Starting over at 46

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I have a birthday coming up in a few weeks that’s causing me some anxiety.  I’ve never concerned myself with growing older but for some reason this birthday is weighing on me.  Maybe it’s because I will officially be on the downhill side of my forties or because the last time I grew a beard there was a lot more gray in it than I remembered.  It might also be because my body has suddenly started doing all these strange things as I get older.  I can’t eat an apple without producing enough methane gas to launch a Space Shuttle, and sometimes when I sneeze a little bit of poop comes out.  I also injure myself now by doing strenuous things like putting on my shoes, and sleeping.  Things take longer to heal, and I find myself making these groaning noises in the mornings, my father made shortly before he died.

I also just had a realization I’m not as smart or enlightened as I thought I was.  The ego is an amazing trickster and I’ve been duped again.  I started training in the martial arts when I was thirteen years old and earned my first black belt by the time I was eighteen.  Before I had turned twenty five I had two more.  Earning belts and taking promotion tests became less and less important to me.  Once I had five black belts I just stopped testing all together.  I figured, what was the point?  So many people feel like a black belt gives a person a subconscious excuse to quit improving.  Like it’s some golden calf to strive for or like they’ve reached the end.  I hate that and don’t want to be a part of it.  It’s been probably fifteen years since I’ve taken a formal test.

My ego told me for years that I didn’t need to bother myself with such trivial things as labels and rankings.  My ego convinced me I had transcended all of that silliness.  Now I’m not so sure.  Now it feels more like hiding than transcending.  Realizing this has caused me to ask myself a lot of questions.

What would it be like to take a test today?  Could I do it with this body?  How different would it be to start over now at forty-six than when I started at thirteen?  What would it be like to take a black belt test at fifty-two as opposed to eighteen?

This is what I plan to find out.

To do this right, and to truly challenge myself I need to find a system I know little to nothing about.  By studying something unfamiliar I won’t be able to fall back on old habits, muscle memory, or knowledge being transferred from a similar fighting style.

The closest system I’ve found that fits these parameters for me is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ).

While it’s true I’ve studied some grappling before, BJJ is different because it relies on finesse instead of brute strength which has been something I’ve leaned on heavily in the past.  Also BJJ primarily focuses on ground fighting and I happen to fall down a lot so why not just start there.  Plus I’m a huge fan of lying down.

Here is my declaration to myself and to the world.  On my forty-sixth birthday I am going to start studying BJJ as a white belt.  I will be on the mat sometimes early in the mornings, and other times late into the evenings.  I will be the best training partner I can be to those on the mat with me.  I will not cry and I will try very hard not to choke myself out…again.  I will not take it personally when kids half my age call me ‘old man’ and I will not be sadistically gleeful when I make them tap out (ok, that last one was a lie).

My goal will be to take my Blue Belt test (the first belt ranking) by the end of 2014 or whenever my instructor tells me I’m ready.  My long range goal is to take my Black Belt test somewhere around the time I will be fifty-two, and to still be training when I turn sixty.

Care to join me?


  1. Travis

    Thank you for sharing your insight. I enjoy your blog. I might suggest talking to Rob Handley at absolute mma. He is an incredible instructor, and GREAT person. The environment is great. I have trained at several mma gyms in the SLC area and it is far better than others I have been to. Fusion Acadamy also has a good environment. Anyway, good luck!

    1. Darren Lamb

      Thanks Travis!
      I will check him out.

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