There are many reasons to get your kids into martial arts. Some want self defense, others want physical activity, and others want discipline. Jiu Jitsu definitely does a lot to help us get into shape. I don’t like saying that we teach discipline here. If you look up the definition of discipline, it implies teaching people through punishment. The discipline our kids get is naturally occurring. The punishment is simply not being as good as those who put a serious effort in. Instead of following the patterns of other martial arts, we focus on these things:
First, we learn how to fail and keep trying. Instead of teaching kids that they have a natural gift for everything, they learn how to find small victories and build on them. This happens early, and continues reappearing over time. We had a great example come up a few weeks ago. Roman is one of our kids who competes locally. He found a perfect half guard sweep twice in a match that he ended up losing. Now that he has that skill, he will no doubt use that sweep to win future matches for years to come.
Second, they learn how to manage a wealth of information by setting priorities and communicating ideas. Jiu Jitsu is remarkably complicated, my approach is to simply it into 23 situations excluding both parties standing. We go over them all, but it only takes a few live rolls to recognize the common patterns. I spend a lot of time starting and encouraging conversations about problem solving. “What can you do to get to his back?” “How are you going to try to pass his guard?” “What have we learned from this?” In the long term, kids have started asking some excellent questions on their own.
Third, we learn how to admit when we are wrong and change our behavior. In my gym, I insist that an adult who trains watches every kid under 12. They can roll with a teenager unsupervised, if I trust them. This is because they’re learning when and how to stay safe. I tend to tap (stop the roll and declare a winner) for kids way earlier than they would on their own. New kids complain, “But it didn’t hurt!” I answer that they need to stop before it hurts. This results in a lot more tapping, and a lot more time learning how to avoid being there. This is extremely important for them to learn exactly when to give up and focus on what matters. No sooner, no later. Advanced kids spend more time learning how to safely work out of submissions, and will tap appropriately on their own. It’s naturally occurring, they want to be the one who controls the tap.
Last, it offers non violent yet effective self defense. Instead of teaching kids how to hit each other, they learn how to put people in a place where an aggressor can’t hurt them. As of this writing, mount is the most common end position in most of the kids rolls. Mount is a simple position establishing unquestionable dominance while doing no damage unless they choose to go for a submission. The problem with all self defense training is that nothing is 100%. We can give kids the tools to be confident, and the knowledge to be competent. But a good school should also encourage them to learn how to avoid being in potentially bad situations. Learning how to think ahead is naturally baked into my constant tournament advice. Don’t be there!!!