Sunday, August 9, 2009

Grappling for older folks..

Being in the "over the hill and halfway up the next" age group, I always read with interest any wisdom imparted by others who are involved in the martial arts as they get older. I'm particularly interested in their opinions when it comes to wrestling.

Now, I'm not bitching, but my personal challenge (I'm not allowing myself to see it as a problem) is compounded by the fact that I'm a woman and that I started martial arts less than two years ago. What I have in my favour is the fact that I've always been very active, due to a work and life on a farm and around horses. Also I'm not too squeamish and have a reasonable level of pain tolerance.

... With other words I thought I was tough and in shape until I started grappling ;-) Well, that was my first mistake.

I've had my fair share of bumps and bruises and more serious stuff. But at the height of my competition 'career' with the horses I was several years younger and all the injuries I sustained and all the sore bits I had I got over pretty quickly. I never managed broken bones, but I ended up in the casualty ward with things like a kick to the abdomen, a broken nose and concussion and a near busted ankle. I injured my knee, nearly dislocated my jaw, was knocked out on a couple of occasions and my toes were bruised and battered. Yes, I was a wild child.

I had some years off from competition and that whole scene is behind me now. Instead, I discovered the martial arts. Only now, my body takes longer to get used to new things, takes longer to get over exertions and especially takes longer to get over injuries. That's something which frustrates me but with old age comes not only a more decrepit body, but a more mature mind (well...). So I know I have to deal with it and I guess I'm coming to terms with it.

Having recently come through a bit of a slump which I'm sure was mainly due to overtraining and post-flu fatigue, I've learned a few new lessons. The hard way. I need to listen to my body. I need to back off sometimes and miss a few sessions. Hard to do when BJJ is a bit of a burning passion, but if I still want to do this stuff in 10 years, I need to look after the body I was issued with. There are no warranty claims, no parts exchanges, no upgrades. What you see is what I've got. And like any ageing mechanism, it needs regular maintenance and a bit of TLC.

So tomorrow, I'm having a massage. Not because I'm hurting all over, I'm actually back to my usual training levels and holding up well. I'm having a massage because it will make me feel good and because it will loosen things I don't even notice are tight, and hopefully make me perform better. I'm sure I'll have down times again, but by investing in a bit of TLC for my old bones, I hope that I will feel better for longer or ward off another low spot.

Am I regretting getting started in BJJ? No way. Yes, it can be tough. Yes, I need to pace myself a little. Yes, I need to tap often and early. And yes, I enjoy it tremendously, even if it hurts at times. And I don't care that I'm old, a girl and a latecomer. The odd one out in most classes. I'm alive, and I'm so much more alive and in the moment when we're rolling, so it's all worth it.

And just to prove that I'm not the only one who's grappling on the downhill side of things, here are a few posts from Stephan Kesting's site, Grapplearts. Some of his Grappling Tips Newsletters deal with the older grappler. So if this subject is dear to your heart, read and enjoy :-)

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