Tag Archives: age

No More Pushkin or Dostoevsky After You Turn 100

Russian-Centenarians-03-634x634I came across an interesting page covering six Russian women over 100 years old in their own words. In particular, a 103 year old woman named Goarik Artemyevna Balasanyan (pictured right) caught my attention.

She’s a woman after my own heart. In just a few words of hers I hear the echoes of pain and wisdom from having lived through a century of turmoil. But really, she is mostly just concerned with the practical matters of no longer being able to enjoy the things she did when she was a young girl: reading Pushkin.

“There is nothing funny about being that old. The most terrible thing is that my eyesight is worse and worse and can’t read Pushkin. I love him, his portrait hangs over my head. I also like Byron, Goethe, Dostoevsky.”

grandma-babanyaI grew up with my grandma (on my mom’s side) and miss her terribly. I often wrote letters to her when I was in high school, but I stopped, and if I regret anything in life it’s this. And as I write these words now, I realize that 10 years from now, the same will be true. So I’ll stop writing this silly blog now, and sit down to write her, for the first time in over 10 years. My Russian is that of a 12 year old and is rusty, especially when I try to write in it. But while Mrs. Balasanyan above might miss her Pushkin, I hope my grandma will have slightly lower standards 😉 She is pictured left, looking great, with her 85th birthday coming up on October 28.

What Would Gandalf Do: Masters Division vs Adult Division

In judo and bjj, being 30+ years old means you have the option to compete with other 30+ year olds in a separate “Masters” division. This year, I have joined the ranks of this group. My first instinct is that of Groucho Marx of not wanting to belong to any club that would have me as a member.

Early on, in my 3+ years of jiu jitsu, I was forced to acknowledge a simple reality:

I will never be as good as the current black belt BJJ world champion in my weight class.

I know this might seem like an obvious fact to just about anyone who knows anything about jiu jitsu. In fact, it’s pretty embarrassing just to write those words. But I’m human, I’m a dreamer, I have an ego, and I had to ask myself on a few occasions: how good can I get? The answer to that was painful, humbling, but ultimately liberating. I have found simple happiness in the day-to-day learning, hard work, improvement, and a systematic dedication to understanding the art and the sport of jiu jitsu.

Anyway, I’m off to DC for a presentation tomorrow, after several days and nights of programming, reading, scribbling in a notebook, and then more programming. My life is not that of a full-time competitor. For me, my work (research) is the main challenge and the main source of enjoyment in my life. Despite the occasional lack of smile, I’m sincerely a happy dude.

gandalf-you-shall-not-passSo for major tournaments (e.g. Pans) I’m faced with a choice: masters division or adult division. I know many people from white belt to black belt that go back and forth. The reality is that winning Pans in any age division is tough, but of course there is a reason why black belt masters matches are 6 minutes while black belt adult matches are 10 minutes. The guys that win the adult division don’t just bring technique, they bring an incredible level of physical preparedness (cardio, agility, flexibility, aggression). The 30+ guys have a bit more “old man strength”, wisdom, and experience (theoretically). Still, I believe that “wisdom” (the opposite of “recklessness”) is more of a negative than a positive. Ultimately, competition requires stupid confidence and focused aggression. If your brain is allowed to ask philosophical questions around the time of competition, you’re probably going to lose.

Also the masters divisions are usually smaller. At the 2013 Pans (see 2013 Pans competitor list) the purple belt middleweight division had 37 guys for adult and 25 guys for masters.

In some sense, thinking about age is the very thing that ages you. If you don’t give a shit, then you don’t age. I’ll leave with this quote from Satchel Paige (baseball player from over 50 years ago):

“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you was?”

Old School Jiu Jitsu: “You’re My Boy, Blue”

I registered for the IBJJF Chicago Open today and paused for a moment when I saw a note that said I can register for the Masters division if I was born in 1982 or before. I’m just one year away from that.

I have been casually following the winners of IBJJF events (Pans, Worlds, Europeans, Chicago, New York, etc) in the blue belt middleweight division (which is my current division). The people that place (1st, 2nd, and 3rd) without exception that I could find are all in the 18 to 21 year old range.

It’s a reflection of a lot of factors, but in my experience the difference between 18 and 28 can be boiled down to cardio and agility. Whether justified or not, I kind of feel like Clint Eastwood. These young kids might have their tricks, but I got my old school basics. They can run around all they want, but eventually I’ll wear them down with heavy fundamentals and pure guts.

By the way, I’m kidding with this post. 28 is by no means old. I will say though that I think one of the big things that gets in the way as an amateur BJJ’er like myself gets older is the responsibilities I have off the mat. I try not to let work kill me too much, but on many days (like today) it really takes away from my training.

But I draw inspiration from the warriors that never stop fighting, like Blue from Old School. You’re my boy, Blue…

Ariel Zeevi Footsweep

Ariel Zeevi is a 33 year old judoka that put Israel on the (judo) world map in the last 10 years.

He had a remarkable performance at the 2010 Tokyo Grand Slam, constantly threatening his (much younger) opponents with clean powerful techniques. Drop seoi nage was always the main threat, but off of that, he was able to get a beautiful footsweep (shown below), as well as many other scoring attacks.

This is a particularly good example of not giving up when an attack fails. Too often I see the top level guys both stop when the attack is blocked. Anai is an example of that. Of course, he’s one of the best judoka in the world, so it’s hard to criticize him. But I feel like he’s never in a battle, he walks around like he just woke up, until he tosses his opponent with a huge uchi mata. For the mere mortals, however, I feel like constant creative combinations is where it’s at…