Supporting You Child's Jiu-Jitsu Journey
As you can imagine, the first step is to introduce them to the sport like anything else, they need to understand what it is they are getting into. This step is crucial because it will forever be the way they view Jiu Jitsu and we want to make sure that it is a positive first experience. Take your time to call and I would even recommend visiting a few local academies before choosing where to go first. If you are already training, and your academy has a kids program, chances are you like it there and would trust it is the right place for your kids to train too.
Let’s assume you are not training however and go over some of the things you should be looking for when you go check out a potential new academy where your child will embark on their Jiu Jitsu journey.
First things first, we need to make sure the academy environment and core values align with what we want our child to be exposed to. Is it a friendly environment that has strict but fair rules and encourages respect and discipline consistently with all the kids every class? These are some of the things that I would be looking for in an academy if I were you. It is important that the kids feel supported in their new journey, but also feel as though they are held to a specific standard on how to behave.
The next thing I would be looking at, and this is just as important as anything else, is how clean the academy is. The thing is, cleanliness matters, it matters a lot. Not just how neat and tidy the place looks but how often are the mats cleaned? You want your kid to be able to enjoy training and continue doing so for a long time.
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We need to make sure the mats are cleaned regularly and there are no other major concerns with cleanliness such as kids not wearing shoes into the bathrooms and then walking on the mats. Failure to clean the mats on an appropriate basis can lead to things like the spread of ringworm which can not only be frustrating and tough to deal with, it can be embarrassing, and although not your child’s fault, it may cause them unnecessary stress at school. The bottom line here is make sure the academy is clean and the mats are getting cleaned on a regular basis so your child can enjoy Jiu Jitsu and you don’t have to worry about anything else.
The last thing we need to look at here is the environment. Look around, talk to people, are these the types of people that you want influencing your kid? Are they respectful? Are they polite? Are they good with the kids? Do their teaching styles align with your values as a parent and what you want for your kids growing up? Once you have determined that you like the environment and the place is clean we can move on to the next steps in what to look for and prepare for.
Now that you have properly vetted the academy to ensure it is a clean and safe environment for you child to train, which most are, we can move on to talk about what to expect from the first few classes and beyond as well as what gear you will need to purchase for them and what to do if they decide they want to compete.
You should schedule the first class with the instructor which can be done by simply calling the academy, or sometimes by messaging them on a social media platform or even choosing the class from their website and scheduling it there. They will tell you what time to be there, what to expect from the class and what to have your child wear. Chances are they will ask that you be a few minutes early and just have your kid wear something similar to what they would wear to gym class, gym shorts and a t shirt are usually fine.
You can expect to have to fill out some paperwork when you arrive, nothing crazy, just standard emergency contact info and typically a release form, read through it and make sure there isn’t anything crazy in there and then move on. There is likely a seating area for parents while their child is taking class, please use this seating area. There is no reason you need to be on the side of the mat watching your kid, you can watch them from the seating area. Along these same lines, fight the urge to “coach” them on what to do. You are paying (or will be when you sign up) the coaches for a reason, let them do their job.
Don’t expect an incredible performance. Jiu Jitsu is hard, the goal in the first class, and really many classes after is to make sure they are having fun and enjoying the process. If they simply keep showing up to class they will learn the techniques just by muscle memory if nothing else. Make sure you make a big deal over how great they did, they want to make you proud, so show them that pride and let Jiu Jitsu be something you can bond over.
Now that they have decided to commit to doing this on a regular basis it is time to buy some gear. Check with the instructors to see what gear they need for class. Depending on the academy, they may or may not need No Gi gear. Either way, they most likely will need a Gi at a bare minimum. Don’t be afraid to ask questions when it comes to buying a Gi. A lot of times academies will have their own branded Gi’s available which is great because you can usually try them on to get the right fit. Keep in mind they will shrink a little bit, and if you need to, you can shrink them a lot by washing them in hot water and drying them on hot.
I always recommend supporting the academy and buying their branded merchandise for a few reasons. The first, especially for the kids, it to fit in and be part of the team. Chances are most of the kids on the mats are wearing a branded Gi, help your kid fit in the mix by getting them something similar. Additionally, there are sometimes rules about what color Gi you can buy and sometimes even what brand, buying something from the academy eliminates the risk of accidently breaking one of the rules and really just makes your life easier.
In the event they need No Gi gear too, I would follow the same guidelines. When it comes to No Gi gear you are typically looking at fight shorts and a rash guard. Be careful when buying rash guards because sometimes they are what’s called “ranked” meaning the child should hold a certain belt color rank before wearing that particular rash guard.
This wraps up what to expect to prepare you for the beginning stages. As your child starts to learn more and become more comfortable training, they may decide they want to compete. This can be scary for a parent. Scary or not, you have to let them, encourage them, cheer them on, and most importantly, help them be a great sport, win or lose. Competition can be extremely fun, and most importantly it’s a great teacher for kids. It shows them that hard work pays off, and that sometimes there are people out there willing to work harder to beat you. It teaches them how to win and remain humble and how to lose and get back up again.
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