Here’s a pretty cool story that I stumbled across by accident when
a young OG, Tom DeBlass (Ocean County BJJ), was talking about how
a couple of his OG students inspired him by the commitment they
displayed to their grappling training in spite of the adversity
that would hinder most students half their age.
And since I love hearing and passing on any story about an OG
fighting against adversity to “get ‘er done!”, I asked him to see
if they were willing to share their stories with the OG Nation.
Kenny Balcerski was the first to take me up on my offer. Enjoy!
I put this together on inspiration as per your post on Facebook
with Paul Greenhill. It is a conglomeration of my core beliefs,
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu aptitude and feelings regarding training at
age 46 plus. I would only hope that it can inspire many more
students to start training with us.
It is no secret why students my age are spending more and more
time on the mats training. Jiu-Jitsu presents an endless amount
of applications and challenges which make it most appealing to
the older athlete.
State Champion in High School, All American in College; I have to
accept the fact that my body has limitations at almost 47 years
young. No matter how well I eat, sleep and train at this point,
it is inevitable that I have met the point of diminishing returns
when it comes to speed and agility.
However, I believe Jiu-Jitsu requires a lot of thinking and
technique, similar to a chess match, and may be one of the only
sports that allows an athlete past his physical prime to still
improve his skill with age.
One of the greatest days in my life was when I walked through the
door at Ocean County Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (Forked River NJ). I
decided to enroll at the Academy after I shattered an ankle
racing motocross. The surgeon that put my leg back together was
firm in the premise that I would never be the same.
Fortunately for me, Professor Tom DeBlass convinced me that I
could still reach a high level of skill regardless of my age and
injury by training at his Academy.
I never imagined just how much Jiu-Jitsu would change my life!
Initially, I struggled, as do most beginners. I used too much
strength, fatigued almost immediately, and felt trapped and
panicky when mounted. But within the year I was able to slow my
game down, focus on skill and enjoy the benefits of this great
I have found that being older may be an advantage in Jiu-Jitsu: I
don’t have many social or financial distractions since I have
already graduated college, I’m married with children, and have
owned a successful business for over 24 years. I have sculpted
good nutrition, hydration, strength, cardio, flexibility, rest
and recovery into my daily life. I have years of athletic and
practical experiences that can be applied to everyday training.
Jiu-Jitsu has given me a greater understanding of core beliefs,
pain and suffering. It has chiseled my integrity into being a
better father, friend and teammate. It has taught me that every
time I put my mind and body to the test it defines my capacity to
A few weeks ago, I tore my biceps out of my elbow training for a
non-Jiu-Jitsu related event, and needed immediate surgery. I
would miss the Pan Ams and what might have been a few months
I returned to the mats with a brace two weeks after surgery. My
family and teammates asked me why I came back to train so soon.
My answer has been I will only have an opportunity to train with
one arm for a short period until I recover fully.
Happiness is finding our innermost strengths by testing our
skills in every situation. This is a lesson I would never have
learned without my Professor, Instructors, fellow teammates and
everyone I train with at the academy.
Kenny Balcerski, Blue Belt
TWG: Kenny, thank you for sharing your story with me and the OG
Nation. I can see why Tom is proud and inspired to have you as a
student and it does my heart good to hear how you’re dealing with
your adversity in such a positive way. Your commitment and “grit
tough” attitude is something that grapplers of all ages should
see and strive to achieve each day they walk on the mat. It’s
truly a pleasure to have you as a member of the OG Nation!
Also, make sure to go to www.OlskoolGrapluh.com and pick out an
“OG T-shirt” so that I can get one in the mail to you this week.
Take care of that arm and keep up the good work!