There has been a lot of publicity recently around the Enson Inoue decision to demote himself from Black to Purple belt, then back again. But did his initial lack of understanding lead him to a greater self knowledge in bjj?
His reaction to the fact that lower grades we beating him, has started to lead him towards that point all of us older athletes get to. The younger guys on the mat will have an advantage over you and you have to learn to accept that. You really don’t have to like it, but acceptance is learning. If you have been training bjj for any length of time you will know that self knowledge in bjj comes free with every class.
There were a number of comments by some well respected black belts at the time. During this I read a really good article that struck home for me. You can read the full article here and I would recommend that you do. The applies not only to black belts but anyone older training in BJJ. Getting beat by younger lower grades really does suck! But it is something as you get older you have accept. Just because you have a coloured belt does not make you invincible to lower belt. This is the issue I have with a couple of amazing white belts at my club. It sucks to get tapped by these guys, but it happens. Then I’ll go back another night and do it again.
I accept that I will probably get tapped, I don’t like it and I am only a blue belt. I can understand that Enson’s situation as a black belt is worse. But as the author of the article says, “…..acceptance has made it so that this truth doesn’t interfere with my enjoyment of the art and my progression in it.”
Old guys jiu jitsu is always going to have to be different that the younger bucks. I have accepted these guys will beast me, but what I have also found it is a useful motivator. I guess that a blue belt I still have plenty to learn, so working with these guys allows me to do that. Each time I remember what these guys get me on and try and improve. I may not have youth, athleticism or that sponge like learning ability, but I have old man strength and sneakiness. If I can make these guys work hard and push them to use everything they have then I am getting better.
I do compete a little and using these guys as competition prep is great, it’s almost like altitude training it’s that hard. But as a Masters 4 I am sure I will never face anyone like them in my category, which helps build my confidence. Benardo Faria did a great blog post here where he advocates using the “tough guys” when preparing for a competition. If those “tough guys” are lower grades who cares tough is tough. I definitely don’t spend all night rolling with them. I am old enough to be their dad, so there is a time and place and picking that is important too.
Whatever grade you are there will always eventually be someone else better. But the determination you learn as a white and blue belt should never be lost. At this level you are constantly learning and trying to improve. That is what happens as you get older, you have to learn to adapt your game to play within with your limitations (or just outside them). But as a 45 year old blue belt I know I am never going to be a berimbolo king and I can accept that.