Die with your gi on

I’ve had some of my Karate teachers tell me that training Jiu-Jitsu is too hard on the body, and that at some point as I age, I will have to give it up. It’s possible they just said that as a devious ploy to try and get me to quit Jiu-Jitsu and come back to Karate full time, but a couple of them are also speaking as experienced Judoka, which I believe is the basis for their assessment.

I don’t think there’s any question that Jiu-Jitsu (and Judo) takes a toll. One of our Karate brown belts told me that she is shocked by how much Jiu-Jitsu/Judo training is ruining Sensei Ken’s feet. When she said that, I thought of my own feet, which are covered with mat burn scars, and every single toe (except the two big piggies that went to market) are misshapen from being broken and/or dislocated multiple times. Then I thought of the story I’d heard about the Jiu-Jitsu player who broke one of his big toes so badly that they told him he wouldn’t be able to train anymore unless it was amputated, so he told them to go ahead and cut it off. Yeah, that’s how we roll!

When my Karate Sensei first told me I wouldn’t be able to train Jiu-Jitsu for the long term, I think it made me feel like I had to learn as much as I could, as quickly as I could, before I ran out of time. Even my husband is convinced that I am going to end up a crippled old lady because of Jiu-Jitsu, but lately I’ve been thinking about how I can avoid that, and continue training for the rest of my life. I know it can be done.

We used to have a Judoka at our dojo, Paul Owen-Sensei, who started Judo when he was thirty-five years old (which is the same age I was when I started Karate), and he continued to train for over fifty years, up until his death a few years ago, when he was in his nineties. The legend around the dojo is that even at his advanced age, when Sensei Paul pinned you, it was impossible to get out, no matter how young, strong, or athletic you were. His many years of training had provided him with solid technique and supreme relaxation, which were extremely difficult for his opponents to overcome.

I’ve always felt like I was in a race to learn Jiu-Jitsu, and so I wanted to slam as much as I could before I got too old, but now I think the key to longevity might be to relax and slow down. I need to develop flawless technique that I can maintain as I age, and I have to adequately protect myself, in order to do the least amount of damage. Training harder might not work for me in the long term, but training smarter will.  If Sensei Paul could do it, so can I.

R.I.P. Paul Owen-Sensei

5 comments on “Die with your gi on

  1. Sensei Paul once pinned me to demonstrate the technique to the kids and told me to escape. I couldn't, but I wasn't trying very hard because I was afraid of breaking him (he was already in his 90s then). He told me to try harder. I still couldn't escape and had to stop when I noticed his elbow was bloody. He pulled up his sleeve and there was a bit flap of torn skin. He just shrugged it off and said "yah, my skin's kind of thin. It does that." I took him over and bandaged him up and he came back and finished the class.

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