Brazilian jiu-jitsu is often touted as a great way for adults to get in shape, meet friends, and learn a new practical skill. Kids can also greatly benefit from this martial art, though, and in fact, getting them involved might be one of the best things you could do for them.
BJJ for kids has skyrocketed in popularity over the years, with many gyms offering jiu-jitsu classes for kids as well as adults. Jiu-jitsu is a great after-school activity that allows kids to let out some energy after sitting at a school desk all day, and because it combines both team-based and individual-based learning, kids can develop their own independence while learning to work with others. Plus, they’ll have fun in the process!
Here’s why you should sign your kids up for Brazilian jiu-jitsu:
1- It helps prevent bullying.
BJJ is frequently praised for its reputation as an anti-bullying tool, and for good reason. Although teachers and parents try their best to keep children from being bullies, some kids just don’t listen. Instead, they continue emotionally and physically bullying their peers, and their victims often don’t know how to stand up for themselves.
Jiu-jitsu is a safe way for bullied kids to “fight back” as a last resort. While a good instructor will never condone violence, jiu-jitsu teaches kids how to control larger opponents. If attacked by a bully, a kid who knows jiu-jitsu will be more likely to escape from dangerous positions and move into safer, more dominant positions. Though jiu-jitsu does teach chokes and joint locks, your child doesn’t have to use these to put a bully in their place — often, just knowing that their victim
can fight back is enough to make a bully back off and reconsider their actions.
Jiu-jitsu isn’t only good for bullying victims, though. Having a good coach as a role model can help keep kids from becoming bullies. Jiu-jitsu teaches discipline and respect, and beyond that, it puts kids in a supportive environment and gives them goals to work toward. Kids who are surrounded by people who are working hard to better themselves are far less likely to get mixed up in the wrong crowd as they grow up.
2- It keeps them active.
After a long day of sitting in school, kids need to play and release all their pent-up energy. Jiu-jitsu is the perfect activity to prevent a sedentary lifestyle from becoming a habit for children, letting them wrestle around the floor with their friends in a safe, supervised environment. They’ll have lots of time away from screens, moving their bodies instead of sitting still.
This isn’t just beneficial in the short-term, either. The habits we form in childhood often stick with us for life, and kids who get used to sitting at home may very well grow accustomed to a lazy lifestyle that carries on into adulthood. Getting your kids started in a sport they enjoy may mean that they’ll carry this love for physical activity for years to come. And because adults can keep doing jiu-jitsu for the rest of their lives, their jiu-jitsu careers don’t have to stop once they’ve graduated college. In fact, many adults are still training at the same academy they started at when they were little kids.
3- It helps them make friends outside of school.
Many kids are happy with their “clique” at school. Many others wish they could break out into different social groups. Some kids feel like they can’t make friends at school at all.
Jiu-jitsu provides an opportunity for kids to mingle with and befriend other children that they may not have ever interacted with in a school setting. While young BJJ students will likely gravitate toward their teammates who are similar in age and personality, they’ll also get the chance to partner with and help kids who are very different from them. Making new friends is always great, but for children who struggle to make friends at school, jiu-jitsu can be a safe haven where they don’t carry the weight of the social stigmas they face elsewhere.
4- It’s relatively safe.
Yes, jiu-jitsu is technically a combat sport, but in the right setting, it’s no more dangerous (and possibly even safer) than football, hockey, or gymnastics. With soft mats on the floor and no striking allowed, BJJ is relatively low-impact, and kids are taught how to recognize when they’re in risky positions and how to escape them.
A good coach will teach all the kids how to stay safe and keep others safe by demonstrating things like:
- How to safely fall if you’re taken down
- Tapping out when in danger (and releasing a submission hold when someone else taps)
- How to get out of bad positions without hurting yourself or your training partners
Accidents happen, of course, but because of the nature of jiu-jitsu, your child’s coach will take extra precautions to ensure that everyone is doing their best to avoid injuries. Your child may come home with bumps and bruises, just as they might while practicing any other sport, but in the process, they’ll learn how to protect themselves so they can keep training for years to come.
5- It gives them goals to focus on.
Jiu-jitsu is great for goal-setting. Every class, your child will be working toward mastering a technique, first getting it right in practice and then putting it to use during live rolling (or sparring). The gratification of understanding a technique well enough to execute it against a resisting opponent is extremely rewarding, whether it happens immediately or weeks down the road.
There are also plenty of opportunities for children to compete in jiu-jitsu, from small local tournaments to high-level competitions alike. Most coaches don’t require students to compete, but it’s a great challenge for kids to test what they’ve learned inside the academy. By understanding that they are training for a competition, your child will go into the gym with a more focused mindset, which can drive them to work harder and
want to attend more classes.
6- It teaches them to win and lose with grace.
Whether or not your child chooses to compete, they’ll have to learn good behavior on the mats. In jiu-jitsu, everyone gets tapped out, and eventually, everyone taps out someone else. Your child will have many personal victories on the mats, as well as many tough defeats. They’ll have to reluctantly tap to submissions that resulted from their own mistakes, and they’ll surprise themselves by getting out of bad positions and coming out ahead.
Win or lose, though, your child will be taught to practice humility. A good coach will tell them that it’s fine to be disappointed or excited and how to express those feelings in a healthy way. Gloating after a win or throwing a tantrum after a loss is no way to behave on or off the mats, and through jiu-jitsu, your child will learn this valuable life lesson.
7- It helps build confidence.
One of the best things about jiu-jitsu is that just about anyone can do it. By simply showing up to class, listening, and trying your best, you’re guaranteed to improve over time. In fact, many kids (and adults!) who have struggled to find success or enjoyment in other sports have fallen in love with BJJ.
Jiu-jitsu is for the shy, quiet book worm as much as it is for the outgoing, energetic lifetime athlete. Even if your child seems too timid for BJJ, you’re likely to find that this will change over time as they become more comfortable with their teammates and the techniques that they learn.
Jiu-jitsu is a great confidence booster for kids who need help building self-esteem. The progress they make in class, the friends they make in the process, and the dedication to keep trying even when they struggle are the perfect combination. The confidence they develop in BJJ class can help them feel better about themselves, teaching them that they can overcome tough obstacles outside of the academy if they put their mind to it.
Childhood Lessons That Last a Lifetime
Whether or not your child wants to do jiu-jitsu for the rest of their life or for just a few years, their experience on the mats will serve them well. From the techniques they learn that can keep them safe from bullies, to the discipline that will push them to keep trying even when they face life’s many challenges, to the foundation for an active and healthy lifestyle, a kid’s time on the mats can give them important tools that will benefit them through childhood and beyond.
Bring your child to a jiu-jitsu class just once and see what they think. If they don’t like it, they never have to do it again. If they do, there’s no telling how much they could gain from this fun and educational martial art. There’s nothing to lose and everything to gain from encouraging them to give it a try. Who knows? Maybe you’ll end up training with them one day, too.