Brazilian jiu-jitsu teaches children the skills needed to navigate life. How to survive, how to endure, how to focus under pressure (literally). When to back off and when to press forward. That timing is more important than power. That precision beats aggression. That perseverance can move mountains.
For the unfamiliar, Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a grappling art that teaches you how to use leverage to create and maintain positional advantages over an opponent. Since our bones already function as levers, a martial art based around controlling and manipulating levers makes a lot of sense. Having your kids compete in jiu-jitsu also makes a lot of sense. I’ll explain why.
Full disclosure, I’m a black belt in jiu-jitsu and have trained for roughly 16 years. I’m hardly objective. I am however, raising a son that has been training and competing in jiu-jitsu since he was 3. He’s 13 now.
Here’s what I have learned:
Jiu-jitsu teaches kids how to lose well, an extremely important life skill that most of my adult friends still struggle with. Losing well is a learned skill. If you’re unaccustomed to dealing with losing, it can feel devastating. Confidence is shaken, egos are crushed and crippling self-doubt can set in. Jiu-jitsu exposes your child to an endless cycle of victories and defeats. Even subtle shifts in weight, strategy, and grip changes are clearly felt as advantageous by either your child or their opponent, both in class and on a competition mat. What appears from the sidelines to be the victories and losses, is merely the tip of the iceberg. Below the surface is a sea of unseen battles. When you lose well, you are actively learning as you lose, and your focus is on improving for the next battle, not weeping over the last one.
Jiu-jitsu teaches kids how to win well. Jiu-jitsu has often and accurately been described as human chess. It’s very complex and offers endless pathways to both success and failure. But jiu-jitsu is also a food chain. You start at the bottom, and no matter how good you get, there’s always a bigger fish patiently waiting in the murky depths. Unlike most sports, it’s the best student that rises the fastest, not necessarily the best athlete. Because of this, it’s simply not possible to judge a room full of jiu-jitsu students and visually select the best competitor. It’s typically the kid who catches footballs with their face who dominates kids twice their size on the mat. When you win well, it means that you’ve learned early on that winning, however delicious, is temporary; it’s the learning that’s limitless.
Jiu-jitsu teaches kids how to persevere. A lot of parents tend to be apprehensive about letting their children compete in jiu-jitsu because, ‘they’re trying to hurt each other’. An understandable sentiment, yet completely inaccurate. They aren’t trying to hurt each other, they’re trying to outscore their opponent or get them to quit. This sport, more than any other, teaches students the difference between what they thought their limitations were and what their limitations actually are. Our true physical and mental limitations are always found far beyond where we think to look.
My son isn’t particularly physically strong, just yet. He has more work to do when it comes to his jiu-jitsu techniques. However, I don’t know many adults who are able to bounce back after losing or failing. My son believes that he can turn it all around and come out on top even after a tough loss, because jiu-jitsu has given him the opportunity to prove that to himself over, and over, and over again.
If you happen to live in Colorado, check out Easton Training Center's Kids BJJ Program.