiences I’ve had in my life. As time went on, I got married, had kids, bought a home, etc. so my family and career had begun to take priority. Having to support a family, pay bills, the competition side of jiu jitsu that I loved had to be put on the back burner. Nights at the gym had become less frequent. Many of the things you’ve described in this post have hit so close to home.

    I’ve recently taken some time off over the summer from jiu jitsu to try to get back into a routine. My coach and good friend sent me the link to this article. I’m just gettI got around to reading it now, but I’m glad he did. It’s helped put things into perspective and has helped shake that feeling that it can’t be juggled. I’ve seen so many people start families while at the gym and not long after disappear to never be seen again. I always said that would never happen to me. And here I am. I’m still looking for that balance. I know it can be done. And this article has been very encouraging with that aspect. I hope to be able to find that balance soon and re ignite the passion I had once for jiu jitsu. Great post. Thanks.

  24. All i was thinking is i need that t-shirt anyone know if it’s an exclusive or if i can order it somewhere?!?!


  25. Love it. Just earned my black belt in Gracie Barra. I walked in a few days later, worried I’d embarrass myself by getting torn up by blue belts. I didn’t, but I realized that worrying about it was evidence that I hadn’t really decided what the black belt meant to me. It forced me to evaluate that, and decide that having a black belt doesn’t mean I can’t lose.

  26. Thank you for the post, and especially the honesty.
    ‘…. I am still perplexed by guard passing’
    I laughed my ass off! Not in a condescending way, but after 6 years in BJJ it’s certainly still the way I feel, with my mighty blue belt feelings/knowledgeofguardpassing; comforting to know that feeling doesn’t go away. Again, thank you for the post & for the genuine expression. There are so many unspoken ideas/expectations around Black belts, from all levels I feel; stuff like this serves as a good reminder of Black belts being people too.

  27. Coach Prevost,

    I’ve read this article three times now, and I appreciate it more each time I read it. I can’t fathom why anyone would respond negatively to this thoughtful, insightful article. I am a 40 year old blue belt, and I often have to remind myself that I don’t need to compete with guys 10-15 years younger than me. Whenever I begin to compare myself to guys and gals who are younger, faster, better, etc., I think about your article.

    I also apply your thoughts to another hobby of mine: jazz guitar. The same rules apply for a hobbyist musician struggling to learn an art form as complicated as jazz.
    I should say that I am a Portland resident, and a student of Eric Hemphill. Eric and the rest of the coaches have nothing but good things to say about you.

    • Thank you Matthew. Your coach is one of my favorite black belts. I used to take his classes here at SBG back when I was blue and purple belt. He is the only guy I know that looks like he’s inventing jiu jitsu every time he steps on the mat. Coach Hemphill is really inspiring. Good training to you and thanks for the comment.

  28. Nice read, let’s not forget the marjority of coaches are in the same boat, there’s not many full time coaches out there…..
    They too have to struggle with two or three nights a week coaching, and on many occasions not getting any time for them to play their beloved game….
    I suppose most martial arts are the same……..

  29. As a 10 year student at Brown belt on the verge of black belt I could not agree more with this article. Well done.

  30. greetings from Team Fabricio in Manila. thank you so much for this! very inspiring. especially since am a full time editor/journalist and only have time to train once a week. also started BJJ just a year and a half ago. just got my first stripe last Feb.

  31. You continue to be a fountain of insight. I had intended to be a brown belt blogger in your footprints at one point, but I think I “hobbied” that idea right out of being. 😉 Now I am the husband/father/career/train-for-the-moment black belt I am happy being, and it took about two years post promotion to get comfortable with that, especially in the presence of so many fine PDX grapplers. It does not sound like the warrior’s dream to be grateful to step away from the family once or twice a week for some mat time, come what may inside those windows of time, but the being there at all is as glorious to me as a raised hand at Worlds might be to another.

    Thanks for your post!

  32. Great article. I’ve read it several times and it’s encouraging each time. Thanks for being open and transparent. You have no idea how many people you’ve probably helped. I’m a 58 year old brand new “hobbyist” brown belt. On average, I train 3 times a week consistently. I certainly don’t dominate all of the lower belts. They’re mostly younger, bigger, stronger, more agile and have better cardio than I do. I generally hold my own, but I have some rough days where I feel nothing is working nearly as well as I’d like. I’m gradually improving but I have a long way to go.

  33. You wrote this post a long time ago, but it clearly resonates with people — especially me.

    I just got my black belt after 10 years and everything you wrote is exactly how I feel. I feel as though I have not mastered ANYTHING and the team I trained with (who I moved away from) continues to excel and accelerate in their skill sets. I have my game and like you it focuses on 3-4 things in each category…the rest is generally there but imprecise.

    My friend who has experienced the same told me I would just have to grow into my new skin…easier said than done.

    I’ve managed to ego check myself up until this point — and besides not wanting to let my coach down or mis-represent the art, I have to remember WHY I love Jiu Jitsu so much and what it means to me.

    Thank you so very much for writing this, it means more than you know.

  34. I think you said it perfectly. This applies to every stage, wether blue, purple etc..

    Very well said!

    It is very frustrating at times being a father of four and running a business. I’m happy if I get to the gym twice a week.

  35. Awesome write up thanks for sharing. I’m a 35 year old brown belt whose time spent training has consistently dropped as responsibilities have increased. House, children, increasing work responsibilities etc. I love BJJ but am constantly frustrated by how little time I can devote to it these days. I can relate to all of the sentiments you described. Happy rolling bud.

  36. Well said. I am a 35 yr old cherry black belt in the Chicago area and the only way I could keep up with the younger and more talented teammates was to rearrange my whole existence around training 5-6 days a week, sometimes 7. I gave up drinking, dating, and all dangerous activities that could put mat time in jeopardy. Now at the black belt level, I feel like I just started. And often wonder if I would have been happier as a normal person with a wife, career, kids, and human looking ears….no

  37. It’s a great piece you’ve written. I appreciate your sincerity and I think alot of us who have a black belt tied around our waist feel the same way, hobbyist or 1%’er. I think dealing with much of this and forging ahead is just one of those lessons we learn on the mat that teaches us alot by life off the mat. Jiu jitsu and life are a game of inches and progress rather than perfection. We only get good by keeping a positive attitude, hanging in there, and making those small incremental gains day by day and week by week.

  38. This article hits home more than you can imagine. I am a 48 year old Brown Belt that has really tapered off my training over the last 2-3 years. There have been times I thought that my lack of “dedication” by not training or teaching classes as much as I used to, meant that maybe I somehow didn’t deserve to train Jiu-Jitsu. But as you so beautifully put it; I am a Hobbyist. I have work, and a family and other responsibilities and learning how to balance all those along with my Jiu-Jitsu, doesn’t make me undeserving of training in Jiu-Jitsu. I believe, it just makes me a more well rounded person overall. Thank you again for writing this article!

  39. Every time I roll, I give my training partners advantage in terms of weight (at 145 lbs I am normally the lightest person in class), age (at 53, I am often the oldest person in class), and technique (after hand reconstructive surgery, I am limited in my use of grips).

    After attempting to act my age and give up BJJ, I returned after a year. And after a year away, just time spent on the mat even if it is just trying to survive against younger, bigger, and physically whole training partners gives me joy. I think my professor promoted me to black belt a few years ago not because I dominate on the mat but because he sees me enjoy my struggle there.

  40. Wow! Thank you for putting your thoughts Into print. I read this post a long time ago and just came across it again. It resonates with me even more now that I’m a 48 year old hobbyist brown belt.
    I have a family, a business, and other interests that I’m not willing to short change even though I am addicted to BJJ. This has caused me to have a great struggle with the self imposed pressure (ego!) that has come with each new belt. In fact, sometimes my enjoyment of the art is hampered because I feel as though I’m a poor representation of the “belt”.

    Don’t get me wrong, I still love jiu jitsu and have a blast most nights that I train, but I have to continually remind myself to put my pride aside, trust that my coach wouldn’t have promoted me if he thought that I didn’t deserve it, and to see myself as an example to others like me who simply can’t train every day.

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