Many parents start off as jiu-jitsu practitioners themselves before signing their kids up to train as well, but for the uninitiated, the prospect of sending your kid onto the mats to learn a very physical martial art can be daunting. Whether you’ve signed your kid up for their first class already or you’re just considering it, here are a few things you should expect for their first class (and beyond):
1. They’ll get their daily dose of exercise.
As such, they should be dressed in comfortable, but exercise-appropriate clothing. If it’s their first class, the academy will likely either supply them with a loaner gi (the kimono used in jiu-jitsu) if it’s needed, or they may not be required to wear a gi at all. Any type of moisture-wicking fabric is ideal, but if all they have is a t-shirt and either leggings or athletic shorts for the time being, that’s fine! You can commit to sport-specific gear if they decide to keep up with it.
2. They’re going to be out of their comfort zone.
Jiu-jitsu is a particularly contact-heavy martial art. Your kids will be embracing and sitting/lying on top of other kids they don’t know, and at first, they might feel uncomfortable about it. They will also be learning a variety of movements that they’re likely going to struggle with, even though the kids around them will already know what to do. This is normal, and it’s going to take at least a few classes for them to get used to it. Even if you notice your child showing some mild hesitation or nervousness, let them fight it out. Plenty of kids (and adults, for that matter) start off with feeling uneasy, then grow to love jiu-jitsu!
3. They might get hurt.
A good coach will make sure that the children in the class are all staying as safe as possible, but jiu-jitsu is a contact sport, and your child will be bumped around a little in the learning process. While, obviously, significant injuries should be tended to, don’t fret if your child comes home with a few bruises or lets a few tears spill if they get bonked on the nose by a teammate. This, too, will get easier with time.
4. You will need to let the coaches do the coaching.
Don’t worry — your child’s coach(es) know what they’re doing. Even though it may feel natural to cheer on, instruct, or scold your kid from the sidelines, this will only serve to distract your child and the others from the information they need to absorb to stay safe and keep learning. If your child is misbehaving, the coach will handle it or specifically approach you about it if it the problem becomes too big for them to manage on the spot. Remember, all of the students are there to learn and have fun. While there’s a competitive side to jiu-jitsu, the kids should feel like they have freedom to learn and make mistakes while they’re in class, and you can contribute to that by doing your job to support your child as the coaches do their job of coaching your child.
5. They’ll probably want to keep coming back.
Jiu-jitsu is, at its core, a playful martial art. Kids enjoy wrestling with each other (as any parent of siblings can attest to), and jiu-jitsu is a healthy outlet for them to get some social interaction and exercise. This can be the beginning of a lifelong habit that’s good for them and will give them even more positive role models in their life. By bringing them in for one class, you may have opened up the door to a passion they’ll hold for years to come.