Coach Riya teaching students how to take the back in Jiu Jitsu
Jiu Jitsu is a great way for kids to stay active, build self-confidence, and learn self-defense skills. Kids in Jiu Jitsu get used to the feeling of being taken down, mounted, or controlled. If this ever happens in real life from another kid, it won’t be new to them and they will feel confident in their ability to protect themselves.
However, Jiu Jitsu requires repetition to learn. This can become boring to kids over time. Here are some ideas to keep Jiu Jitsu engaging and fun for kids:
- Make it a game. If you ask kids what they want to do in class, they will always say “play games!” Kids love games. They are competitive by nature and understand the concept of winning and losing. By turning Jiu Jitsu into games, kids will stay engaged and have fun. We implement games throughout every class, especially with the little kids. One game the kids love is the “Rectangle game”, where a pair of two students have to stay in one rectangle and try to take each other down. If they step outside the rectangle, then they lose. If they take their opponent down, then they win. It can be a judo take down like osoto-gari, or a wrestling take down like a double leg. For little kids, we focus less on the exact technique, and more on the concepts of off balancing their opponent and using their own weight to take their opponent to the ground.
- Use props. Anytime a prop or toy is used in training, Jiu Jitsu will feel more fun for kids. For example, we play the “ball game” at the beginning of every class. Students have to try to catch a ball that is thrown to them by their coach. If they catch it, great! If not, they are given an assignment by the coach. The assignment might be “10 break falls”, “2 forward rolls”, “5 bridges”, “2 shrimps”, etc. Kids love this game because there is a clear goal, which is to catch the ball. It also gives them an opportunity to practice the essential drills that will contribute to their success in Jiu Jitsu.
- Celebrate progress. Kids love to be recognized for their accomplishments. Our students receive stripes for specific attendance, and eventually are promoted to a higher belt after passing a belt exam. However, celebrating every day progress is even more important. We encourage coaches to praise the kids when they show understanding of the techniques and concepts. We make sure that we talk to every student after class and let them know that we see their hard work and mention specifics from class that they did well. This will inspire kids to keep showing up and lets them know that we see their hard work and progress.
Keeping Jiu Jitsu fun for kids requires creativity and a positive attitude. By incorporating games, props, and lots of encouragements, kids will learn to love Jiu Jitsu. Eventually, the techniques and concepts will come naturally to them. The ultimate goal is for them stay on the mats, and eventually experience the benefits of learning Jiu Jitsu for kids.
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