I’ll never forget watching a jiu jitsu match where the winner was a Brazilian man age 58! He didn’t look a year over 35 and his fighting skills were awesome! I saw an 82 year old woman on an evening entertainment show testing for her black belt! She broke a board with a jumping side kick! All too often I hear mature adults saying “I’m too old to do this…,” “I’m too old to do that…” Listen, your life is not over. If you wanted to learn martial arts, or anything else for that matter, age shouldn’t stand in your way.
Adults have adult responsibilities. You have to support the family, put food on the table and make sure everyone is taken care of. When it comes to fulfilling our own dreams, you sometimes have to put yourself on the back burner. Life has its twists and turns and sometimes your plans get derailed. That doesn’t mean you have to abandon your dreams.
Time was passing me by while I was busy building a martial arts business. There was a part of me that wanted to be a professional fighter. I was in the same weight class as Cesar Chavez and had a dream of having a match against him. I was amazed when I saw him get punched in the chin and not even flinch! My goal was to fight him and take him down with a punch to the chin! I saw it as a challenge.
I trained at Gleason’s Gym in 1989 and even got the chance to fight one of the top 10 fighters there. I made the mistake of overtraining and overworking. From 4:00AM in the morning to 11:00PM in the evening, I ran my martial arts business and trained for the fight. This is too much for any human to handle and I had to back out of the fight due to fatigue. Later, I finally got a chance to fight Vito, a tough boxer from Norwalk, Connecticut. Vito weighed 190lbs and I was 145. Vito told me that I landed 7 punches that were some of the hardest he got hit with in his entire career as an amateur boxer.
By 1982, my school was known all over town. I had fighters competing for my school and having great success. I was in the midst of making the movie, Crossing the Line, which took up a lot of time and effort. As for myself, while I had plans for my business, I didn’t have them for myself. I had great skill and dreams, but no plan to put these dreams into motion.
I’ve accomplished a lot since those days and there is still more to do. I haven’t abandoned my dreams of one day fighting again. I believe that an older fighter has more maturity and experience, and can rely on a different set of skills. You just have to fight smarter and avoid taking as much punishment as younger fighters tend to do.
When it comes to age, I am of the belief that every day, you just get better and better. Do what is in your heart. So stop using age as an excuse. Live your dreams. You may have to make some adjustments, but that doesn’t mean give up. Find a way to fulfill them. Let no one destroy your vision.