Raising kids in a world of online bullying and easy access to the internet is tough. Today’s children may not face all the challenges that we did as kids, but they certainly have a whole slew of new obstacles standing between them and a healthy, successful adulthood.
Getting your kids involved in extracurricular activities is often heralded as a way to keep them out of trouble, and jiu-jitsu may be one of the best after-school sports out there. While most schools don’t have a jiu-jitsu program of their own as they might with football or cheerleading, many (if not most) Brazilian jiu-jitsu academies feature a kids’ program where your child can be taught a variety of skills that can help them feel safer and happier off the mats as well as on them.
Here are five ways that BJJ can help your kids navigate life with a bit more grace:
It can help them defend themselves against bullies
This is perhaps the most cited reason parents give for signing their kids up for jiu-jitsu. BJJ teaches participants how to control opponents and neutralize threats in a way that keeps both people relatively safe. Sure, there are chokeholds and joint locks, but any coach who knows what they’re doing will also teach your child how to control their own strength so that even when they gain the upper hand, they can hold their bully in place until a trusted adult comes to diffuse the situation. It’s easy to see how these skills would be practical when dealing with a playground troublemaker, but if your kid continues to train, they can also use these skills as an adult to keep themselves and others safe from harm.
It can stop them from becoming a bully
Being bully-proof also means keeping yourself from becoming a bully. Jiu-jitsu gives practitioners a lot of power – most people don’t know how to use the techniques learned in BJJ class unless they themselves have trained – but it also teaches them how to responsibly use it. Finding a good coach is crucial here, as a worthwhile instructor will teach your child the value of restraint and staying calm under pressure. When your child is confident in their own abilities and doesn’t feel the need to cut others down, they become a positive force among their peers instead of a negative one.
It helps them develop active, healthy habits
Exercise should be fun, especially for kids. Jiu-jitsu is a full-body workout, building up muscle as well as improving cardio, but in the moment, it just feels like playing. Even if your child has resisted signing up for other sports, jiu-jitsu may be the key to getting them to enjoy moving their bodies. Being around other people who are also passionate about health and exercise can inspire them to make other healthy choices as well, such as eating their vegetables and cutting down on sweets. Plus, this can help shape them into adults who understand the value of active, social play as a way to boost the mind and body.
It gives them a group of friends with common interests
The bonds formed on the mats are strong no matter what age you are. Just as jiu-jitsu can provide a great socialization opportunity for adults who would normally go straight from work to home and back again all week, it can also give lonely kids a perfect environment to make friends. The nature of jiu-jitsu encourages trust and bonding (after all, you should trust the people you allow to place you in joint locks and chokes), and even if your child is having trouble making friends at school, they can find solace in the friendships made in the BJJ gym. Plus, given that many kids’ classes have a few adults helping out at a given time, your kid can meet positive adult role models through jiu-jitsu as well.
It helps them develop (and work for) their goals
Even though it takes a team to raise a champion, jiu-jitsu is, at its core, an individual sport. Practitioners come up with all kinds of goals, whether it’s hitting a desired weight, winning a certain competition, or even just nailing a challenging move in practice. BJJ can give your child something to work for that feels more rewarding than a good grade on a test. There’s nothing like the feeling of all that hard work on the mats manifesting in a gold medal at a local (or even international) tournament down the line. And of course, it teaches them that there’s really no harm in tapping out or losing, and kids learn how to show good sportsmanship in both victory and defeat.
Jiu-jitsu isn’t a magic fix for any problems that a child may have at home, in school, or amongst their peers. But that’s exactly what makes it great for kids growing up while navigating a difficult world. Through BJJ, they can learn how to approach their problems in a healthy way, thriving under pressure instead of caving to it with the help of a great support network along the way.