One of the most rewarding aspects of my life is being a kid’s coach in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  Over the last year I’ve been an instructor at my gym where I’ve had the privilege of training the youngest of our practitioners: the Tiny Ninjas and Beginner Little Ninjas.  As a coach, I’ve witnessed first-hand the life altering benefits that Jiu Jitsu has to offer and how techniques acquired on the mats translate to school, homelife, and beyond.  I solemnly believe that Jiu Jitsu has an undeniable effect on each life it touches and when you allow your son or daughter to train, you set them on an early path to success.

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Bully Prevention Techniques
In a recent online article about bullying, my home state of Louisiana ranked number one in the United States in several categories including percentage of cyberbullying, number of physical fights on campus, and number of attempted suicides.  In the same article, Louisiana also ranks in the top five for percentage of students bullied on school property and students who skipped school for fear of being bullied. (https://wallethub.com/edu/best-worst-states-at-controlling-bullying/9920/#main-findings)

Many parents cite bullying as the primary reason why they chose to enroll their child in our programs.  Jiu Jitsu teaches realistic self defense methods that protect children both physically and mentally. If a fight could no longer be avoided, would your child be ready?  Would they be able to hold the bully down until help arrived? Would they be willing to intervene on behalf of someone else being picked on? Do they believe that they are strong enough to handle life’s adversities?  While fighting is not condoned, we understand that it is sometimes unavoidable. We protect ourselves and others; we never become a bully ourselves.

Building Confidence and Self Esteem
Probably the single greatest lesson I’ve learned from training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is that you are more than you ever thought you were capable of being.  Confidence and a stronger, healthier sense of self is one of the greatest gifts this martial art can give. A common practice in each of my classes is to begin with a group chant of “I am amazing!” Every one of my students is absolutely amazing and every day gives them the opportunity to strengthen and celebrate their individuality.  I’ve had a handful of students who came in on their first day shy and unwilling to talk to anyone or look up from the floor, but after a short amount of time training would willingly introduce themselves to new students, volunteer in class, and look you dead in the eye as they shook your hand. Every transformation is magical.

Developing Good Values
Being a true martial artist goes deeper than just knowing how to fight; it means living fairly and honestly, even when no one else is looking.  Beyond developing their physical skills, martial artists also develop their character. Unlike many other sports, Jiu Jitsu is practiced year round instead of seasonally.  More time on the mats allows me more time to build each child up. Without the usual time constraints, my sole focus is not just on the moves, and I can afford to put more emphasis on what kind of person they will become.  Each month we delve deeper into a new word or phrase that represents a value we admire (Past words of the month include optimism, mental strength, and teamwork). The foundation of my gym was built around the premise of “building people into better people”: a mission we are dedicated to upholding.  

Focus, Self Control, and Discipline
In each class we’re striving to achieve a goal.  That goal may be as simple as throwing a ball to another person without letting it hit the ground or as complex as stringing together multiple coordinated movements in a specific sequence.  Either way, focus and self control becomes essential to completing these tasks. Jiu Jitsu is like a living, breathing puzzle. Problem solving becomes your new norm and through a succession of… mostly a lot of failures… you’re training your brain to relax in the presence of frustration and work toward a solution.  This way of thinking is invaluable to the development of young people. Discipline and perseverance are essential to the learning process. The best way to succeed is to fail and fail a lot. For most people who prefer instant gratification, continuous failure gives them an easy out or excuse to quit. I want to teach my students that sometimes the best things in life don’t always come quickly.  Sometimes you have to keep pushing forward until you get the desired result.

Pressure Makes Diamonds
When we bow and leave the mats, our lessons don’t stop there.  If I’m doing everything correctly, my hope is that my students are leaving the gym as better, more capable people.  I want them to enter the world with all the tools they need to better themselves and others. Jiu Jitsu gives empowerment to those who believe themselves too meek, and humbles those who believe themselves superior.  Training allows students to test themselves in extreme scenarios while in a fun, safe, and controlled environment. Lessons learned in the gym better prepare adolescents for the unexpected. If they can problem solve and handle pressure on a regular basis, then they are ready to adapt to anything life will throw their way.  

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I could speak forever on how Jiu Jitsu is going to do this or do that for your child, but at the end of the day it’s something that truly must be experienced to be appreciated.  Most gyms will allow you to tour their premises or enroll in a trial period. I strongly encourage doing the research and finding a quality training center if anything I’ve said here has resonated with you.  Ask questions, give it a chance, and be open to the possibilities. If you have any questions or would like to discuss this article further, please leave a comment or contact me through Twitter (@gab_theassassin) or email (thewarriorinthegarden@gmail.com)!  Thank you for supporting the blog!

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