Why Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Is A Great Sport for Unathletic Children

19667
Photo By: Jeff Lloyd

As a child and teenager, I loved sports, but was simply not athletic. I couldn’t dribble a basketball or shoot a layup. I was the right fielder in little league baseball that struck out a lot. I did try wrestling in high school, but was pretty mediocre and quit after losing two-thirds of my matches and not being able to handle the head coach’s constant yelling. For a very long-time I was very self-conscious about my lack of athleticism, but did enjoy biking, hiking, weight lifting and other physical activities that would not expose my lack of coordination and how funny I looked when I am running. As I grew into adulthood, I discovered Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in my mid-thirties and finally found a sport where for once I showed some promise and developed into a solid competitor at the White Belt Masters level.

Like many in the BJJ community, training has been very beneficial for me in boosting my self-confidence, physical health, setting and reaching goals, meeting new people, and overcoming adversity. These experiences and benefits are important in the development of people of all ages, especially adolescent children. Sports can be a great vehicle for human development, but many unathletic children miss out on these experiences and withdraw to watching television, playing video games, eating a poor diet and living a sedentary lifestyle. This is frustrating for both children and their parents. The children want to be more social and active, but poor performances in youth team sports can lead to being ostracized by their teammates and coaches. For parents, they want their children to be active, social, and accepted by peers.

From my experiences as an unathletic youth and a Jiu Jitsu practitioner as an adult, I believe Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is the ideal sport for unathletic children for numerous reasons that include

1. Self Defense: Unathletic children tend to be targets for bullies. BJJ has been proven as one of the best self-defense styles since it relies more on technique and leverage over size and strength. Traditional karate styles like Tae Kwon Do have been marketed as children’s self-defense, but the striking does require speed, coordination, and athleticism, which may make karate less effective for unathletic practitioners. In Jiu Jitsu, clinching, securing top position, and being able to escape a pinned down position relies more on coaching and drilling than athletic skills.

2. Physical Activity: Jiu Jitsu classes are great workouts for children. There are warm ups, drilling, rolling/sparring, and games being played during classes. The children will definitely break a sweat and will be moving their bodies for an hour each class.

3. Quality Coaching: In many youth sports, the coaches are volunteers and usually consist of the parents of the best athletes on the team. The quality of the coaching can vary and the focus of the coaching leans towards developing the athletes with the most potential. This continues into high school varsity sports, where the coaches’ attention is focused on the starters and winning games. The backups and practice players usually do not get much attention or development time. In BJJ, the parents are paying for the coaching and the coaches have an incentive to provide strong coaching and creating a fun and safe atmosphere in order to maintain the parents’ business.

4. Learn at Your own Pace: In BJJ, there is no pressure to learn a set of plays in time for Saturday’s game like there is in other youth and high school varsity sports. Kids can learn and develop at their own pace without the pressure of being rushed into a competition and win immediately. The culture and instruction style of many BJJ schools is that learning and improving in BJJ is a long term process that doesn’t need to be rushed.

5. Playing Time at Each Class: In youth and high school varsity sports, the nonstarters get little to no playing time in games and less coaching and development during practices. In BJJ classes, students learn together, drill together and all receive close to equal repetitions in drilling and attention from instructors. So your child is participating and improving each class instead of just watching other students get better. Also, if your child does want to compete, there is no cap on the number of children that can be entered into a BJJ tournament division.

6. Year Round Sport: Depending on where you live, most sports are seasonal and once the season ends, so does the children’s playing and development in the sport for the rest of the year. BJJ training has no seasons, allowing children to train throughout the year which aids in their continually development in the sport.

7. Teaches Valuable Life Lessons: We live in an instant gratification society. In BJJ, it is a slow, long grind. Breakthroughs could come after a long period of time of drilling, experimenting, and refinement. It could come in a practice roll where a sweep, submission, or escape finally happens after many failures. Children will learn humility, patience with themselves and persistence in continually working through and solving problems.

8. Develop Own Style: In basketball and soccer you need speed and agility. In football, you need size and strength. In most sports, you are learning a rigid pIay book with little room for creativity. In BJJ, you don’t need to have speed, agility, and athleticism in order to develop an effective style or set of moves that work well. If you are slow and unathletic, you can develop a slow, grinding, pressure game that neutralizes opponents’ speed and athleticism. If a child is small, he or she will be matched with training partners and opponents that are a similar size and will be able to develop an identity over time.

9. Individual Sport: When you drop a ball, miss a shot, or make a bad throw in team sports, there is the awkward walk back to the bench or dugout towards upset teammates. That is an uncomfortable position for many unathletic children. Playing in an individual sport like Jiu Jitsu removes the pressure of letting down teammates while teaching a child that they can problem solve and overcome challenges on their own. This aids in building character and self-confidence in children.

10. Interaction with Other Children: The kids classes provide positive interaction with other children. Most BJJ schools have rules and reinforce a culture of respect among students. Bullying and inappropriate behavior will not be tolerated by the coaches. Children will be learning and drilling moves together. So while it is an individual sport, during classes they will have the opportunity to collaborate with other children to help each other learn and develop.

If you are interested in enrolling your child into a Children’s Jiu Jitsu program, use Google to search for programs in your area. Most schools will offer a free class for your child. Definitely take advantage of the free class to see if the program is a good fit for you and your child. Also, ask the instructor as many questions as possible about class schedule, curriculum, student development, safety, contract length and terms, and the number of instructors and children in the classes.

21 COMMENTS

  1. I wholeheartedly agree with this. As a child I dreaded gym class because I got made fun of for being uncoordinated and looked like a duck when I ran (a result of mild scoliosis.) Kids actually quacked at me! As soon as I figured out that I could skip gym class or fake sick, I did.

  2. bjj is great for kids, however as a physical educator and martial arts instructor / practitioner, I must underline that most joint locks wouldn´t be recommended as joint stability would be compromised due to growth and tissular factors inherent to children, and also because of the degree of control needed to apply them (a choke also needs control), without injuring your partner, I agree that bjj is great for kids but specially those over 10 – 12 years old. Before that age I suggest to iniciate children in swimmimg (coordination & endurance) or gimnastics (coordination flexibility, and overall body strength). or if children like martial arts some karate or judo (which has less enphasis on joint locks) would do a nice preliminary sport, previous to bjj.

  3. bjj is great for kids, however as a physical educator and martial arts instructor / practitioner, I must underline that most joint locks wouldn´t be recommended as joint stability would be compromised due to growth and tissular factors inherent to children, and also because of the degree of control needed to apply them (a choke also needs control), without injuring your partner, I agree that bjj is great for kids but specially those over 10 – 12 years old. Before that age I suggest to iniciate children in swimmimg (coordination & endurance) or gimnastics (coordination flexibility, and overall body strength). or if children like martial arts some karate or judo (which has less enphasis on joint locks) would do a nice preliminary sport, previous to bjj.

  4. bjj is great for kids, however as a physical educator and martial arts instructor / practitioner, I must underline that most joint locks wouldn´t be recommended as joint stability would be compromised due to growth and tissular factors inherent to children, and also because of the degree of control needed to apply them (a choke also needs control), without injuring your partner, I agree that bjj is great for kids but specially those over 10 – 12 years old. Before that age I suggest to iniciate children in swimmimg (coordination & endurance) or gimnastics (coordination flexibility, and overall body strength). or if children like martial arts some karate or judo (which has less enphasis on joint locks) would do a nice preliminary sport, previous to bjj.

  5. Juan?? my son did nicely at BJJ from 6 years old to today where he is 21 years old. you are more likely to damage your "growth plates" wrecking your bike on the way to Jitz class then the Jitz class itself.

  6. Jr Kids BJJ (under 12) doesn't focus on submissions, it focuses mainly on position control and building coordination along with teamwork, listening skills, patience and so on.

  7. Juan I appreciate your comment on the joint tissue however that is not how most teach BJJ, I am 40 year veteran of martial arts 8th degree black belt and a purple belt under Royce Gracie. I have the same concern as I was raised in karate taught on throwing full power kicks and punches locking out our joints in mid air. I would prefer teaching my kids Jii JItsu over Karate. I think its safer more effective self defense system for the smaller kids and those that may not be strong, fast or athletic as the article is related to in this post. Much respect.

  8. My BJJ instructor teaches armbars to the kids by wrapping a thick rope (thunder rope) around a punching bag. The kids need to mount and do the entire technique but with no risk of injury. When they spar they only do positioning but they're still learning the submissions.

  9. Teach kids to fight so they don't have to fight. The self-confidence that they develop from class carries over to other parts of their lives and others can see that. We teach both TaeKwonDo and Jiu-JItsu at this academy and teach the same philosophy in both. Being a Retired Senior Chief Petty Officer, we have much respect for one another on the floor and self-discipline isn't an issue. I served on board USS RONALD REAGAN (CVN 76) and our BJJ motto is the same, "PEACE THROUGH STRENGTH". Virginia TaeKwonDo and Jiu-Jitsu Academy is "We train today with others won't so we can do tomorrow what others can't." To all the other educators/teachers/instructors, keep up the great work. You are making a difference one child/student at a time.

  10. Our children's classes are divided by age and even within classes. No submissions for 3-6 and limited techniques for older children. As coaches, we can, and do, end the sparring if anyone is close to a submission. There is incredible oversight at our school and our kids (including my 2 daughters) are always safe. The amount of joint locks is minimal and striking sports, and even gym class, puts far more stress on joints.

  11. This. Is. Awesome. I have started to become really passionate about Kid's Jiu Jitsu (especially). Definitely wish I would have been introduced to it myself sooner & a lot of people think since they weren't, that it's too late for them to start, but IT IS NEVER TOO LATE!!! I have been wanting to write something like this but I am not good with words & you mentioned everything I wanted to say and more; especially #7 & #9!! Thank you sooo much for posting so we can get more of this generation involved in the Gentle Art!

  12. holy crap… 15 years of BJJ? That's awesome. I started my children very early too. Was he consistent in training? Does he still train? As a parent I am very interested to hear of how you dealt with him not wanting to train and at what ages he lost interest and why. Sorry for all the questions, just very impressed. Congrats

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here