Mike Bidwell is a BJJ Black Belt under Phil Migliarese and Ken Kronenberg (Team Tai-Kai / Balance). Mike is a full time Jiu-Jitsuka, blogger freelance writer, content provider, and teacher! Incredibly, Mike was a BJJ brown belt from 2001 to 2014! 13 Years.
Hi Mike thanks for joining us here at Open Guard. We appreciate you taking the time out of your day to have a chat with us and to share you Jiu Jitsu journey with our readers. Mike could you please let the readers know a little about yourself and your journey so far?
Thank you! I’ve been doing martial arts for over 30 years. I started doing martial arts as a kid. Mostly Tae-kwon Do and Kenpo Karate. I ended up getting black belts in those styles. This was the late 80’s and striking arts were really the only game in town. I ended up training at a Ninjutsu school…remember this was the 80’s and everyone wanted to be a ninja back then including me. What I liked about Ninjutsu training is that It naturally lead me to want to learn grappling. We would do a lot of hand-to-hand close quarter training which felt like a very loose version of Jiu-Jitsu. At the time I wasn’t even aware of Jiu-Jitsu so much at least not in the form we practice it now. But I was very intrigued by the grapple aspects of it. I did this for a few years before discovering BJJ in 1993. Like most people I was watching whatever tapes I could get my hands on for a few years. But in 1996 I pretty much stopped all my other martial arts training and committed myself fully to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu!
So tell us Mike after training such a variety of Martial Arts, why was it that you persisted with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?
Jiu-Jitsu is an amazing martial art. The fact that you can practice it at 100% and walk away uninjured is pretty amazing! I also love that Jiu-Jitsu takes you exactly as you are big, small, injuries and all. Jiu-Jitsu is the only martial art that I have experienced that will adapt to you. Most martial arts are a one size fits all mentality. You do techniques a very certain way and there’s no room for creativity or adaptability. Jiu-Jitsu on the other hand will adapt and work for you regardless of whether you are tall, short, have limited flexibility…there are practitioners that are missing limbs that make Jiu-Jitsu work…and because it is so adaptable the ability to learn becomes unending. You could spend your entire life attempting to master just a few components of Jiu-Jitsu! That speaks to the incredible adaptability and nature of this gentle art.
Even the beginner has tough times in their journey, given you have been on yours for quite some time what has been the toughest part of your black belt journey and how did you maintain focus to overcome it?
The toughest part for me was spending thirteen years at brown belt! I got off track with my training and diet and put on almost 50 pounds. I had a few persisting injuries that were making my training difficult and I allowed myself to get out of shape. After thirteen years of ups and downs as a brown belt I made a decision in 2012 that I was either going to get my black belt once and for all or quit Jiu-Jitsu! I came very close to quitting. But I went to my BJJ friends and community for advice and I decided to set some goals and get myself in the best shape of my life. At the time I had a lot of stomach problems due to food allergies and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. It was getting so bad that I would often miss a week every month from training. I ended up switching to a mostly plant based diet. (I do consume organic eggs – But I get all of my other protein from plant sources) I ended up losing nearly 50 pounds, healed my old injuries and earned my BJJ Black belt in January of 2014.
You hear a lot about the different reasons people stop training Jiu Jitsu; one of the biggest we have come across is family commitments. Being a family man yourself how do you manage training and family life?
My whole family trains – my wife and two kids all do Jiu-Jitsu. So, for us there’s no “this and then Jiu-Jitsu”. Our world is Jiu-Jitsu. When we talk about the challenges we face in our life we often refer to something that may have happened on the mats. We use our time on the mats to help us be better in our everyday lives. The lessons we learn on the mats can teach us and guide us. So I recommend everyone to get their whole family to train. Husband – wife – kids… You will develop a connection to your family that will be incredible – plus you end up with training partners you can take home!
You have a very strong social media following due to your regular videos, what was the driving factor in releasing them to the public?
My goal has always been to create a community for 40+ grapplers. Myself nearing 50 years old I felt compelled to serve my community! I released my first instructional in July of 2013. I had a very small following of people at the time and I wasn’t feeling confident in even putting it out. At first I held off on filming it for a few weeks… then when I finally did film it we had problems with the recording. I finally got the first video out (it was my Ninja roll choke). I think I was hesitant because I wasn’t sure how people would take my crazy version of Jiu-Jitsu. I knew my stuff was way outside the box for some people… I am happy that we have built a strong following on our social media sites… But honestly I think what I’ve learned from this experience is to always “Flow You”. Just be You, because who else could or should you really be? One day I was on youtube and I saw a video of a lion roaring. It was literally 30 seconds of a lion roaring loudly. The lion wasn’t hurt or in pain it was just sitting outside roaring. This video had like a million views and like 500 dislikes. So 500 people felt compelled to thumbs down the video of the lion growling. My point is that not everyone will like you or approve of you and that has nothing to do with you.
You also run the BJJ after 40 blog how did that come about. In addition, how has it changed over time?
I am happy to say our sites have grown completely organically. I just continue to release my blogs and videos and our audience continues to grow. The message is still the same but the audience is just bigger. For me the message is don’t let anything stand in your way of fulfilling whatever it is you desire.
For the new over 40 white belt, what advice would you give them on how to handle the stresses of training and the recovery the next day?
You have to plan your recovery that same way you plan for your time on the mats. This is especially true as we age, as we battle through injuries or if we’re just bumped and bruised. I find that stretching every chance you get helps improve my performance on the mat and relieve soreness. I also like to use a foam roller for stretching. Epsom bathes are great for soreness and inflammation. For me diet is always the key to success. Your food is your fuel.
Do you believe that age is an issue when it comes to training?
We are only limited to the degree we believe we are limited. If we make age a factor then it will be a factor. But the truth is that we may have some injuries or limitations. I believe that you create the healthiest possible vessel to navigate through BJJ. That means stretching daily, eating a clean diet, avoiding over consumption of alcohol and no smoking cigarettes. So you start by addressing your off the mat habits and rituals and you build a healthy mind and body…now age isn’t nearly the issue that it once was. I believe that 40, 50 & 60 year olds make the BEST students! They are adults who have completed most of their life goals (house, marriage, school etc) so they tend to be more focused, mature, organized students. There’s also in most cases far less ego.
If you could sum up your whole journey in one word what would that word, be
Service. When I finally earned my BJJ Black Belt in 2014 I made a commitment to give back to Jiu-Jitsu more than it has given me. That’s why I do this…
Mate I would like to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule it was great to have you with us here at Open Guard. Is there anything else you would like to add?
I want to thank all of our awesome fans and followers who continue to support our sites. Also, thanks to my awesome sponsor Origin BJJ! http://www.originmaine.com