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Kids In Jiu Jitsu: When Is It Time To Compete?


As a BJJ coach that works with kids (10-17 in age), it is a rewarding role. As a coach, I get to work with kids and teach them an art that can keep them safe, keep them healthy and keep them out of trouble. But as with any rewarding role, there are certain responsibilities that one must deal with. That being said, one of the issues that I have to deal with is when should kid students be able to compete in Jiu Jitsu competition.

Parents and their kids alike, are curious about Jiu Jitsu competition. I have three criteria on when I allow my child students to compete. Here are some points for students, parents and coaches to look at and decide…

3) Showing up to class

With every child student that I teach, I understand that they have a lot going on in their lives. School, homework, time with family and more share space in their lives. But for any student that wants to compete, I require them to show up at least twice a week. I have a few students that do one day a week, which is fine for training as a hobby, but I do not let them compete if that is all the classes that they come to. Showing up to class, learning techniques, drilling and rolling are all things they need to do at least twice a week, so that they do not get hurt in competition and can make most of their time there.

2) Showing heart

While rolling in Jiu Jitsu should be a fun and educational activity, I do require my students to show some kind of heart. If I see a student tap to an armbar or a choke for example that is not close to being fully locked on, I cannot let them compete. As parents are usually paying for tournaments, I do not want anyone to waste money on something that they cannot handle. Heart cannot be taught, but it is something that can be brought out of a good student.

1) Showing technical proficiency

This is so very important. There are some students that can do well in class due to athleticism, but unless a student can show me technical proficiency, I do not let them compete. By proficiency, I mean that the student has at least two takedowns that they can do well, and a handful of techniques such as a few submissions, a couple chokes and a couple sweeps. If a student only has one or two go to spots, I cannot let them compete, because once again, if they are not ready, it will not benefit the student or the parents in that situation.

This criteria is essential for any coach that works with kids. I see it all too well, when a child is not ready to compete but does anyway. It brings the child to a bad place mentally, parents get upset and of course, injury is always a lingering factor. Students that want to compete have to put in the time, learn as much as they can and show it on the mat. Once they do that, I encourage competition. But only when a student can show me that they are ready, and do not ask me if they are ready.