Competing BJJ in Brazil

Part V: When to Admit You’re an Old Dude

This blog had its genesis in 2013 when I quit work and went to live in Rio with the sole intention of training and competing in jiu-jitsu full-time.

I had the misfortune of turning thirty prior to my arrival in Brazil, and it didn’t take long to realise that competing in the adult division wasn’t going to yield much in the way of a reward. At the time, I was a blue belt; to win some of the larger tournaments, meant having my hand raised in at least five matches. I would be matched against some of the top aspiring competitors in jiu-jitsu, athletic dudes in their late teens, future world champions who had potentially been training full-time for years.

I was forced to confront this reality – competing against some of the best in the world in my weight category and belt level, just wasn’t feasible if I wanted to win, and I really did want to win. I might be victorious in a couple of matches but invariably beaten by younger and more skilled athletes.

I can absolutely empathise with those who question what is the point in competing if you are not going to compete with the best? But, for me the decision appeared a purely pragmatic one, I wanted to be the best, and that was nigh impossible in the adult division but a realistic possibility at the masters level with the dudes who were also on the wrong side of thirty.

My decision was made; I would do everything that was humanly possible to be the best grappler aged between 30-35. And, for the last three and a half years at blue and purple belt I did just that, competing in over 30 tournaments.

Competing in Brazil there are very few easy matches whatever category you compete in. I won and I lost but, had the most amazing experiences against dudes who were on a similar level as myself. It might have been an ego-driven decision but it wasn’t one that I regretted.

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