Why kids should learn BJJ
There are a lot of reasons why kids should learn BJJ. People often talk about confidence, discipline, bully prevention etc. I think these are all great things for a kid to have and BJJ can certainly give them these things. However, I think the real value in BJJ is something more than those things.
Reason #1 why kids should learn BJJ: It teaches you how to fail.
I think one reason almost all of my friends are BJJ people is because we know what it’s like to fail on a regular basis. Even as a black belt I rarely go more than a day without tapping. And I wouldn’t want it any other way. BJJ teaches you that losing in the moment does not define who you are. It doesn’t make you a loser. It makes you not fear failure. You fail over and over until suddenly you make leap forward in understanding.
If there’s anything I wish I had known at a younger age, it would be understanding this. Because as I look at my life in BJJ and in business it has been failing until I succeed. I don’t expect anything to work or go smoothly. I just expect that I will keep showing up. And while it took me until my late 30’s or early 40’s to really understand that, I think that a kid who learns BJJ could realize this lesson much sooner.
Reason #2 why kids should learn BJJ: It teaches you how to learn
Another issue that BJJ really helps with is teaching people how to learn. The mat does not lie. When you know a technique well and when to do it, you will be able to do it against a fully resisting opponent. If you cannot do this, then you do not know the how and the when as well as you’d like to think. You can deceive yourself, but the reality of the mat will always keep you in check.
In this day of safe spaces, play dates and whatever other attempts parents make to shield kids from reality, in BJJ this is simply not possible. When you lose, you lose. And when you have a breakthrough in a technique, it is undeniable. And it is extremely important that a kid have both experiences. Also the sheer intimate reality of giving up when you tap, is a lesson you cannot learn in almost any other sport that is offered a kid with the exception of wrestling (which I think they should also do).
Reason #3 why kids should learn BJJ – It shows you the reality of adults
BJJ will teach a kid that an adult is subject to the same realities of the mat that a kid is. Many kids will see some of the best and worst behavior from grown adults on the mat. Both of these things are good things for a kid to learn. The worst behavior shows a kid that becoming an adult is not simply a matter of biology. One needs to make conscious decisions to grow as a person and handle things like a man or a woman, not like a child.
Nothing looks worse than an adult complaining or making excuses for their poor performance. And yet I have seen it in every BJJ gym I have trained at over the past 2 decades.
But kids will also see the best in adults. I’ve seen men in their 60’s and 70’s with looks of joy and elation as they discover details about a technique that they never knew before. BJJ shows kids that an adult can still be passionate and childlike in their wonder of what they don’t know. You will be very hard pressed to find a lot of jaded adults in BJJ. It’s just too much awesomeness to be unenthused for too long.
Reason #4 why kids should learn BJJ – It teaches them about the tortoise and the hare
There can sometimes be a huge disparity in both physical differences as well as skill levels in BJJ with kids. Often times the more athletic and aggressive kids will learn BJJ more easily at first. The smaller kids will definitely have a tougher time, as BJJ is still a sport and size and strength make certain things much easier.
However, many of the greats in BJJ started off as children and many of them trained mainly with adults. As a result they needed to learn techniques that would work on people much bigger and stronger than they were. I’ve told certain students who were very frustrated that they just need to keep working on their precision and timing. When they start to get adult level strength there will be a huge leap forward.
I often see this same thing with smaller male and female students as well. They have to go through harder times at first. But they will catch up to the more athletic practitioners. And the ones who had it easiest are usually the soonest to quit.
Reason #5 why kids should learn BJJ – It teaches them to never rest on their laurels
No matter how much you think you know in BJJ, you better keep studying. I have seen many times where people get their black belts in BJJ and basically stop training. They quickly become hesitant to come back since they know that others will have caught up to them. This is a great lesson for a kid to learn early on. There is no being content in life. You are either getting better or you are getting worse. If a kid takes time away from BJJ he or she will quickly realize this lesson. And it can be a painful and embarrassing one. But that means it’s also one that will stick with them.
The other reality is, in BJJ your training partners are always trying to figure out how to beat you. You may develop a new attack or set up but sooner or later they will catch on and it will stop working. This is another great lesson for any kid to learn. You have to keep training and improving in life. This is something a lot of people like to say, but when you are getting smashed on the mat, it is much easier to believe this.