1 .Hey Elaine, you are becoming a celebrity in the BJJ world, specially since your last participation in the Pan Ams. But many of us only know that you are tough female fighter that practices BJJ and enters competitions in your 70s, which is something rarely seen. Can you introduce yourself to the BJJ community.
Hi, I’m Elaine Beiersdoerfer. I live in Alabama and I’m part of Gracie Barra Alabama, in Pelham, Alabama
2. How/why did you start BJJ?
I started jiu jitsu when I was 69 years old. When I was 21, while my husband was in graduate school, I took a six week class of Judo, but when we got back home to Birmingham, no one taught it. Almost fifty years later I found a gym that taught it and I called and asked «Do you take old people»?. » How old?» – they asked. I said «I’m 69». The professor said YES so I started Judo in February of 2017. Professor Kaliffa Oliviera taught both Judo and Jiu Jitsu. He is a Blackbelt in both. After a few weeks, he told me that I should try Jiu Jitsu, so I did!
3. Did you do any other sport in your youth?
I have never done any competing or participated in a sport except horseback riding. I did some competitive trail riding competitions with my horse, Tatoo, for a short time. I still trail ride quite a bit with friends and family.
4. Are you a mother and a grandmother too ?
I have three children, all in their forties, now. Two daughters and a son. I have seven grandkids. They’re great. I have been married for 51 years to my High School sweetheart, Werner, who is German. He immigrated over when he was six years old.
5. And do you live close to your grown kids and grandkids? Do you have to babysit them? Or do you visit them regularly?
My daughters live very close and the grandkids are over here, a lot! The only one that I «babysit» at times is my oldest grandaughter, Alex, who is a special needs child. (well, she’s 21 now). Her mom just needs a break, so Alex comes and spends a night or two with us. The grands are at the farm with us, fishing, horseback riding, 4 wheeling, and target practicing with their rifles. I did a «Granny Camp» for them this summer and we did Arts and Crafts, Science Projects, Self defense, Boxing, sewing, and Horseback riding. It was great!! They are already planning next summer’s «Granny Camp». My son has two small sons, three and one. He lives about 30 minutes from us.
6. What do your family think about you doing BJJ and specially entering a competition? Do they worry? do they encourage you?
My kids thought i was crazy, but they weren’t surprised. They cheer me on now and worry about me, also. My hubby knows me well and he wasn’t surprised that I loved the fighting. He goes to tournaments with me and videos.
7. And your friends?
My friends are rather impressed that I would participate in such a rough sport, but those who know me best, are not surprised, either.
8. What was/is your profession?
I was a secretary until my children were born. I’ve been a full time Mom since then.
9. How does a normal day in your life look like?
I´m not sure there is a normal day on a farm. I feed horses, dogs and cats, work around the farm and do your normal cleaning, cooking, shopping, etc. I try to do some kind of exercises to help my Jiu Jitsu every day, like pull ups, squats, crunches, and cardio stuff. I ride my horse on pretty days. At the moment, I am designing a house plan and barn plan. Our farm is for sale and it looks like we have a buyer, so we will be moving to 23 acres near my middle daughter. We are on 100 acres now. It’s a lot of work for my husband and me.
I work too for Sanctuary Animal Rescue. I foster dogs, and the occasional cat or horse.
I like to paint, also, when I have the time.
10. Wow.. that is impressive.. a lot of work and hobbies! You have endless energy!
And how many times per week do you train?
At the moment, I’m going to two night classes a week and an occasional lunch class. I hurt my back shoveling gravel last spring and it’s taking a long time to get better. My doctor said to go easy on the Judo and Jiu Jitsu for a while. I was going consistently three to four hours a week.
11. Do your kids or grandkids also practice BJJ?
Three of my grandkids have tried it. My eight year old loved it and he might start classes next year. The other two said it was too hard.
12. Funny that they say it is too hard. They must believe you are a a kind of super hero. What do you like most about this sport?
I love the fighting. I know that seems odd for someone my age, but it is super fun for me. I also love the people, my classmates and teachers. I don’t feel old when I step on the mat. I’m surrounded by mostly young people. It’s great.
13. Well, thought I am «only» 41, this sport makes me feel like middle of my 20s. It really rejuvenates you!
Was the PanAms you first competition? What made you to enter such a huge tournament?
My first competition was World Masters in Las Vegas last year. My professor said he wanted to take me and so I went. I had just gotten my blue belt. I won one, lost one and tied two. I got two silver medals. The big tournaments are where I am most likely to fight someone near my age and my size. I had to go up two weight classes to fight in the Pan games. She outweighed me by about 25 pounds (about 11 kg). My other two tournaments, the girls were in their forties and heavier. I got killed! But it was still fun for me.
14. Were you a working mum?
I was home with my kids. I really feel bad for mothers juggling work and children. I do believe that they need to find time for themselves.
15. What is the most difficult thing you have experienced as a mother? And how did you get over it?
I loved being a mother. I had a great time with my kids. The hardest time was when my granddaughter Alex was diagnosed with Neuronal Migration Disorder – her brain did not develop properly. My daughter was so stressed out. Alex didn’t learn to walk until she was three. She cannot talk or dress herself.
16. I am sorry to hear that. It must be very difficult for your daughter to find out her child is sick. As a mum, there is nothing that terrifies me more than that. I am happy that you are there for her. I also really in my mum for everything. That is what a mum does, doesn’t it?
Is there something you enjoy as a grandmother that you didn’t us a mother?
A play a lot with my grandkids. The only rule at «Maine»s House (my granny name) is «There are no rules. Do whatever you want». With my kids, I had only one rule: You can do anything you want as long as it isn’t illegal, immoral or dangerous, but being rude to your Mother was «dangerous».
17. HA! good rules! In BJJ, guard passer or guard player?
Guard passer. I don’t want to be stuck on bottom. I get squashed..
18. Is there anything else you would like to tell us. Lots of women are going to read it and will be inspired by your life story and your engagement with this sport.
I have a poster on my wall with a picture of me doing Jiu Jitsu, and it says «Not too Old and Not too Late».
I don’t think you should stop living and trying new things when you get older. I don’t want to waste any time I have on this earth vegetating in front of a TV . I stay close to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I’m not afraid to die, so I’m not afraid to take some risks.
Your words are really inspiring and I think they will help many women, young or old. It is good to have such examples to follow in a world full of Kardashians or Paris Hiltons we need more female roles to look up!
Thanks again for you time Elaine and hope to meet you some day on the mats!