Written by: Steven Dudley 10/12/2018
Wondering what jiu jitsu is like when you’re over the age of 40? Yeah me too, so I reached out to Brad Springfield (50 years old) to find out what exactly it is like to be an older practitioner. Brad is a two stripe blue belt under Travis Lutter in Fort Worth, Texas. He has been training a little over four years, so needless to say he has put his time in on the mats going four days a week on average outside of competition. Brad’s favorite position in jiu jitsu is top side control, with his favorite submission being the paper cutter.
As a person still in my twenties and having been training for over two years myself, I wanted to know what to expect in my life long journey of jiu jitsu. Like most people it is common to think about how our bodies will hold up over the years. Brad has a unique perspective that I am hoping will show the older generation that it is never too late to start.
No more rambling, let’s get to the interview with Brad Springfield.
What got you interested in jiu jitsu?
When my son was in 6th grade, we moved him to a distance-learning school format; he attends all of his classes via webex/online. Because of this change, we were looking for a way for him to have something akin to “gym class”. It has turned into so much more.
How has jiu jitsu added value to your life?
My son began training a little over five years ago. He was 11 and just like everyone, he struggled in the beginning. I pushed him to compete and I began to feel like a hypocrite by pushing him toward things that I didn’t know. I had begun to develop a love for the sport but also for the camaraderie among the teammates. I feel like I receive so much goodness from the gym and my teammates that I owe that back. I have a sense of obligation to do anything I can to help my coach and my teammates.
What keeps you motivated to go to jiu jitsu each week?
I am a better person with it. I know its cliché to say that jiu jitsu makes me a better person. But I was 325 lbs. when I turned 40, right now I am 215 lbs. and working to get to 195 lbs. (in the gi). I get to train with Ethan (his son) and it’s a wonderful bonding tool for us. After each class when we walk through the line and shake hands with all our teammates, Ethan and I always hug and tell each other “I love you.” I can’t imagine not having jiu jitsu as “our thing.”
How do you handle or deal with injuries?
I’ve had a couple small injuries; I’ve been really lucky. I had a groin injury that sidelined me for about 90 days. Coach Travis (Lutter) always says that when we have injuries that we should continue to come to class; for one, it keeps the habit/routine of attending class but secondly, I looked at the techniques differently when I knew I couldn’t actually work on the moves. I paid closer attention to the smaller details and when I was able to return to drilling and training I continued to pay attention to the small details and without question that has made me a better student.
What is the best thing about being an older practitioner that you notice or get to experience in a way that the younger group doesn’t get to?
I love helping others. I realized early on that my journey would be very different from others in the gym but I am okay with that. I know the move that I might help a 25 year old teammate with is something he’s going to hit me with sooner rather than later. My progress won’t be what it perhaps would have been if I had started at age 26 instead of 46, but the most important thing is to keep showing up.
If you were to recommend jiu jitsu to older people (40+) who are thinking about starting, what would you say to them?
Give it an earnest try. Coach Travis often tells us “jiu jitsu is hard.” I went through army basic training when I was 18 and I can say that training jiu jitsu, for me at age 50 now is harder physically than army basic training. I can also say that it is far more rewarding too. I don’t need to train jiu jitsu for any reason other than what it gives me.
Best advice you were given by someone that has helped your jiu jitsu?
I have been given lots of advice by a lot of wonderful people but the best advice was when Coach Travis (Lutter) told me to not compare myself and my progress to anyone else in the gym. He talked me out of quitting about two years in. I was feeling particularly old and beaten and my progress seemed glacial “it still does, at times.” That conversation was a pivotal moment to me; I owe a great deal to him for making sure I stuck to it. Another wonderful thing about our gym is the accountability. If someone doesn’t show up for a few days, they will get a text or Facebook post saying “Need to train.”
If you could go back and give yourself advice when you started jiu jitsu, what would that advice be?
Enjoy the journey more. I look back at times that I treated it like work and I needed to separate it wholly from my work routine so I could be more “present” in jiu jitsu class. I work because I need to, I do jiu jitsu because it’s fun; I had taken the fun out of it.
I want to give a big THANK YOU to Brad for his time and for his service in our countries military! I hope those who are searching for answers on starting jiu jitsu at an older age find this helpful. If you have any questions leave them in the comment section below.
Find Brad on the mats in Texas as well as: