The Struggle of Starting Jiu Jitsu as an Adult

At Jiu Jitsu Times, reader questions allow us to really explore issues and questions that the community has.  We recently got the following question:

“I am a very competitive Person having done martial arts and sports all my life and that translated easily into BJJ. At 30 years of age I have a full time Job that I enjoy, a significant other, a kid and other obligations. Reason dictates that it’s highly unlikely I will be able to dedicate enough time to train like a professional athlete let alone win Worlds. Having started BJJ two years ago and recently earning my Blue Belt I want to be in it for the long haul but I’m afraid all this pressure I’m putting on myself will make me not enjoy BJJ as much and eventually burn out. Any advice on how to bring my expectations more in line with my circumstances?”

I will do my best to answer this question based on my own experiences and understanding…

The writer of this question sounds a lot like me.  I’ve been doing martial arts my entire life and I turn 31 very soon, and I only started seriously training jiu jitsu with the intention of competing in my late 20’s.  The reality is that the odds are low that a person who starts BJJ later in life will be able to accomplish a coveted adult world title.  But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lot that you can do with the sport.  In fact, our situation is quite common.

Having a job, a significant other and a child or children are of course major hindrances, but there are compromises that can be made.  For example: get your kid involved in jiu jitsu so that you have a reason to train more.  Get your significant other involved as well if he or she is willing.  The more entrenched you become in the sport, the more likely you are to succeed.

Do what you can.

I have a full time job, a significant other and other responsibilities in life outside of jiu jitsu.  I do, however, try to compete as much as I can.  Unfortunately I cannot afford either the time or the money involved in traveling to compete, but in my area, there are local competitions at least once or twice a month.  I use these to satisfy my competitive urges, and I am planning on trying to ramp up these efforts as time and money allow.

If you want to compete, find a way.  But also understand that different people go through life on different schedules.  Look at Helvecio Penna or Abraham Marte.  Both athletes started BJJ later than usual and both have achieved tremendous things in their careers.

Some things ARE more important. 

Because every person is different, I can’t give a definite answer to this question, but I do think there are some guidelines.  The key is balance.  Every person’s definition of balance is inherently different.  Some people may think of training 7 days a week, twice a day as a balanced jiu jitsu lifestyle, for some training once a week is a burden.  Train to enrich your love of jiu jitsu, not to make yourself ultimately resent it.


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