When I was a kid, we were inspired by Bruce Lee, The Karate Kid and of course, Rocky. Nowadays, as I think about kids and martial arts, I often wonder, what do they watch that would inspire them to train? There’s no more Bruce, Daniel-san, or Rocky Balboa. It seems that they would need to be inspired by their parents, the same people who guide them to the soccer field, ice hockey rink, or T-ball diamond. While many kids, with their parents’ blessings, might show an interest in martial arts, many parents don’t know where to start: What does little Joey train in and what school should he attend?
In comes jiu-jitsu. Young students can practice in jiu-jitsu and immediately have fun, improve fitness, gain confidence, and learn self-defense. Given this backdrop, let’s consider why a young boy or girl might consider jiu-jitsu. Further, let’s take a look at this from the parent’s perspective and how they can help provide encouragement along the way.
The potential student might have an issue that he/she would like resolved by training in self-defense or the decision has been made that jiu-jitsu would be a great program to help shape his/her life. Here are the specific reasons why kids gravitate towards jiu-jitsu:
1. Personal Hobby. Many children are shy and have trouble making friends, while others do not care for team sports. Perhaps the answer is simply an individual sport that will begin building character and confidence from day one. Is there any better training ground than jiu-jitsu? With the right instructor and environment a kid can prosper. Having jiu-jitsu as a hobby can help transform one’s personal identity outside of school life and provide a sense of achievement.
Once the child grows and matures through the jiu-jitsu experience, the parents can, again, encourage other activities, such as the team sport they might have shied away from at an earlier age. With that in mind jiu-jitsu provides another benefit. If the child does decide to play sports in school, the jiu-jitsu training will be invaluable and will strengthen their mental and physical abilities to participate and succeed.
2. Self-Defense. Many types of martial arts systems offer anti-bullying programs which cover role playing, scenarios, physical assault, verbal abuse, and taunting. At some point, self-defense will be taught, but if the instructor’s technique lies in a kick or a punch to the face or body, rather than a controlled move learned in jiu-jitsu, the inflicted damage can cause a dicey situation after the incident. Jiu-jitsu training not only teaches kids to defend themselves standing up, but also against an aggressor if the altercation hits the ground and without doing severe damage.
Even more, there is a strength-building element in jiu-jitsu and being strong certainly doesn’t hurt when it comes to self-defense. Other martial arts training typically includes core exercises, pushups and sit-ups, but grabbing, pulling, and sweeping a body with weight similar to yours builds superior strength, fitness and mental toughness.
3. Fun. In competitive youth sports, there’s always the discussion about “having fun” vs. “playing to win.” Another great aspect of jiu-jitsu is that students can tailor their approach based on desire. If they want to simply go to the academy and enjoy the environment in class, that is fine. If the student wants to enter a tournament and finds that level of competition to be fun, it’s readily available. The key is that children can decide how they want to shape their jiu-jitsu hobby without others impeding the natural course for enjoyment. Even in class rolls, where there’s a bit of competition with a classmate, jiu-jitsu emphasizes learning over winning. Any good jiu-jitsu school will offer a kids program that encourages fun, good spirits, no pressure, and friendships.