A kid’s boundless energy needs to be channeled somewhere. It’s why they roll around, tumble, climb, and even roughhouse regardless of where they are. The simplicity of jiu-jitsu allows for all those elements to be harnessed in a safe, controlled environment. Their tireless energy is wrangled in by repetition drills to hone key basics. Then that simplicity of fundamentals builds more complex threads, concepts and practices, which can be practiced at full speed. Expending their energy in a positive fitness environment can better regulate sleep, encourage rest, better and more regular eating habits, leading to better focus outside the gym.
Jiu-jitsu is an individual sport…on the surface. It’s one-on-one, competitors go at it alone. There is a strong independence that comes from learning a creative, interactive art and participating in a challenging sport. However, to truly develop as a jiu-jitsu practioner, a team environment is essential. It’s necessary to drill techniques, to practice against different styles and body types in a live environment, and most importantly, for encouragement through the different tasks jiu-jitsu presents. Jiu-jitsu curriculum is structured to foster both healthy independence and a supportive team. Every class has a framework where the individual grows on their own and also learns from and contributes to their team. It is a well-balanced fitness environment good for kids of any age.
Like any good children’s activity, jiu-jitsu is a confidence booster. There is instantaneous support from teammates and instructors if a kid does not get a technique right away, so they are never out to sea long. Repetition – facing a challenge head on – is normal, and various skill levels are typically represented all at once, so peer and advanced role models are all present.
The ability to perform a move well is always within reach and provides instant gratification in a drilling scenario. The learning-in-motion empowers students to pick it up and run with it. For more sustained gratification, performing a move learned and practiced during drills in a live rolling (jiu-jitsu sparring) environment is a win students can take home with them.
Rather than feeling discouraged, there is an eagerness to return to next practice and try to enact the move if they didn’t nail it.
It is often true the first noticeable trait a kid will have from participating in jiu-jitsu is an increase in confidence.
Jiu-jitsu’s basic premise is a smaller person can leverage their entire body to isolate and control a larger opponent in order to defend themselves. This is why it is referred to as the “gentle art.” No punches have to be thrown, no one has to be hurt. Any trained student can subdue an adversary with no damage, thus is it an incredible anti-bullying tool. Beyond the crucial self-defense component, jiu-jitsu is a sport with year-round competitions from local in-gym “smokers” (standard competitions) to well-regarded, world-renowned championships around the world. It is an engaging, complex sport with varied rule sets and tournaments students can watch or participate.
If there is no self-defense or sporting need for jiu-jitsu, it is a stellar way to build cardiovascular fitness. There are aerobic and anaerobic elements. It is great for weight loss – fight childhood obesity! – or weight maintenance. Jiu-jitsu is a total body workout that requires pushing and pulling uneven or evenly distributed weight, which builds functional, lean muscle. The best comparison for jiu-jitsu as a fitness endeavor is swimming. (Swimming is a wonderful way to build cardio for jiu-jitsu!)
Some of the best advice to ever echo through a jiu-jitsu gym is “show up and be humble.” Indeed, there is no progress without attendance, without commitment to one’s practice, being there for the team and developing sbasic, then well-rounded skillset. It takes discipline and becomes a lifestyle. Discipline is not confined to the gym.
The most efficient way to become well-rounded is through humility. Everyone loses in jiu-jitsu, typically in every class (when a teammate prompts a “tap out,” which is conceding defeat to a submission in a safe manner). Thus, the ego is controlled by constantly confronting humility, and teammates and instructors offer support to be better in a healthy manner without an inflated sense of self.
Jiu-jitsu gyms require mutual respect and trust to function, so negativity and an unruly ego are quelled or eliminated to preserve the working environment.
Discipline, humility, and respect are just a few of the positive traits associated with traditional martial arts that characterize jiu-jitsu schools too.