Lessons from recent Jiu-Jitsu black belt Gene Pace, 78

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Gene Pace, residente de Whittier, recebeu sua faixa-preta aos 78 anos na GB Costa Mesa.

Gene Pace earned his black belt at 78 years of age last Thursday.  Photo: Don Leach/Daily Pilot.

Gene Pace, a good-natured 78-year-old grandfather, has been training Jiu-Jitsu at Gracie Barra Costa Mesa, California, for the last 15 years.

Upon earning his black belt last Wednesday, Gene was featured in the “Daily Pilot”, newspaper in an article by Sarah Peters with photos by Don Leach, and with the story came some lessons.

Gene trains at GB twice a week, which seems about right for an elder practitioner not to suffer too many injuries.

The promotion ceremony gathered around a hundred of the new black belt’s friends and fans.

“It was pretty touching,” admitted Gene with a chuckle.


Mike Buckels, a teacher at GB Costa Mesa, highlighted the greatest quality of the senior 5 black belt (because there’s no such thing as a senior 8 or 9 division).

“He’s Mr Consistency. He never misses a class, ever,” says Buckels, who only had one black belt under him before Gene. “He does exactly what he’s taught. If you show him a position, he’ll perform the movement perfectly.”

Buckels says he’s judicious when pairing Gene up with a sparring partner but stresses that he is not to be underestimated.


Gene can hang with me in training—I’m over 80 kg—and takes me down. He usually trains with guys about 55 years younger than he is,” says Mike, pointing out one of the peculiarities of Jiu-Jitsu, a gentle martial art where technique can overcome stamina and brute strength.

Gene Pace started practicing martial arts as a way to exercise and to give his grandchildren something to get excited about.

“I thought to myself, ‘They’re not going to kill me, and I might just learn something new.’ Once I got started, I thought, “Am I going to give up and embarrass my grandkids? No way, I’m not going to disrespect them like that. And everyone kept training,” recalls the burly granddad.

Pace’s finish-what-you-started attitude was key in making it to black belt.

Now how about you, dear reader, have you been finishing what you start? Or is there some Jiu-Jitsu missing from the way you see things?

Comment below on what the main thing you learned from Gene Pace is and if there’s someone with a similar story at your Jiu-Jitsu school.

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There are 32 comments for this article
  1. Cristian Buitron at 4:29 pm

    Stories like that are quite inspirational and reading it made me tear up a little bit. I hope that at 78 (40 years from now for me) Jiu Jitsu will still be a big part of my life. My sister just had twins less than a month ago and I can’t wait to start them early in this amazing and gentle art. There is a brown belt at our academy who just turned 51 and is the most consistent student at the academy. Last year he attended more classes than anyone at Soca BJJ. He is in amazing shape and he is definitely an inspiration for everyone practicing this beautiful art.

  2. Deckhandjosh33 at 2:16 am

    Recently a former team mate of mine had to step down at the rank of brown belt in shin gi tai jujitsu. These men of age are and should be our inspiration

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  4. Richard Luntz at 9:51 pm

    That makes me proud-I just utnned 74 and train in Krav Maga-i feel the same way I hope the younger students will get motivated from me being there-it boils down to the mental attitude you have-good luck to this grandad-Richie (Ari) in Clarksville Tn.

  5. Kingston Martialarts at 2:22 am

    If the greatest child experts in the world offered to direct your children’s daily/weekly routines in such a way as to start their lifestyles and mental paradigms off right, you would gladly avail yourself of their help, regardless of the cost.

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