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Brazillian Jiu Jitsu - A Road Map for Parents

Photo by: Shots By Joey

We often get comments from people about how good our young students do in their competitions. We believe that competitions are an important tool for self development and goal setting but this does not completely represent the vision we have for our kids here. The competition success of our kids is short term and an indirect byproduct of us playing the long game. What is the long game?

Our goal is to have all the kids that walk through our doors stick with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu(BJJ) for the rest of their lives because we truly believe that their life will be better with BJJ as a part of it for so many reasons. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has helped motivate many of our students to eat healthy and live a healthy lifestyle which they will reap so many benefits from. Being healthy and feeling good everyday is really invaluable in this day and age. Below are 6 good reasons with explanations.

1. Confidence through effective self-defense

The importance of being able to defend themself is the greatest tool a young child can have to raise their confidence. Bullys will never go away but through training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu(BJJ), we can give children the skills and confidence they need to effectively protect themselves and others.

In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu the focus is not on "flashy" or unrealistic holds but on techniques that are applicable in real life scenarios. Through training BJJ, a child will learn how to effectively neutralize a much larger aggressor by taking them to the ground and effectively controlling them there - all while never throwing a kick or a punch. Striking is also an effective way to defend oneself, but it's more likely that one will injure themself and their opponent in the process which is not ideal. Enroll your child in BJJ and watch their confidence radiate in all aspects of their life.

2. They learn perseverance, discipline, and respect

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu will quickly embed the values of perseverance, discipline, and respect in all those that actively practice the art. The more a child trains, the more these values will become instilled in them. They learn discipline and perseverance through training and consistently putting their best effort during class, especially on the days they are tired or having a rough go. Children also learn to persevere through being stuck in uncomfortable positions or having an off day in class where their training partners are getting the better of them. They learn to overcome these challenges and turn into resilient young adults. Children learn respect for their instructors much like their teachers at school and as a result they will better understand the process of education which leads to them becoming more adept in learning. Learning to respect authority figures(instructors, teachers, bosses, etc) is an important skill for children to have as they mature into young adults.

3. Building lifelong healthy habits

With Obesity on the rise and becoming an epidemic in North America, getting children in the habit of exercising while they are young has never been more important. Training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu will set good habits at a young age and significantly improve their body awareness, coordination, flexibility, strength, agility, and endurance. They will get in the best shape of their lives while learning life changing skills which will stay with them throughout their lives. Once the child sees the progress they are making, they will be more inclined to start making healthier food choices to further boost their progress.

4. Building social skills

At DNA BJJ, we have kids and adults of all ages with diverse cultural backgrounds. The children will learn to socialize with other kids of different ages and ethnicities at a young age which will greatly help them develop their social skills. We have many outings at DNA; family days, summer camps, BBQ's where kids and adults of all ages are interacting together. Building good social skills will ensure that children will enjoy success in many aspects of their lives(career, relationship, making friends, etc).

5. Staying calm in stressful situations

Losing your cool or temper in life never leads to anything fruitful, in fact we all know what happens when we lose our temper - we instantly regret our actions. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu classes will challenge children as they will get stuck in uncomfortable holds and positions especially when they are training with more experienced students. Through practice they quickly learn to become comfortable while being physically uncomfortable. There's nothing like the feeling of being comfortable and relaxed while a heavier opponent is on top of you while patiently waiting for the right moment to escape their hold. This effectively minimizes other challenges in life by comparison and will help children to stay calm during stressful circumstances.

6. Learning from mistakes

Everyone that trains Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu makes technical errors when they are training(even the most experienced black belts) and BJJ is like human chess. As a result your opponent will often capitalize on your mistakes and use them to defeat you or put you in a vulnerable position. Through trial error and guidance from their instructors, children will learn from their mistakes and quickly improve their skills as a result. What Einstein said correlates directly to BJJ; the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result. If something is not working then adjustments need to be made.

With all of these benefits, the question now becomes how can I get my child started in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

1. Find a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy accessible to you with accredited instructors whose schedule works with yours and book a trial class/week.

2. Make sure the instructors are friendly, firm and encouraging.

3. Sign up!

Parents always think that their child will stick with Jiu-Jitsu which isn't always the case which brings up the question: How do we keep our kids in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu once they have started? If you follow these 6 principles, it's highly likely that your child will stick with Jiu-Jitsu for life and continue to receive all the benefits that it has to offer.

#1 TRUST THE PROCESS - Since you've carefully chosen a great Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy to enroll your child, you now need to trust the instructors and let them do their job. That means no coaching them during/after class or lecturing them about their performance during class on the way home. The only thing that should be said is: "I really enjoyed watching you train today" or "Great effort today!". You can also ask them "Is there anything you'd like to share about your class today?". The only time something else should be said is if they were misbehaving during class, then that should be addressed once and then left alone, usually the instructor would have already disciplined the child for that. Nothing will discourage a child faster than having their parents constantly berate them about their performance(In classes or competitions). Many kids quit because of parents berating them because of the high expectations they have for them and not being encouraging enough, learn from their mistakes. Let the coaches do their job, as you carefully selected their academy for a reason.

#2 GET THEM INVOLVED - At DNA BJJ, we host a family day event every month from laser tag to a weekend of camping to get the adults and kids to bond and have fun together off the mats. Many of the kids and adults have become good friends and hang out together outside of the academy. This is super important because kids will be more excited and have more fun training with their friends rather than people they barely know.

#3 DON'T COMPARE YOUR KIDS TO ANYONE ELSE - Comparison is truly the thief of joy as there will always be someone better than you at everything and Jiu-Jitsu is no different. All kids mature at a different pace and have different strengths and abilities. The only person you should be comparing them to is the person they were yesterday, as long as they keep making steady improvement, no matter how small, they are doing amazing! Training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is no easy feat, which brings me to my next point.

#4 LEAD BY EXAMPLE - Talk is cheap and actions speak louder than words. By encouraging your child to train and live a healthy lifestyle, you should be partaking in that also. That means working out and eating healthy or even better - Joining your child on the mats for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, we make that very easy with our family class once a week. You will be an awesome role model and your child will love training with you and that will encourage and motivate them more then you can imagine. If you cannot train, come to watch your child's classes as much as possible, it will show them that you truly care and they will give their best for you!

#5 BALANCE - This is especially important for kids who train or compete very often. Disclaimer there is 1% of kids who will ENJOY and WANT to consistently train 7 days a week and compete every weekend all year round. If you had to do a double take to see if that was your child, then it isn't them. Once the kids start to enjoy training and want to train more often or go to competitions, Jiu-Jitsu will take up a lot of their time. It's important for them to take breaks after weeks of hard training for a competition and also for them to spend time with their friends/family outside of Jiu-Jitsu. Taking breaks, helps the kids to come back more motivated to training. It shouldn't always be 1000% everything about Jiu-Jitsu, even too much of a good thing can be detrimental and they could get sick or resentful of it, they are kids and should spend some time playing outside in the snow/park etc. The other extreme is just as unproductive; letting your child do whatever they want all of the time, in which they will probably end up playing video games all day, again the key is balance.

#6 BE PATIENT - Do you plant a seed and dig it up every few months to see how much it's grown? Does tugging on a seedling make it grow faster? The same is with a kid in Jiu-Jitsu, you plant the seed and give it the right conditions to grow by registering them at an accredited academy with a good environment, let the instructors do their job, and being supportive/encouraging to the children when they need it. Don't worry they will blossom, it may take 6 months, 1 year or even longer but it will happen, it always does under the right conditions!!

This brings me to the last point - What if your child doesn't want to continue their Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu journey?

1. We believe in accountability - Review the 6 points above to make sure that you are doing all that you can to encourage them to continue training

2. Listen - Hear them out, listen to what they have to say, did they have an issue/misunderstanding with another student or instructor? If so the issue can most likely be resolved with a short conversation with the instructor. If the issue is truly serious and something that can't be resolved, then it may be time to look for another academy for your child.

3. Perseverance- Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu can be very challenging at times which is why there is so much growth involved from sticking with it. Every child(and adult) who trains will get frustrated and down on themself at some point in their training from a tough roll or a tough class/competition and think about quitting as a result. It's human nature to avoid things that are difficult. This is a great opportunity to talk to your child about discipline, follow through, and sticking with their goals because this is the same thing that's going to happen to them in life, they are going to run into difficult situations and they can learn to build the habit of persevering through their tough times instead of giving up. You can explain to them that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is not easy but because it's not easy, the reward is going to be so much bigger for them(and it will be) and talk them through it. I've never met an adult that wished they hadn't trained Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as a child, in fact every adult I've spoken with has told me that they wished they had started training when they were a kid. Professor Yacinta and myself tried to quit many times when we were younger when things got tough, especially during our teenage years but we are so grateful that our father made us stick with it or we would've missed out on so many life changing experiences and opportunities as a result and we wouldn't be where we are in life today.

Great video to watch: CLICK HERE

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