Here's a picture of my dad, James Terlecki, receiving his black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) at the age of 74.
Let me take you back 15 years ago and tell you how it all began.
Cleveland Ohio, 1999. At this point in time I had been training in Jiu-Jitsu for almost 2 years. My dad and I would drive an hour and a half both ways, 3 days a week, from Youngstown to Cleveland to train with Craig Cramer, one of Royce Gracie's best friends and protégé. Craig ran and operated one of the first Gracie Jiu-Jitsu association academy's in the country. Back then there were no Jiu-Jitsu academies near us, so I had to make the commute. My dad has always been very thoughtful, so he asked me if I would like it if he came up with me. I said, "sure."
Keep in mind that before this my dad and I had trained together in Korean Tae Kwon Do for over 10 years. Those were some of the best years of my life. We made some great friends along the way, two of which are in the photo above; Sam Naples and Charles Stepan. I started training in TKD when I was 8 years-old and my dad started a year later when he was in his mid to late 40's. I remember my mom and dad sitting on the couch at the studio watching me train. My dad always pushed me to train my hardest and to be the best I can be.
Fast forward that 15 years and there's my dad, sitting on the couch at the Jiu-Jitsu academy, watching me train. Just like back at the TKD school, as much as my dad enjoyed watching me train he wanted to give it a try. Remember, at this time my dad was 60 years-old. Most people would have argued, including most doctors, that my dad was too old to start training in something as physical as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. And most people at 60 years-old would say to themselves, "I can't do this. As much as I would love to I'm just too old," but not my dad. He was determined to start training and working towards becoming a BJJ black belt.
Today, At 74 years-old, my father still loves to get on the mat and train. Can he train like the twenty and thirty year-olds at the school? No, but he has adapted his game and his style to work for him. That's the great thing about Jiu-Jitsu; you don't make yourself fit Jiu-Jitsu, you make Jiu-Jitsu fit you. You adapt the techniques and modify the moves to work for you and your body. Check out the picture below of Eric Ingram who is the first quadriplegic to earn a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Here's a link Eric's blue belt test. Simply amazing!!!
I have to ask you, do you still think you're too old to start training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu? A few months ago I had a student, Gene Brode, join the academy and he's 68 years-old. Gene has been an encouragement to all of us. He is working super hard; sometimes training twice a day, both morning and evening classes. The best part is, he LOVES it! He's making new friends...getting in shape...staying mentally sharp...learning how to protect himself and doing something he truly enjoys.
So, what's holding you back? What's keeping you from experiencing all the benefits that training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has to offer? Don't let your age, fears or any insecurities you have hold you back. If this is something you'd truly like to do than go for it. Most schools, including my own, offer some type of trial where you can pay a few bucks and try out a few classes; that way you can experience a few classes to see if Jiu-Jitsu is right for you. If you're still fearful just think about James Terlecki, Gene Brode and Eric Ingram, and how they didn't let their age or handicaps stop them from participating in this amazing art. See you on the mat!
Grace To You,