Are you searching for an activity that is guaranteed to instill confidence in your child, help them cultivate good habits through discipline while teaching them the benefits of a healthy relationship with exercise? What if there was something that could also bring you closer as a family? With the right environment and culture, Jiu Jitsu has shown to be the one of the best ways to guarantee your child’s development from an emotional and physical standpoint, especially with guided parental participation. Most children want nothing more than to receive the attention of their parents (the people who they love more than anyone on the planet) and sharing the Jiu Jitsu journey with them, is a great way to connect by experiencing some of the challenges they will face. We’ve seen many families find themselves united by simply joining their kids in their Jiu Jitsu journey, or vice versa, a process that is only going to help both parent and child bond in a way that fosters mutual appreciation, just like teammates who want to see each other succeed. It is not entirely common to see both parent and son or daughter share the role of student together. Oftentimes it can serve as “bragging rights” for kids who see their parents, who are working their way towards a black belt alongside of them, as being unique in a very empowering way. This also removes the challenge of playing the role of both a coach and a supportive parent at the same time by changing up the dynamic in a healthy and constructive way, allowing the youth to progress at their own pace and letting the adults partake in the humbling experiences that come with learning anything new, which helps them relate to the physical and emotional difficulties their child might be facing. It is both inspiring and encouraging to see your parent doing what not many choose to do and the Jiu Jitsu classes that you all participate in can become a family topic that generates shared interest. It is also worth pointing out that it is a really great way to improve many aspects of your fitness (strength, endurance, flexibility, problem solving, balance, coordination) while learning something practical for self-defense.
We love seeing parents choose to take up this amazing martial art after signing up their child or when their kids get involved because of their decision to take up the art. Regardless of how it happens, it is a neat result where both kids and adults contribute to each other while growing closer in their relationship together, which is more important than winning or losing. I always found it interesting that we grow up hugging and playing with our parents as kids, but usually stop and grow more distant as we get older, while deep down the playfulness oftentimes still exists, not to mention the many psychological benefits of human touch, especially from those we are closest to. In Jiu Jitsu, it is common to find yourself embracing and connecting with your teammates daily through working out and sharing Jiu Jitsu, something that is often referred to as the “gentle art” due to the very non-violent forms of takedowns, pins and submission holds (joint locks or chokes). When described by people who don’t participate, Jiu Jitsu can seem like a bunch of people “on the ground hugging” which is not entirely wrong considering that the sport of wrestling shares some similar traits, but nonetheless if it helps families stay close and bond together, there’s nothing better than that. Which leads us to the next portion of keeping our kids involved in sports or martial arts.
A statistic that should stagger many is the fact that seventy percent of children quit playing sports by the age of thirteen, according to the National Alliance for Sports. So, if sports are so great for building confidence, health, and discipline, why are most kids quitting?
The number one reason kids stop playing sports is that it stopped being fun. Let’s be honest, kids love to play, not only is it fun but when we achieve any amount of success it is responsible for serotonin release (the happiness chemical). When sports and training are designed in the fashion of play, youth interest levels peak. When it starts to become a chore, interest declines. The trick is to keep them engaged long enough to start to develop some serious skills. Simply put, when we are good at things, we are less likely to quit and when we are not good at things, the more likely we are to quit. What I always tell parents is that “as long as their kids are having fun, they have nothing to worry about”. If they can stay in Jiu Jitsu long enough for it to become a part of their lifestyle and identity, that becomes very hard to replace.
Another one of the biggest reasons kids quit, is failure to live up to the expectations of the parents and coaches. We know from LTAD (Long Term Athletic Development) research that athletes do not become emotionally ready to compete until their teens (with some exceptions due to sport-specific specializations), so there is little sense in prioritizing winning and being the best at the age of eight when they can experience the benefits of being active for the rest of their lives. This comes by having a healthy association with playing (hence the phrase “playing sports”) multiple sports and being in the habit of learning new skills and taking joy in the challenge of problem solving until they start to specialize at a later age. The difference being, by having martial arts as a primary focus, they will have a year round sport they can stay active in while experimenting with other sports until they start to gravitate towards one. The goal is for them to have fun, learn to be athletic and have a healthy association with activity and being competitive after all right? The other aspect of why kids quit sports is they are the ones training and doing all the work while someone else coaches from the sidelines. Something that is known to bring people together is shared suffering. It is the reason that Navy Seals, professional sports teams and families suffer a greater bond than many others because they endure hardships together. Although the parents are oftentimes right, when they are the backseat driver, so to speak, it can be hard for kids to appreciate the value of the advice that their parents are offering. In Jiu Jitsu however, people of all ages take up the sport (our parents in their mid to late sixties) which allows a parent to share the process of being a white belt with their kids and working their way to black belt alongside each other. This also helps both child and parent feel the difficulties that both will inevitably experience, being sore, tired, frustration, losing and what other challenges may arise.
It is important to keep in mind that many of us had no idea what was in store for us when we started but there was a goal (self-defense, fitness, community) that drew us to the academy. Upon embarking on our journey, it was the people along the way (teammates, coaches, friends) who participated alongside us and provided a source of motivation that pushed us towards our end destination. For a child, that person could be you (the parent), who better to empathize with than the person that brings you to your practices and feeds you after.
Many people who take up the art, as a middle-aged adult, find little to no interest in competing, while others do and thrive in that type of environment. The truth is, we have respect for both, since it is incredibly intimidating to walk into a Jiu Jitsu academy simply to ask for information. So, we give a lot of credit to any one person who decides to start and ends up sticking with it.
In our program, we believe whole heartedly in the value of exposing students to competition, particularly when they are ready, due to the values that can be developed through the process. At the same time, learning how respond to challenge, work ethic, overcoming your fears and “getting up when you are knocked down” in life, can be achieved in a class setting or with in-house tournaments and should never replace the goal of having fun or being physically active while learning a martial art. One of the things we try to impress on our kids and their parents is that they will be admired and respected for trying their best and getting out of their comfort zone, no matter the result. When kids see their parents experiencing the same feelings and emotions that come with competing and winning or losing it forms an irreplaceable bond that few share. It is also really encouraging for young athletes to know that their parents are proud of them for pushing themselves no matter what, or that they can be humble in defeat and get back to improving themselves in the dojo. This makes the kids more likely to stay with it knowing that they are supported and loved no matter where the journey takes them. As human beings, when we know that we are going to be respected for our efforts over our performance, we are more likely to keep striving for success, no matter if we get knocked down. This type of mindset, and environment is what we strive to impart on our students and the community, where people can have fun and improve physically, mentally and emotionally. That is the Jiu Jitsu way, and the reason that everybody, young and old and in between, should try their first Jiu Jitsu class today!s