Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a great way to teach your kids valuable lessons: how to make friends, be active, and be healthy. But, do these benefits come at a cost? Or, put another way: is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu safe for kids?
The short answer is YES! In addition to being fun and engaging it is one of the safest sports for children. As an added bonus, we’ll cover 6 of the benefits you can expect to see if you enroll your child in BJJ.
Why Jiu Jitsu is Safe for Your Kids
Learning to play on the floor
The ground is a natural environment for kids; it is one of their first teachers. Babies use it to learn and develop early movement skills like crawling, rolling over, and sitting upright.
These core movements might not seem like the bedrock of a martial art, but every technique in BJJ is built on top of these foundational motions. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu takes this further, allowing children to develop their skills and competency on the ground while simultaneously making them better movers.
This is a crucial aspect of Jiu Jitsu because kids that are good movers are less prone to injuries, both on the mats and in life! Academies preferentially teach ground-based techniques and are selective with their standing techniques. Typically high amplitude takedowns that can cause injuries (like those seen in Judo) are not permitted or taught in children’s classes.
Good Jiu Jitsu schools have knowledgeable professors who control the class environment, ensuring a safe training environment for your child.
Hard work without head injuries
During Jiu Jitsu your kid can work their butt off and get a great workout while having fun in a safe environment. Some sports, like American Football, boxing, or even soccer, provide a fun workout as well, but come with a heightened risk of head injury. Recent scholarship has identified childhood concussions as a significant risk factor for problems ranging from scholastic impairment to early death. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu does not include any striking and head injuries are rare in the sport.
Practice in a controlled environment
BJJ academies are very serious about children’s safety. Professors are always in control of their students and make sure that kids are treating each other with respect.
The mat area where schools hold their classes is relatively small. This makes it easier for Jiu Jitsu instructors to keep an eye on their group of kids. Parents can also be present at the practice sessions.
Allowing your kids to practice Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is one of the greatest investments you will ever make. It will teach them valuable skills that will stick with them for life. Skills such as self discipline, confidence, self defense, confidence, body awareness, and to be great movers. Brazilian jiu jitsu will teach your kids all of these things, so without further ado this is why your kids should practice BJJ.
Want to learn more about concussions in childhood sports? The CDC offers a free online childhood concussion awareness course for both parents and coaches!
Learning through games
It is easy to assume that the process of learning BJJ is learning techniques and then sparring. However, BJJ kids programs make use of plenty of games and creative activities that your kids can enjoy as they learn new skills.
Games are a great way for your child to develop skills, get a workout, and have fun simultaneously. An added bonus is that without the pressure of intensive competition, children are free to learn at their own pace in a safe environment.
6 Reasons Why Your Child Should Train BJJ
1) Develop self-discipline
Self-discipline is a life skill that everyone needs to develop, and is one that Jiu Jitsu is uniquely suited to teach.
It takes many repetitions to become good at anything, and self discipline allows us to put in these reps. However, BJJ is a dynamic, fun, and exciting sport that rewards you for the efforts you put in. This is important, as early success encourages future success.
By seeing the results of their efforts, children will develop an innate understanding that practice leads to success. This will carry over into their lives whether it is the repetition of brushing their teeth or finishing their homework before running outside to play.
Any rewards from doing well in school may not manifest for a decade or more, while the benefits of consistent BJJ practice are more immediately tangible. BJJ allows children to develop and practice their self-discipline on a scale that they are able to appreciate.
2) Gain confidence
One of Jiu Jitsu’s main benefits (for adults as well as children!) is the development of confidence.
By succeeding at challenging physical tasks, like performing your first cartwheel or armbar, children develop confidence in their abilities. With every achievement their confidence grows, whether that achievement is on a small or large scale.
Jiu Jitsu instructors know how to recognize achievements and reward children with belt promotions, further motivating kids to work hard.
Note: Belt promotions come much more quickly in the kids’ classes than in the adults’ classes. This is by design, and has been calibrated to better match children’s sense of time. Waiting a year for something as an adult is fairly normal, while the same time period may feel interminable to an 8 year old.
3) Develop body awareness
Young kids are usually uncoordinated and not yet aware of where their body is in space. Now add athletic movement with high intensity and things get even more complicated. Body awareness is a skill that has to be developed with stimulation of the muscles and the nervous system.
BJJ teaches body awareness and how to control limbs in space through positive stress on their muscles and nervous system with the help of activities, games, and drills that will also decrease their chances of getting injured.
By practicing Jiu Jitsu they will find out the physical potential of their bodies and that being aware of your body makes you a better mover. Things like coordination and spatial awareness will make them better at everyday activities such as hiking, running, going down the slide, and even being comfortable in the dark!
Children get scared of the dark because they may rely mostly on their visual sense. Understanding where their body is in space will build their confidence and help them conquer their fear of the dark.
4) Become a better mover
Ever wonder why kids are able to get on the floor and crawl, play, turn, toss, and get back up to their feet like it is second nature to them? If you have ever observed your kid you probably have noticed that they are able to get into a squat position without any trouble at all.
Kids are already amazing movers, but if they stop practicing movement they will lose that ability as they get older. BJJ is a great way to preserve the natural movement abilities inherent to youth.
Of course, not all children are gifted with athletic grace, but BJJ can help anyone develop and maintain this skill throughout their life!
5) Grow physical and mental strength
This is the base for anything that you do in life. Young kids are still developing, and giving them the opportunity to build their strength at an early age will allow them to maintain it for a longer time as they age throughout their life.
Jiu Jitsu helps develop your kid’s mental strength and problem solving abilities as well. One essential aspect of strength that BJJ teaches is becoming comfortable with discomfort. This mental fortitude applies to all aspects of life.
6) Learn self-defence
It’s an unfortunate reality that bullying is extremely common. Jiu Jitsu teaches kids how to mobilize their energy into an art that gives them the power to protect themselves and control their opponents safely.
The great thing about Jiu Jitsu (as well as many other martial arts) is that it teaches kids that physical violence is only to be used as a last resort: only when they are attacked and there is no other option. Thankfully, knowing BJJ is a great way to prevent these bullying situations from arising in the first place.
One sign of weakness that bullies subconsciously look for in a victim is walking with a poor posture. This posture could be due to low self-esteem or poor physical fitness – but no matter the cause it can make your child a target. Learning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu will make your kid more confident, which will show in their posture and body language.
Having confidence and standing up to a bully is the best way to stop any further bullying. Bullies others often lack confidence and are scared, which is why they usually choose easier, smaller looking victims. BJJ is a great way for your child to avoid looking like a victim.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is one of the safest sports for young children and has many great benefits, most of which will last for a lifetime! Every parent wants the best for their children and introducing them to BJJ is a great way to ensure their future success.
Evan is nomadic brown belt, currently living in Germany. He enjoys pressure passes and tacos.