It is a beautiful thing for you and your child to experience an evolving world every day first hand. Children are gaining intelligence quicker, technology is constantly improving, innovative antidotes and advancements in medicine are steadily taking place and people are becoming more cultured than ever. However, the world has also become a notably more dangerous and scary place especially for your children growing up. Kids cannot roam freely outside without learning that strangers are dangerous. Abuse is becoming a more open and a less foreign term. Schools, places that are supposed to be safe, are seen daily on the news for gun violence and bullying for children of any age. How do you protect your child?
Let me preface this article by informing you that I do not have kids and, being so young still, I am not at the point where I can say for sure if I will eventually want one. One thing I can reassure you is that I was once a kid and I remember many details of what it was like. Though I consider myself a ‘people person,’ surprisingly, I have never really loved most children or understood them until recently.
A little under a year ago, I started work at my mixed martial arts gym. I would regularly be around the children while they were in class and I was becoming and and still am the individual who registers most of our children to join the gym. The first question I ask the potential parents for sign up is, “What made you decide to get your child involved in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu? Why are you here today?” Unfortunately, and coming as a shock to me, many of the parents come to the gym because their child has experienced some type of bullying and violence. The parents have tried alternate methods to change the situation but they have not met success. Some of the very young children are in therapy already for anxiety, depression, eating disorders, mood disorders and other mental illnesses and their parents are just looking for an alternate coping mechanism.
After some quick research, according to stopbullying.gov, I found that between 1 in 4 and 1 in 3 students in the United States admit that they have experienced bullying at school. Additionally, there is growing awareness of bullying, therefore; people think it is becoming more prevalent. These are alarming numbers especially when other research is proving that bullying can lead to suicide and problems that will continue throughout adulthood. I will not flood you with statistics but I will tell you one more; an article by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention noted that 1 out of 7 United States Children between the ages of 2 and 8 years old in 2011-2012 had experienced some type of mental, behavioral or development disorder (and these were only the diagnosed ones). These numbers are only going up with age and advancing years.
More so than not, child victims of bullying and/or mental health issues and their parents have now become members at our school with some students starting as early as their exact 4th birthday. I have started assisting in substitute teaching or just volunteering my spare time to jump in and help as a teacher whenever possible.
Getting involved with the children has really given me a new perspective on children and the importance of self-defense and extra-curricular activities. Many parents question me on all different topics but here some of the recurring questions:
“Is it right for my child to be starting this so young?”
“How about all this physical contact and learning to choke or submit another child, is it safe?”
“Are you concerned that girls and boys could be inappropriate with one another?”
I am sure if you are a parent reading this, you can think of many more because as a parent, it is your duty to protect your child and you always want what is best for them. I tell all my kids and parents, “We learn to fight here so we will hopefully not have to fight out there (in the world.)”
Like any new activity or hobby, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu can be scary because it is a very high contact martial art and children begin sparring with one another from the start under safe supervision. I ask the parents to think: If your child is getting bullied or growing up during these changing times, do you feel that is important for them to learn how to defend themselves in hopes that they will never actually have to use their skills? The answer is most certainly always yes.
5 Reasons Why Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is Important to Teach Children
In addition to this being a major benefit of learning a martial art, particularly Brazilian Jiu jitsu, here are my top five reasons for why I think Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is important to know. Jiu Jitsu will teach your child:
1 – Self-defense
At the most basic level, your child will learn how to survive when they need it the most. Retention from practicing and use of their subconscious will kick in at pivotal times in their life. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training is very technical and helps teach the child how to be a good learner. Students are encouraged to ask questions regarding physical contact and they are held responsible for personal conduct. The children learn how to use their bodies in a very unique way that other sports may not provide.
2 – Discipline and increase in confidence and self-esteem
It is evident that people’s minds and bodies wear and tear over time. Their belief in themselves diminishes when someone makes them feel bad repeatedly. Jiu Jitsu teaches children more about their strengths and reasons why there are other ways to handle situations before resorting to their physical abilities. It teaches all of us that we can have control over any given situation even if we are in a compromising position. Also, a lot of children suffer from ADHD. Jiu jitsu provides an outlet to release this built up energy and it can help the child learn to focus during vital situations. The child may even experience an increase in their drive to succeed as they experience small achievement victories when they become proficient at a specific level. Though belts are not the insurmountable end all be all, they are a symbol to the world of a student’s individual efforts and milestones reached to better themselves.
3 – Equality
Jiu Jitsu is for everyone no matter your size, shape, gender, handicaps or ethnicity. You will share the mats with children and adults alike that are missing limbs, have an autoimmune disease, etc. Girls and boys are taught that they are equals and that neither gender is stronger or more important than the other.
4- Friendship and support system
Even if your child is afraid of the activity itself, they will (at the very least) make friends. Jiu Jitsu may be an individual activity but it takes a team of people behind you, partnering with you and rooting for you to succeed. I was at a wedding last week and the pastor said, “We are only as strong as the people who support us.” This really resided with me as I thought about Jiu Jitsu in that it brings together a group of unlike people to a common likeness where they can literally train to hurt each other and smile happily at the end of each session. It is a comradery that builds a second family and a safe haven to release external stress and stimuli. Jiu Jitsu fosters an all-inclusive sense of belonging to something.
5 – Fitness and Active Lifestyle
It is no secret that advancements in technology have led more children to spend an increasing amount of time inside on devices compared to being active with friends outside. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, it is estimated that nearly 1 in 5 children and teens are obese with there being a continuous upward trend of obesity in the United States since 1999. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a healthy activity and alternative to regular gym time. The martial art includes heavy cardio-based activity during sparring, engaging children’s fine and gross motor skills with specific warm ups, core and muscle control from use of certain techniques and it assists in flexibility and stretching of the limbs for other techniques and warmups. Reflexes can become heightened and a child’s mental game will also improve. Part of Jiu Jitsu may be strategy but that other part is definitely very helpful in the promotion of weight control, muscle gain and quickness.
If you are a seasoned parent of a child who does Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, I encourage you to look around the room when you are watching and put yourself out there for new members of the community.
Share your story and help them know why you are there with and for your child. After all, the children are our future and it is up to us to make sure that they succeed and are welcomed with open arms. Lastly, thank you for bringing your child into the gym. We are here, as always, to support you.