A black and white image showing Richard, who wears a black t-shirt, looking at the camera.

Richard's story

“To be so fit at 65 years old gives me a huge sense of wellbeing and satisfaction. It’s also been very positive for my mental health, making me calmer, more self-assured and able to cope with life’s other challenges. I still look like an old man, but I’m an old man fighting!” says Richard, who took up jujitsu so successfully in his 60s that he now competes and wins medals at an international level.

Richard has lived in North Devon for nearly twenty years, having moved there to allow him to surf regularly – a sport that he took up aged 36. He’s a video producer and creator, and he also shares his experiences on Instagram; @wavedreamer and @oldmanfightin.

Richard felt compelled to get in touch with Age Without Limits because he felt that it was important to share his experience of starting something quite dramatically new - and finding success at it - in his later life, as the impact on him, and others, has been so positive.

“I consider myself lucky as in my 20s I had an allotment, so as a young man I spent a lot of time with the older men there. It gave me a very realistic understanding of ageing and the different ways it can be for people. They were active, sharing their emotions, having a sex life, constantly learning new things, and sharing knowledge. It informed my perceptions of older age very positively.

“It seemed to me that what ageing could be largely depended on how you feel about yourself and your outlook.”

“As I approached my 60s I had a reminder of my mortality, and I was determined to become fitter and stay active as I got older. Eventually, by chance, a neighbor mentioned Brazilian jujitsu, a combat martial art where you get practice symbolically killing each other but no-one actually dies! Its full contact and it’s one hundred per cent intensity.

“Never having done a combat sport before, at the beginning the intensity of sparring was a challenge. But my progress was incremental and over a year I went from internal panic while sparring to feeling a sense of calm come over me on the mat. I was sparring with men 40 years younger than me, but I could still compete with them.”

In competitions, Richard competes within his age group - over 61s - but when he’s training at the gym, he spars with people of all ages, which he says has been an eye-opening experience for everyone. 

“The dynamics of fighting with someone younger is really interesting. Initially, they look as though they are frightened of hurting ‘grandad’! But then comes the realisation that I am still strong and have similar grip strength! I think as a young man it must be challenging when someone decades older has control. But it’s really rewarding for me to see how they come to re-evaluate what people are capable of at my age."

“The intergenerational element of us all learning from each other is brilliant. To share so much enthusiasm and enjoyment with them in my mid-60s, is life affirming and inspirational. I attend the competition conditioning class which is intense and grueling, and even some of the young lads struggle, but I can hold my own. My recovery time is longer, but that’s ok and I manage that."

“There's this perception around ageing that if you’re older you’re more fragile. But I’ve become even fitter and more resilient in my older age. When I was growing-up in Essex, I smoked a packet of cigarettes a day, and drank regularly as a teen. But thanks to my jujitsu regime, I’m now fitter in my 60s than I ever was, even in my 20s. I now participate in high-level jujitsu competitions at least five times a year.

“Once you get your head round the fact that facially you might look your age but internally you don’t have to feel it, you can achieve a lot more. You can change your muscular build and fitness whatever age you are. For me, it was about being prepared to do a lot of hard, consistent training that got me way beyond my expectations.

“Winning medals at the European Championships in Paris in 2023 and 2024 and fighting in the World’s Masters in Las Vegas in 2023 is wild, going way beyond any expectations I had when I started out.”