INTERVIEWS — 03 October 2013

No matter how old we get, there is always one thing that remains constant; a certain degree of anxiety when starting something new.

Think about all the times over the years you have been unsure of something; the first day of college, the big job interview, meeting your significant other’s parents, first day on the job, trying out for a team, etc…there is an air of uneasiness due to the unknown.

I have seen many older grapplers start in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu well into their 40’s, and even they struggled with a bout of anxiety at first!

In no way am I knocking these people, as it is to be expected, but there is always a way to get around these feelings.  Luckily, I had the chance to catch up with Mark Hopkins, a world renowned grappler, to discuss how older BJJ players can transition into the sport without having any serious fear or setback. I also got to talk to another top BJJ black belt over the age of 40, John Connors, and this is what he had to say.

The first rule is simple: before you step foot into the gym, erase what you think you know about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and be ready to learn.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu & What It Isn’t

The heel hook, a BJJ submision, is often seen in MMA fights proving the dominance of BJJ in MMA

The heel hook, a BJJ submision, is often seen in MMA fights proving the dominance of BJJ in MMA

The growing popularity of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu can likely be correlated directly to the rise of Mixed Martial Arts.  With the growing popularity of the UFC, and emergence of newer promotions such as Bellator and the World Series of Fighting, BJJ will continue to enjoy it’s own success.

Many fans tune into the fights and get the rush of the event.  While it’s easy to see why people love MMA, it could very well be a reason why BJJ is misunderstood.

Fans want to train MMA for fun—well, most of the time—but they don’t want to do all the nitty-gritty stuff that comes with.  Boxing, Muay Thai, Judo, etc. all have intense striking, so they may choose for something like Jiu Jitsu.

To the average fan, they hear Joe Rogan say how this guy is an elite BJJ black belt, and they tie that to fighting, not knowing there is zero striking in Jiu Jitsu!

Remember: BJJ is a part of MMA…not all of it!  The grappling and submission holds we see inside the cage is what consists of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, not the striking. You can actually check out what BJJ in MMA looks like in the sweet video MMA Live made that I provided below.

Check Your Ego At The Door

Once you have done your research and have a found a gym nearby, it’s time to get going!  Before you enter the gym for the first time, it’s vital that you check your ego at the door!  It doesn’t matter what your athletic background is, BJJ is a totally different animal and it will humble you quickly if it needs to.

Coming to grips with the fact you are a beginner is a useful tool, as you will soon be learning at a much quicker rate than you would if walked in with a cocky approach.

Simply put, there are many potential reasons BJJ could scare someone…and those are all likely false.  The sport isn’t dangerous and it doesn’t discriminate.

So come on in…the water’s fine!

Dan Faggella

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