Starting BJJ As An Older Adult

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emilAn interview with Emiliano Cardona, 48, owner of Central City Jiu-Jitsu & Self Defense, Tampa, Florida, a Purple Belt one stripe under Royce Gracie and Certified Gracie Academy Instructor for Tampa Bay area under Ryron and Rener Gracie; training in BJJ for over 18 years.

1. You used to be the faculty advisor for the student Jiu-Jitsu Club at the University of South Florida in Tampa. Can you compare and contrast training college undergraduates with older adults in Jiu-Jitsu?

I have found that the commitment levels are much higher with the older, paying adults.  The undergrads are quick to bring in moves from the Internet with no structure. Consequently, they develop with fundemental flaws in their Jiu-Jitsu knowledge.  The youngsters also get easily distracted by other things.  I have adults that never miss a class.


2. It is common for older adults to take up martial arts for a variety of personal and health reasons, why do you think older adults should take up Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

The first reason is the confidence developed when you learn self defense. Secondly, the low impact exercise is truly beneficial. I have one gentleman in his 30’s lose over 37 lbs in 8 months doing JJ low impact.


3. Do you think there is an actual age that one could max out with training and/or competing in Jiu-Jitsu?

No.  There are too many masters and grandmasters curreny practicing, teaching, rolling.  I sparred with Grandmaster Helio Gracie when he was 74 years old!


4. Can you explain the difference between sports Jiu-Jitsu and self-defense Jiu-Jitsu? How can an older adult excel at both?

For clarification, I will refer to self defense Jiu-Jitsu as Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and the other stuff as sport.  The new mantra is “if you are not throwing punches at your training partner at LEAST once a week, you are not training Gracie Jiu Jitsu.”  GJJ has no timers, no weight class.  We always assume our opponent is larger stronger and faster.  We focus on surviving and exhausting their energy.  Other schools teach to force a move to score a point and hardly consider getting hit in the face.  I have spent weeks honing how to break free someone’s hands when they protect their arm in an armbar.  In GJJ, all you have to do is “push the button”, which is a hammer strike to the face. Their hands immediately release.

5. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu seems to be gaining popularity and becoming better known, plus more women seem to take up interest thanks to Ronda Rousey. What do you see as the future of the sport? Will it become as big as competitive team sports?

I think it will continue to grow. I see more and more girls at tournaments.  6 years ago, you would only see one.


6. How can local/regional/national/international competitions/tournaments contribute to the popularity of Jiu-Jitsu?

It provdes immediate feedback on your Jiu-Jitsu. It shows what is possible and attainable. It exposes the art on a local level.

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