The Gift of Jiu-Jitsu: Passing BJJ to Your Children
Sharing BJJ Should Be Every Practitioner's Goal
As a practitioner of BJJ, seeing your child step on to the mat for the very first time to begin their own BJJ journey can invoke a whole host of feelings. We feel a sense of pride, and happiness that our child is being exposed to something we wish we had been introduced to much earlier. We see this amazing opportunity to let them in on one of life’s greatest secrets and a chance to inspire them, but be prepared for them to surprise you by throwing more inspiration your way in the process. Our children make us better. They will force us to see where we fall short, and stimulate us to make changes. For me, my son had awakened something in me before I ever held him in my arms.
I received word that my wife and I were going to be expecting our first child while I was in the process of deciding whether or not to open my academy. The news was welcomed, scary, and left me with a sense of motivation to move forward with the idea. For me, this was the time to realize my dreams, or pursue a more “comfortable” means of supporting my family. When my son was born, I knew there would be a day he’d be on that mat with me, but it seemed like that day was a lifetime away. Fast forward 4 years, and in the blink of an eye I was fitting him for his first gi and ushering him to the mat for his very first class. It was pretty surreal.
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Remember when you were a white belt, and the upper ranks or maybe your instructor would say to you, “trust the process”? Its not easy to do, but if you’re in the right environment it really is a process you can trust in, and if you invest in BJJ, it will invest in you. Consider taking the same approach with your children. Starting BJJ at 4 years old is very different than starting at 24 years old or 44 years old. Training for a lifetime will mean, that your child’s BJJ practice and commitment will have to survive through all of the challenges of growing up.
BJJ will be presented to my children as something fun and healthy, and they’ll grow up in an environment of kindness, camaraderie, and with a group of people that care for each other. To me it’s about setting an example that fosters better humans. If they become interested in competing we will foster that as well, though it is not my intention to burn my children out on BJJ before they get to high school. Which I think can happen a few different ways.
Resist the urge to constantly correct their mistakes, and let them learn as you did. With guidance, but also with room to fail. They will develop their own BJJ just as all practitioners do, over time by making mistakes and asking questions, and consistency with their training. If our ultimate goal is for our children to be on the mat forever, then from the very first days we must make sure that they view BJJ as a lifestyle, and not a task.
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One thing is for sure. We understand the value of what BJJ can do, and we want nothing more than to pass that off to our children. But make sure their early memories of BJJ are fond, not of you dragging them out the door on a day where they don’t want to go, or being overly critical of a bad practice or performance in a competition. Remember we are all human, and we all fail at times, try to respect this in your children as well. My son loves BJJ. He is more than excited to go 90% of the time. But he has his days just as all of us do, and I try to keep that in mind. Even in writing this now, I’m reminded of my own failures in this process, and I hope to correct them moving forward.