Martial arts classes are great activities for kids, introducing them to a healthy lifestyle while teaching them valuable self-defense skills. But navigating the world of martial arts can be difficult for parents who have never trained.
If you’re on this page it’s probably because you’re considering signing your son or daughter up to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ). Obviously, we think this is a fabulous idea. Kids classes are a big focus for us at Gracie Miranda, a Jiu-Jitsu academy in the Sutherland Shire, with over 10 different classes each for kids aged 3 to 15.
But we also understand that choosing a martial art is a big decision for parents, who may be unsure about what training sessions entail and what distinguishes one discipline from another.
Here are some things parents interested in signing their kids up to BJJ classes should know. First up, what even is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?
BJJ focuses exclusively on grappling and ground fighting. Developed by the Gracie family (thus Gracie Miranda’s name – we’re part of the worldwide Gracie Humaita family of academies), BJJ is a modified form of Judo. It takes the principles of that Japanese discipline and takes them to the floor.
The abiding principle of Jiu-Jitsu is that all techniques should work on bigger, stronger opponents. While other martial arts, like Kickboxing or Taekwondo, require athleticism, flexibility and power for success, BJJ is all about using leverage, timing and strategy. For this reason, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is often referred to as Human Chess.
Rather than the punches and kicks kids learn in striking disciplines, Jiu-Jitsu focuses on submissions like joint locks and chokes. More importantly, it teaches practitioners how to control opponents, both standing and on the ground. This has significant self-defence implications: Kids need not injure a bully with a submission hold, they can instead subdue them.
If you’re intrigued, feel free to bring your kid into Gracie Miranda for a free trial lesson. Here’s what else parents should know.
5 is a good age to start: Among the more common questions we get is at what age kids can start training martial arts. This depends a lot on the child, but generally speaking 5 and up is a good guide. It’s not about safety as much as it’s about the comfort and coordination of the kids. If you think your toddler is up for it, though, we do offer Thursday classes for kids 3 and up.
BJJ is safe: Many parents understandably worry about safety in kids martial arts classes. In general, Jiu-Jitsu is a surprisingly safe martial art. Because it features no strikes and no slams, the two main injury risks are hugely diminished.
For young kids, BJJ training largely amounts to playing fun games that teach movements and develop coordination. The older the kids get, the more the classes focus on specific techniques, drilling and, eventually, sparring.
Hygiene is important: BJJ is a contact sport, which means hygiene is important. Make sure your son or daughter’s gi is clean, and that nails are kept groomed.
Jiu-Jitsu is hard, but that’s why it’s great: There’s no getting around the fact that BJJ is a difficult martial art to master. It takes adult practitioners between 10 and 15 years to earn their black belt, compared to the 3-5 years it often takes in other martial arts. That’s indicative of how much there is to learn. In addition to there being a lot to learn, failure is built into the system.
Once kids are old enough to spar, it’s a constant process of figuring out what does and does not work. That involves trial and error – lots of error. But this is also one of the important lessons Jiu-Jitsu teaches its practitioners of all ages: That you can succeed in life if you’re resilient and learn how to learn from your mistakes.
As a parent, though, it’s important that you set expectations about how quickly progress comes and what that looks like.