Last month I attended the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) World Master Tournament in Las Vegas to serve as coach on behalf of Princeton Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, where I train and teach. This tournament is targeted to competitors who are at least 30 years old. The idea is that many of us who have been around a while still want to test ourselves in competition, even though we might not be able to hang as well anymore with the young bucks. It was the first time I had been to this event, but with any luck, it won’t be the last.
For me it was like old home week; I ran into teachers, friends and training partners from all corners of my life, some of whom I hadn’t seen in close to a decade. We are all scattered, but we all still love jiu-jitsu, that crazy life choice that brought us all together in the first place. I had a great time coaching and cheering teammates and friends. I got caught up in the energy to the point where I even thought once or twice about how much competitive drive I still have. At this event, not being a spring chicken is no excuse for not testing yourself.
“Older” doesn’t mean “soft,” though. This is still a world tournament, after all. These competitors were prepared. They had done work, and they demonstrated this when they squared off. (I imagine the average body fat percentages of this particular group of 30-, 40-, and 50-somethings was significantly lower than what you would find elsewhere in the U.S.)
In addition, the tournament itself had an upbeat, happy energy that, while not necessarily missing from other tournaments I have attended, was present in spades at this one. There were the usual nerves and hectic pace, but there also seemed to be a real camaraderie, even between opponents. I doubt I was the only one reuniting with old friends and teammates. Plus, it was in Vegas, and, unlike most IBJJF tournaments, this one ended on Saturday instead of Sunday. Coincidence? I think not.
Ultimately, this tournament reminded me of some of the best influences and experiences jiu-jitsu has brought into my life. Although our lives and bodies change as we get older, we can navigate those transitions gracefully AND still kick butt.