With the rise in popularity of mixed martial arts over the past several years thanks to the UFC, many people have been introduced to the sport of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, also known as BJJ or Jiu Jitsu, for the first time. This increased attention has resulted in a growing demand for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu classes for both adults and children. Parents looking for sports or after-school activities to increase their children’s physical fitness might be interested in BJJ for kids but hesitant, wondering, “Is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu safe for kids?” The short answer is “yes.”
Nature of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
Although it may seem counterintuitive, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, which is a grappling sport and martial art involving close physical contact, is known as the gentle art. In fact, its name comes from the Japanese words “ju,” which means gentleness, and “jutsu,” which means art or technique.
From its very beginnings, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was more about self-defense than offense. Some historians believe that Buddhist monks first developed this martial art to defend themselves without weapons. Japanese samurai eventually adapted Brazilian Jiu Jitsu techniques for their own needs, using them for defense in hand-to-hand combat when they had lost their weapon on the battlefield.
Today’s Brazilian Jiu Jitsu continues in this tradition of focusing on body control, both your own body as well as your opponent’s. Those who practice BJJ do so in a measured, controlled way, rather than attacking aggressively. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu teaches you to manipulate joints and use pressure to react to and neutralize your opponent’s movements in what some people call “human chess.”
Unlike other popular martial arts like Karate or Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu does not incorporate striking or kicking to attack an opponent, which means your child will not have to worry about head injuries.
Technique over strength
One of the appeals of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is the emphasis on technique over strength. Even a smaller person can succeed against a larger, stronger opponent using Brazilian Jiu Jitsu techniques and concentrating on leverage, angles, and body control. As a result, your child can learn to protect himself or herself, no matter their size.
Young children might not be introduced to submissions right away. Once they begin to learn submissions such as arm bars and rear naked chokes, though, you might be worried that they might get injured. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu allows the opponent the opportunity to tap in submission as soon as they feel uncomfortable. This practice means the chances of your child suffering an injury are minimal.
Even in sparring, children learn to stop as soon as their partner taps, which means the potential for injury is greatly reduced, if not negligible.
When your child trains Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, they learn new skills under the watchful eye of trained instructors in a safe environment. This protects your child from injury and helps them to progress more quickly.
Training indoors means that there is no off-season for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu – you can train rain or shine, summer or winter. This consistency allows your child to build up endurance and muscle memory, which reduces the potential for injury.
Padded mats at every Brazilian Jiu Jitsu school provide added protection since most Brazilian Jiu Jitsu techniques occur on the ground. As in other sports like gymnastics, these mats are sturdy enough to provide needed resistance but soft enough to cushion joints and bones.
Besides the physical environment, the training methods used to teach kids Brazilian Jiu Jitsu classes help make the sport safer. In most cases, kids classes start with a warm-up and then the instructors demonstrate a technique. The instructors pair up the children to work as partners. Children practice the techniques together, and the instructors help as needed.
Most kids classes are broken up into age groups (e.g., 3 and 4 year olds; 5-7 year olds, 9 and above), so your child will most likely be training with peers around the same age and size. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu instructors are careful to match children up based on age, size, relative skill, and, when possible, gender. Training with someone of similar size helps ensure your child will not be overwhelmed and will be able to master the techniques safely.
Learning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu requires a lot of repetition. Having the opportunity to drill the movements and techniques repeatedly in kids classes with instructors helping them gives your child the chance to safely hone their skills in a non-competitive atmosphere and safe environment.
Benefits Outweigh the Risks
The physical, mental, and emotional benefits of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for kids are many. BJJ for kids is fun and challenging. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu teaches kids to protect themselves, increases their physical fitness, builds confidence, and provides life skills of discipline and respect. Kids who practice BJJ in a safe environment become healthier, stronger, and more confident. BJJ classes are a great environment for kids to learn but also to have fun and make friends.
Of course, no physical activity or sport can be completely risk-free when it comes to injuries. However, given the very nature of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu itself, as well as the safe environment of kids classes, you can feel confident allowing your child to embark on the exciting journey of training this popular martial art. Most schools offer a free trial class, so you have nothing to lose trying one of the kids classes. The benefits certainly outweigh the minimal risk of any potential injury to your child.