Everyone is drawn to martial arts for different reasons. And for many of us – sometimes those reasons change the longer we stay in them.
A large portion of us (myself included) showed up to our first class just looking to get in better shape. For others, it’s the need to physically defend themselves and gain confidence. And some just want to find a new hobby and to make some new friends along the way.
The UFC did a remarkable job at showing the world how effective BJJ and Muay Thai are as martial arts and along the way inspired many people to start training themselves. For myself – and a lot of other young men especially – growing up, we idolized different fighters and their accomplishments. To us they were like real life superheroes. Explosive muscle-bound super athletes engaging in epic bloody wars.
For us regular, every-day folks, watching fights between athletes of this caliber who can take seemingly endless amounts of punishment raises a few common questions: Is this for me? Am I too big, or too small?
I am a regular person in my mid 30s/40/50s and I have a career/family to worry about – is this really for me?
I am 5’6” and 125 pounds; how can I do this without getting hurt by someone bigger?
I am on the heavier side and inflexible with a hip replacement — how do I preform all these techniques required to be effective?
First of all, remember that most of the athletes who become champions in the UFC and other combat sports have been training, lifting, dieting and grinding in smaller competitions and promotions since they were young, and we’re just seeing the end result.
I often remind new students who watch the advanced class that those people were all once in the same place as them – they just kept showing up.
As much as we would all have loved being born with a perfect combination of natural talent, athleticism, and strength on top of meeting the right coaches at the right time in our lives, that just isn’t the case for many of us.
Affective for all body types
The good news is Jiu Jitsu is one of the few martial arts where you can still be truly effective even if you have some physical limitations.
Jean Jacques Machado infamously was born missing most of his left hand and was still able to be extremely dominant in competition. There is a blind grappler – Clinton Terry – from Australia who has competed quite frequently and owns a school called Daredevil Jiu Jitsu.
We have seen a few competitors show up to tournaments with a missing leg or arm and clean out their divisions without even breaking a sweat. Not to mention the training partners I am sure we all know and love in our academies who come to open mats with missing knee ligaments and various other issues and still manage to mop the mats with us. Every single one of these people have been able to find a way to make Jiu Jitsu effective for them.
If you are on the smaller side, there are ways to maneuver yourself around someone bigger so they can’t crush you. If you are older or lack mobility, there are ways to tie up younger, more explosive training partners to control them. If you are bigger, there are ways to use your size to your advantage and still be technical and have a deep understanding of the art.
It is in this way that Jiu Jitsu teaches us something truly profound – to understand our bodies and accept ourselves for what we have and not what we wish we had.
Something that might have even gotten us teased or bullied when we were younger is suddenly considered a gift. A physical set back that was a big deal somewhere else or in other sports means almost nothing in BJJ, and it can be worked around. We learn that the only person we should really compare ourselves to is who we were yesterday and not who we see on social media or TV.
So are you too big, small, or old for Jiu Jitsu? I think it’s clear the only thing holding some of us back from starting is not the size or shape of our bodies, but our willingness to step outside of our comfort zone and try something new.
If you step into any Easton academy you will see people from all walks of life ready to greet you with open arms (and chokes!) Only one way to truly find out of it is for you – come train!