By Nick Mavrick
Middle-Age jiu jitsu comes with a unique set of consequences
This is for the statelier of our jiu jitsu gentlemen and ladies; our venerated mat denizens, if you will. If you are over 35, you’ll know what I’m talking about. If you’re over 40, you’re living it every waking moment.
The cacophony that is my body when I get out of bed in the morning is not unlike a mouth filled with Pop-Rocks. I sound like a bowl of rice crispies when you get your ear real close. Sometimes my hips, knees, or elbows are like 2 or 3 mouse traps springing in the very near vicinity in a semi-simultaneous symphony. There isn’t pain associated with every crack, but it’s enough to illicit winces from my wife and the occasional profane exclamation.
Mostly it just makes me laugh. I am blessed to have had the opportunities to use my body in ways that would leave me in this condition. There has been a lot of basketball (my first love), a lot of skiing, a lot of martial arts, and motorcycles, and hockey, and miscellaneous misbehaving…
Those of us who are drawn to combat sports don’t tend to be consistently cautious…
I have not been careful. I’ve been careless and it has cost me. I wish that it was all cool stuff, but also, I’m a clod. It could be that I get hurt during hard sparring and ski jumps miscalculated. It’s just as likely to have been a mundane activity that causes the damage. At this very moment I’m sitting gingerly because I smashed my tailbone on the corner of my kitchen island trying to catch falling frozen meat that I had situated precariously in the freezer. They slid out when I opened the door and for some inexplicable reason I exploded back, away from the freezer. When I tried to catch the tray before it hit the ground, we all met there, the burgers and I.
The pain comes and goes. I am still actively incurring new injuries all the time, mostly as a downstream effect of older injuries. I (like many of you) deal with chronic pain and there is a part of me, I think, that likes it. It gives me a sense that I’m tough–that I am able to endure.
I think that’s probably a pretty common old guy thing. Ask me about it again when I’m fifty-three.
Even with all that and everything that comes with it, the obligate pre-warmup-warmups so I don’t shred my back doing front rolls or Granbys, the one-handed training and bruised face that accompanies it, the near-paralysis that is my state when I make it home and try to get out of the car, I come back again and again to find those 15 minutes.
15 minutes. Those times when everything’s working and there isn’t any pain…
I don’t get it every time that I train. I may get it during a good drill session. It might manifest during rounds. It’s that magical collection of moments during which nothing hurts. Everything feels as well-oiled and mobile as when the warranty was still good. I feel strong–the fruits of all those pull-ups and all those pushups and burpees. My joints are elastic and I am ecstatic. The fabled quickness that has long-since left me happens by for a moment to say “hello.” Time slows and the joy of the sport becomes apparent while I grind and grin my way through rounds with my canvas-jammies-clad brothers and sisters. These are the rounds when I feel unstoppable, though the outcomes don’t much matter to me anymore. I spring to my feet when one round ends and I am eager to begin the next. I am 25 again–but this time, I am not wasting it.
Life is full of anachronistic paradoxes that are often dismissed with throw-away lines like, “you’ll understand when your older,” and “youth is wasted on the young.”
The 15 minutes that I describe–that I chase–is a rare instance when if feels as though my peak physical attributes, my age and experience, my endurance and my toughness can all briefly co-exist. I feel like I fell out of the pages of a comic book.
Then, the buzzer buzzes. The group lines up to bow and shake hands. We hug and then goof off. I shower and get dressed and by the time I slowly and carefully sit down to put on my shoes, I am acutely aware that I have ambled into the balance of The 15.
I have entered the 23:45. And I am satisfied. I will groan and grunt and wince at the unsympathetic look on my wife’s face when I crawl into bed with a bag of ice. I will snap, crackle, and pop up out of bed at 5:00 AM tomorrow for another crack at it.