Old Man Jiu-Jitsu And Why My Boy Won’t Hit You

Jiu-Jitsu Disciplined Me & My Son

Jiu-Jitsu with my son, YuriAs a martial art, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu stands apart. It requires live matches as a regular part of training and provides solutions to fights that won’t end in civil lawsuits.

Many physical disciplines have a host of benefits beyond their main focus. Yoga offers more than stretching. Boxing offers more than punching.

Jiu-Jitsu offers a robust package within a playful wrapping and shared by a tight-nit community of old souls.

It is a challenge in time, money, pain, and injury, but for both my son and I, it has been a worthwhile year at Renzo Gracie Academy, Portland.

Why do something that hurts?

Quote from my Gi's neck
“Fighting is the best thing a man can have in his soul.” -Renzo Gracie’s words on my gi’s collar.

I am lazy.

It’s easy for me to lose a day, a week, a year doing nothing I can take pride in.

There is always the easy path away from challenges. In another life, I’d be alone and drifting, avoiding pain and purpose.

Every time I ride my bicycle to Jiu-Jitsu class, I think about quitting.

Yuri, my son, is lazy too. He doesn’t ask to quit completely, but often wants to skip going in favor of some screen time.

I see in him everything I want to be and everything I fear to become.

I don’t worry about the monster in him or me. I’ve always had a good handle on my potential for horrible acts against others. I think he’s developing that control too.

My fear for us is apathy and a kind of gluttony, but with media more than meals.

Ironically, to overcome sloth and gluttony, pride has been my best tool.

Jiu-Jitsu has me constantly face to face with people making better choices:

  • Micro-movements, shifts in posture and grips.
  • Breathing deep, and staying calm.
  • Feinting, tricking, and smooth transitions.

Every class has a million chances to be better. Rolling with partners offers the perspective to judge this and the motivation to improve.

I may be lazy but Renzo Gracie’s quote calls to me, and I can find fight in my soul when there’s a challenge with an audience.

Being an only child:

One day oldYuri needs to play rough and learn like a cub or pup the physical boundaries between people. Words are worthless alone. He needs to play with kids his age.

Hurting and getting hurt is essential on his path to maturity. As an only child in Portland, his options for this growth are limited.

Violence or playing?

From school to aftercare and even to play-dates with other kids, adults have little to no tolerance for rough housing.

Fear of lawsuits more than fear of injury.

Jiu-Jitsu has given my son a crash course in how to be violent safely and socially:

  • Pain may be caused, but lasting injury is avoided.
  • Hurt feelings are resolved quickly with few to no tears.

These are skills kids from big families may take for granted because they are constantly engaged psychically and emotionally with siblings.

I love watching my son roll around with his teammates before his Jiu-Jitsu class starts. This miniature mosh pit is a part of growing up. They are pack animals, a zoo attraction with a litter of young predators playing.

For the most part they keep their claws retracted.

I’ve learned to relax in my seat and trust their instincts to avoid damaging each other.

My Jiu-Jitsu game, such as it is.

As a no-stripe white belt, it is a stretch to claim to have any game at all, but I’ve been putting my mat time in every week for over a year (minus injury time for ribs and neck).

Yuri has two stripes.

With the gi on:

My fingers are stiff, twisted, and sore after months of abuse. I’ve learned the hard way to tape finger joints that will never recover.

But, now I have a strong grip, and I love to gi wrap for attack and defense.

I did a web search to make sure I should’t use a belt to choke.

It is tempting to overuse the gi. I sometimes hold on too long and my arm gets pulled into a threatening position, or I loose opportunities because my focus is too fixed.

I think it can be a crutch or a tool, and I’ve been using it sparingly to greater success.

I’ve been focusing on gi chokes, especially from side control, and was thrilled last week to score a paper cutter on a partner I started Jiu-Jitsu with. He was a great sport and even happy for me, despite it being a rather uncomfortable submission.


I spend less time on the mat with no-gi. My steady improvement has a lot to do with increased athleticism, trimming up, and balancing on top with side control, knee-on-belly, and north-south positions.

I’m comfortable with only a few finishing moves in no-gi, and so I’m looking to the D’arce and other neckties to expand my repertoire.

I should work on my flexibility to make my triangle attack from the bottom viable, but I don’t yet have the stretching discipline away from the gym.

This is my head coach, Aaron Milam, showing an awesome sweep I’d love to accomplish in a live match:

As a forty-one year old, I appreciate having such a squirrelly head coach. Aaron manages to show his effectiveness against larger opponents in ways I can find useful against younger and more athletic training partners.

One day my son will stand before me as a man. On this day… I still want to be able to kick his ass.


Throws scare me. I appreciate that Judo has a strong presence in our Jiu-Jitsu curriculum, but I worry about my knees and neck.

My neck and shoulders have muscle tension issues, and I was raised by a mother with bad knees.

I want to gain comfort in starting a match standing, but there is nothing more dangerous than sparring with a white belt. A bad throw could cost me my day job which would collapse my family’s world.

So, I learn Judo with great care. Apologies to my coaches, if this looks like I’m avoiding throws… I am, but eventually I won’t… Probably.

Muay Thai

I love that my gym offers striking classes with my monthly membership.

For now though, the grappling of Jiu-Jitsu is a big enough challenge. After I’ve gotten a few stripes, maybe I’ll try the basics of Muay Thai’s strikes.

Jiu-Jitsu is not for everyone

But, it should be respected by everyone. It has added value to my life and my family’s life.

Try it out.

Embrace humanity and get a stranger’s sweat in your eye.

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