How Old is “Too Old” for the Ring?

Posted: July 23, 2011 in Exercise, Older

In addition to providing classes in Krav Maga, Muay Thai, and Jui Jitsu, the school where I train also offers MMA as well.  In fact, there’s a whole other part of the building that is being built out — full-sized ring and all — to accommodate MMA matches.  Kinda cool. Upon hearing of this I, like many other students at school, pictured myself in the ring clobbering and getting clobbered like some Bas Rutten wannabe.  What must that be like? Sounds exciting and, of course dangerous and risky.  Is that something for me?

Former boxer Frank Corti at 71 who beat the snot out of a hoodlum who pulled a knife on him. Image courtesy of Sports Rubbish

This past week, several weeks after first learning about the soon-to-exist MMA ring I was talking with a newer male student to the school.  Big beefy looking character with a strong build and a granite chin. In talking about the school and his experience it came up that he used to fight MMA.  Naturally this led to the school’s plan to build the MMA ring and whether that was something he was considering pursuing.  Though we didn’t compare birth certificates I’d say he was approximately my age. This fact became relevant when he claimed that he wasn’t stepping into any ring at his age and that those days were behind him.

This got me thinking. How old is too old to get in a ring?  Not just MMA but also BJJ competition, boxing, Muay Thai matches — whatever. When are you past your prime and simply asking for a debilitating injury by stepping between the ropes into the ring?

Martial arts has a long history of old masters.  We’ve seen this not only in the movies and history books but also in real-life. You’ve no doubt been to demos and seen wizened old practitioners beat younger students to a pulp. I recall being in a demo in Boston as a teen and seeing an Aikido expert, probably in his 70’s, toss his young strong students around like hay-stuffed scarecrows.  Many lead instructors and grandmasters are also pushing the limit, many in their 60’s, 70’s, and even 80’s.  If they can do it in the dojo, is it reasonable to expect similar results in the squared circle?

Having thought about this I would have to admit, from my own perspective, that it’s not altogether likely that the MMA ring is any place for most people over, say, 25 or 30.  Sure there are people who can take it further than that.  Hell, the aforementioned Bas Rutten made a great comeback at 41, didn’t he?

But these, I’m sure you’d admit, are the exceptions to the rule.  The born fighters who are world class athletes and are born for this kind of thing. For normal joes like me — and probably you — I think jumping into the ring will be tempting fate. I think it’s best to focus on the training at hand and train as hard as possible. It’s within this environment that people regardless of age can succeed if they stick with it. Yes, it can be brutal and punishing in its own right. You can still take on some heavy damage and injury but this probably pales in comparison to the kinds of injuries one could sustain in an MMA match going toe to toe with someone half your age.

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