This week at Jiu-Jitsu I was awarded my first promotion up to a higher rank. I'm now a white belt with 1st stripe. It's a far cry from a black belt but after a couple of months of classes, I'm no longer the absolute bottom of the barrel in experience.
Over the past few months there have been a number of new faces come through the door. Some stick around for a class or two, some a week or two, and some become regulars. I'm sure everybody who walks through the front door of the facility has the same thought, "I'm going to become awesome at MMA or some discipline of martial arts." And we are all excited the first class or two. And then reality sets in. You quickly have to come to grips with the fact that mastering the skills requires an enormous amount of time, discipline, and persistence. It's just like anything. If you want to be good at anything, it's going to take time. Sure, some will learn faster than others or have more natural abilities, but regardless of potential, it's a long road.
I'm still quite excited about my journey at learning and participating but am forced to come to grips with a few items of reality. First, I am constantly reminded that it is a physically demanding activity. Injuries are part of the game. I think the smartest athlete is the one who figures out how to progress on the learning curve with diminishing their injuries which would prevent them from training and repetition. Some of that is just luck though.
Second, I'm also reminded that although I'm in great physical shape (relatively speaking) and getting in better sport specific shape with each passing day and week, I'm no longer 25 years old (or 30 or 35 for that matter). I still remember what it felt like a few years ago to have the ability to pound myself into oblivion with Ironman training, day after day, week after week and just keep coming back for more and more.
That isn't happening in jiu-jitsu. As much as I would love to go to class each day, I'm finding that if I go more than 3 or 4 days in a row, my body just breaks down and I'm halted with stiff joints, pulled muscles, and soreness. I'm just not sure if over the next few months my body will adapt, or I'll have to just settle for jiu-jitsu only a couple of times a week. In the meantime, there's no shortage of opportunities to do other activities like striking classes, running, weightlifting, stretching/yoga, and other physical fitness routines.
There's plenty of days I have thoughts in the back of my head that say, "I'm too old for this shit..." Five years ago I was 35 and feeling like I was in better shape than most 20 year olds. Now at 40, there's been a few days that I feel like 50 and remind myself that I'm 40 and should have plenty of physical ability to do what I want to do. If you could imagine me laying on the floor on my back and having to roll over to get up and everything goes in slow motion, joints cracking, muscles stiff and slow.
But, although I know I'm past my physical peak, with any hope of athletic glory far back in the rear view mirror, I'm just not content to lead a sedentary life and let myself go physically. I may be on a slow decline physically over the next few decades (it happens to us all) but I hope that I just do the best I can and always try my hardest to stay in the best shape that I can with what I have to work with.
I'd like to think that I'll be smart enough to always keep my health my highest priority. It's something that you just can't buy and often the things we work hard for in life; career, material items, etc. end up placing an enormous amount of stress on us that actually diminish our health.