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Too many children do not get enough exercise, are sitting inside playing video games or watching television, and are getting overweight or worse.
Staying inside on screens also can translate into moody kids who are disrespectful and rude.
Early experience with the discipline, control, and physical exercise of Brazillian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) can help a child to grow up into a healthy young person, both mind and body.
How do you introduce kids to Jiu Jitsu? Introducing kids to BJJ requires fun, games, and entertainment to get to the more profound skills of discipline, control, and fitness. Mat games, including minnows and sharks, Jiu Jitsu virus, and others, help kids to be active.
Games like these also help students to practice control of their bodies while having fun and becoming more interested in the discipline involved with Jiu Jitsu.
So, while you get your child up and moving around, they think they’re just having a fun time with friends.
Keep reading to learn more about starting your kids in the discipline of Jiu Jitsu.
Children today are far too out of shape physically, as well as emotionally. The hours spent on games, shows, and screens overall keep kids in one place and have been proven to affect attention spans and concentration.
Also, sitting inside can wreak havoc on a child’s body health. According to the Center For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 13 million children in the United States are considered obese.
Obesity occurs in 12 to 19-year-olds 20.6%, 6 to 11-year-olds 18.4%, and 2 to 5-year-olds 13.9%.
2 to 5 year-olds
6 to 11-year-olds
12 to 19-year-olds
Children who are obese according to the CDC
These are staggering numbers of overweight and unhealthy children that can be combated with fun and active lifestyles. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu can provide an outlet for children to stay in shape and find joy in the discipline.
Should I Wait To Get My Child Involved In Jiu Jitsu?
Many parents are worried that their children may get bored and underwhelmed by Jiu Jitsu if they start them too early with the discipline. This is a reasonable fear to have.
Parents should look at the Jiu Jitsu program that they are sending their kids to and ask the essential question for a program like this: Can my child have fun? The answer to this question is especially correct for younger students of BJJ since they won’t be participating in competition.
We have an article that talks about the best age to get kids started in BJJ Here.
Age groups of kids should correlate with the length of classes. 4-7-year-olds should take 30-minute classes, 8-12 should take 45-minute lessons, and under 16s should last about an hour.
Jiu Jitsu training should focus more on the aspect of body control and fun, rather than intense discipline and training for competition at younger ages.
What is Jiu Jitsu?
You may have heard about the positives of Jiu Jitsu for kids and adults before you even consider what the discipline is. The best explanation for Jiu Jitsu is that it is all about grappling. Wrestling is a good connection if you are new to Jiu Jitsu, but it is so much more!
The point of grappling is to resist a struggling opponent and to try to get them to submit. The submission holds come at the more advanced levels of BJJ. Kids should learn the basics of grappling and have fun with classes before a serious competition is attempted.
Kids who stick with Jiu Jitsu can learn excellent skills of honor and strength, despite their size. A trademark of the sport can subdue and submit a larger opponent.
The discipline of Jiu Jitsu starts with the mind, which is different than other games. Children are taught to stay calm and to respect their teachers as well as other classmates.
Competition is not the point of Jiu Jitsu classes until your child is at a more advanced level, so kids have a safer place to gain skills and build their confidence.
What Do Jiu Jitsu Athletes Say About Kids Starting Jiu Jitsu?
Even expert Jiu Jitsu athletes claim that their parents didn’t enroll them in Jiu Jitsu classes until they were older than these young groups.
A Tatme Magazine interview with black belt world and Pan American champion, Yuri Simones, said that it took until he was nine years old when his father allowed him to start taking Jiu Jitsu classes.
Even though Simones’ father was a Jiu Jitsu expert and would bring friends over to their home to “come around and roll, they would let me take part. I learned basic positions, but nothing serious. I always asked my dad to sign me up for a class, but he held off, afraid that I would stop early.” Experts of BJJ, like Simones’ father, even agree that older children respond best to the discipline needed for Jiu Jitsu.
At the very least, the 5-7-year-old group with fun and short classes may be the earliest that you want to have your child starting Jiu Jitsu and some schools offer toddler classes for ages as young as 3-4 years old.
Mixed Age Groups For Jiu Jitsu Classes
Although keeping kids at relatively the same age is a great approach, sometimes, due to the number of students, it is not an option. Another choice would be mixed age groups for Jiu Jitsu.
Mixed-age groups can be more swift in the way they are run and might be best for outgoing younger kids who want a challenge and need older role models.
Sometimes it is necessary to have mixed age groups in the same Jiu Jitsu classes, so you may see 4-12-year-old categories combined. The difference in mental and physical ability from 4 to 12 years old is enormous, and this is important to remember for the certified trainers of the class.
Trainers who have been working with kids for longer will handle a mixed group better than newer teachers because there needs to be a strict organization.
Also, the number of students close in age needs to be at least 3, so that activities and games can be played in these small pods. Each pod should have its instructor, as well.
In a mixed-age group Jiu Jitsu class, the older kids get the benefit of acting as role models and developing their leadership qualities.
In comparison, the younger kids get to see what awaits them later in their training.
What Are the Benefits Of Jiu Jitsu For Kids?
The mental aspect of Jiu Jitsu is centered on control of the mind through the body. This philosophical approach to the discipline is what makes the sport a central benefit for young people learning more about themselves and their bodies.
The interests of a subject like Jiu Jitsu is immense for kids, especially in this day and age.
Kids today see outdoor activities as the exceptions and playing video games or watching screens as the norm. This means that children come into athletics and discipline sports like Jiu Jitsu with less coordination, less concentration, and a lesser view of what they are capable of.
The many benefits that Jiu Jitsu can offer kids include learning athletic control of their bodies, discipline of their minds, and control of their emotions.
These are all underappreciated skills in today’s day and age and will come to be assets as they grow into healthy young adults.
Why Introduce Kids To Discipline?
In 1980, a researcher from Texas A & M University named Michale Trulson studied a group of juvenile delinquents in three groups.
Group #1 participated in 1 hour of taekwondo training in a traditional style that focused on the psychological and physical aspects of the discipline.
Group #2 did the same hour of exercise but with modern taekwondo that didn’t focus on mental training.
The third group was a test group that did not participate.
According to the study, “Group I students showed decreased aggressiveness, lowered anxiety, increased self-esteem, increased social adroitness, and an increase in value orthodoxy, as indicated by before-and-after scores on the Jackson Personality Inventory (JPI), in addition to normal MMPI scores at the completion of the study.”
In other words, traditional taekwondo training that focused on physical as well as psychological strength helped these juvenile delinquents become better able to regulate their emotions and be more disciplined young people.
The benefits of sports on the mental and physical growth of human beings has been seen since the beginning of civilization. Young people tend to relate even more strongly to the discipline of sports, helping them to navigate their world of stress and disappointment with understanding and patience.
As this case study shows, the training of the mind seen in martial arts disciplines can be just as important, if not more important, than the physical training of the body.
Teach Kids Confidence With Jiu Jitsu
Low self esteem is seen in kids who don’t have much confidence in themselves. This can be seen as bullying, cheating, quitting, and other avoidance behavior. To give children confidence, they need to believe in themselves.
This is why Jiu Jitsu and ranks seen by colored belts help give struggling kids a way to access confidence in bite sized portions. In this way, kids can build on their lessons of confidence in small ways that show real results that they can be proud of.
Having pride in your actions and accomplishments is the quickest way for kids to build confidence in themselves.
Belt Ranks In Jiu Jitsu and Confidence
The belt ranks in martial arts are aimed at boosting the student’s self confidence.
As students master their minds and bodies along with other students, they are awarded. These are not participation trophies, but are instead a coveted and lasting symbol of their accomplishment.
Confidence comes from meaningful accomplishment with reasonably challenging hurdles to get over.
According to a recent article in Psychologytoday.com, “Being confident requires having a realistic sense of one’s capabilities and feeling secure in that knowledge.”
What better way for kids to feel secure in the knowledge of their capabilities than in the belts that prove they have ranked up in their skills as a Jiu Jitsu disciplined athlete?
They can compare to other students, know the goals for particular colors of belts, and work with a master and group of students to attain these goals.
Friendship and Dup Practice In Jiu Jitsu
Relationships with teachers and classmates should be a main focus of any kids classes for Jiu Jitsu.
The games and duo drills that are done during the course of any class require students to be close to one another, to communicate, and to respect the limitations of their bodies and the space of the mat.
These are all great for building lasting relationships and skills at working with others.
Jiu Jitsu And Sociability
Some kids need incentive to be social. This is especially true today with so many kids seeing isolation with technology as the norm. Sports offer kids with the opportunity to be part of a group.
However, BJJ and other martial arts are unique because they give kids the chance to not only participate with a group, but to challenge themselves daily and to set goals that are achievable from lesson to lesson.
These goals depend on their own effort and determination and usually have little to do with other members of their class. Instead, the class is used to support each other.
So, instead of competition, kids learn the importance of friendship and camaraderie.
As they receive support from fellow classmates in earning belts and accolades, they too will learn to support others. This positive reaction loop is what can build lasting friendships and help kids to become more confident in their social lives.
Can Jiu Jitsu Teach Kids Life Virtues?
When students of Jiu Jitsu enter the gym, they are under guidance of teachers who expect rules to be followed. Also, when they are on the mat, there is etiquette and regulations to be followed.
If these rules are not followed, someone could be seriously hurt, and any good Jiu Jitsu teacher will make this clear to his or her students.
This type of environment teaches kids that rules have immediate consequences and purpose. If they are not followed, people can get severely injured.
Students are also taught respect. Those who are older or have more experience can teach them better techniques and knowledge of Jiu Jitsu.
Respect for the elders of the gym is expected and encouraged. This includes sitting and listening, which reinforces patience and respect during lessons.
Finally, when students are asked to shake hands after a match, they learn respect.
Even if that student has lost the game, they must shake hands as part of the tradition of the sport, which teaches not only respect but humility as well.
Humility is an undervalued virtue in our society. Children get very few opportunities to learn this virtue in their everyday life. Still, it can have lasting impacts on their lives going forward.
Why Is Humility Important For Kids?
Humble people don’t think that they are more special than others. Humility teaches us that equality is essential to show friendship and respect.
According to the online virtue website for kids, Commonsense Media, being humble is a strength that can lead kids to be better with relationships, have more success in life, and be happier with themselves.
They also state that lessons to teach kids about humility include admitting wrongdoing, asking to be forgiven, seeing the best in others, and realizing that they need to improve themselves.
These are all characteristics of BJJ that kids can learn on a steady and individual basis through discipline and training.
How To Get A Kid Started With Jiu Jitsu?
There are several steps to make sure that your child is ready and healthily mixed into the Jiu Jitsu discipline. Jiu Jitsu can help with your child’s growth in many important ways.
However, you want to make sure of several things that are specific to the type of kid you have so that they feel integrated early and won’t get bored or put-off by the amount of training or work.
Choosing The Right Academy For Your Child
Selecting the right academy can mean a lot for a child starting in Jiu Jitsu. If you have an outgoing child, you may want to find a mixed class of older and younger students so that your child can mix with more former students.
Mixing with more former students is an excellent opportunity for an outgoing child to learn from others with experience.
If you have a child who is not very friendly, find a class structured academy. Students in a structured class academy will be focusing on their age groups with minimal mixing.
This is best for a student to build his or her confidence with others just like themselves.
What Does A Good Jiu Jitsu Class Look Like For Kids?
Losing the attention of the kids in a class is the worst thing that can happen for a Jiu Jitsu lesson.
The warm-up should be quick and concise. If you observe a lesson as a parent, be looking for this to last less than 5 minutes.
Next should be a practice movement session that allows students to practice what they have already learned in previous classes.
An instructor should also walk around and give mini-lessons on new techniques and moves for those who are ready.
The teacher will usually encourage the perfection of the movements and emphasize the movements as high-intensity movements.
After this, warm-up and practice sessions can go a few different ways. The best way to keep kids engaged is with games that double as practice sessions.
However, more advanced classes may go to technical lessons. You should see a teacher who can coach duos well, avoid submission holds at all costs, and then has a small breakout session where he or she can circulate through the duos to give feedback.
Bringing the lesson back at the end with a little game is also a great warm down.
What Are The Best Drills For Kids Doing Jiu Jitsu?
Some drills are better for keeping kids’ attention because they are fun. The younger your child is, the more games the teacher should incorporate into Jiu Jitsu classes to keep kids moving and engaged.
The following is a list of some of the best drills for Jiu Jitsu for kids learning the discipline.
Any game is an excellent way for students to practice skills while having fun.
Disguising skills as games keep kids engaged, and this is true about the animal drill.
A racing game that is great for a war up, the Animal drill will keep kids moving and racing continuously until the instructor stops them.
Specific Jiu Jitsu Moves and Drills
Having a particular focus for individual work allows students to practice their bodily movement while observing the teacher and other students in the class.
This particular time also is excellent for confidence building so that students can practice on their own before they partner up.
Partner drills step up the intensity of the practice and give the student the ability to put weight into their exercises.
Working with another child provides a sense of togetherness that is important for the Jiu Jitsu culture and mindset.
The student that will be the best is the one who can learn and work with many other students in practical and seamless ways.
Partner drills also allow for the teacher to observe duos and how they work under pressure of having a person to square off against.
There should never really be submission drills for younger kids, especially in duo partner drills, when the teacher is not watching everyone all the time.
Jiu Jitsu Games
Games are a great way to disguise the purpose of a drill and the mechanics of the drill style.
Games also build a competitive and teamwork aspect of the class. By bringing students together to learn in a fun environment, more students are more likely to stay with the discipline for the long term.
The earlier that kids learn that the Jiu Jitsu discipline is about fun and supportive group of students, the better for their long term interest.
If students are given workouts, these should be kept to a minimum. Physical conditioning should come from the class drills.
Most younger students will be very turned off by physical workouts because they are repetitive and not easily competitive.
Some workouts might include warm-up exercises. But, other than for a warm-up, conditioning should be limited. Instead, students should be pushed to excel and promote their physical effort during drills and even games.
With this type of environment, Jiu Jitsu teachers can create a great class that pushes students to do their best and to respect themselves and others.
The Jiu Jitsu discipline is one of the most significant decisions you can help your kid to get involved with.
Through BJJ, kids can learn many life skills, including training, honor, friendship, and work ethic.
However, some classes may be mixed with older students, which can be intimidating for some children. A level with set age ranges for the courses can be less intimidating, but may hold a child back who is outgoing.
Mixed classes do allow older students to be role models and younger kids to see what is in the next level of the discipline.
If you are a parent who is interested in finding out if the Jiu Jitsu academy you are choosing is the right fit for your child, then observing an entire class session is the best thing that you can do.
Observe how the students react to the teacher.
Are there lulls in the lesson that seem to bore the students. Or, are they having fun and engaging?
All of these aspects of BJJ are important because even professional Jiu Jitsu martial artists say that they had parents who were skeptical about allowing them to start Jiu Jitsu early. These parents claimed they didn’t want their children to become bored or burnt out on BJJ.
Ultimately, Jiu Jitsu is all about fun at the beginning until students are a bit older and are self-motivated to succeed. But, once they taste the success of the practice and sparring sessions, there may be no stopping their enthusiasm!
Let's Roll BJJ aims to be the leading source of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Grappling information and news on the web. Dorian, the owner and editor of Let's Roll BJJ is a purple belt in Jiu Jitsu and has been training and competing for over 6 years.
Apart from being a BJJ geek, Dorian is a software developer by trade, a husband, and a father of two wonderful kids who he's recently began teaching Jiu Jitsu. When he's not training, coding, or writing, you can find him hiking, camping or occasionally binging on video games.