The most important responsibility we, as Coaches, assume while instructing our kids in the art of Jiu Jitsu, is not providing technical tips to promote flawless performances. The most important mission for us is to help our kids attain a level of emotional maturity and strength of character that will serve as a foundation that lead to a healthy and successful life. We believe the sport of Jiu Jitsu promotes mind, body, and emotional health. And at the academy, we provide a place for that in a safe and supportive environment. Our Kids’ Zoo-Jitsu program is intentionally designed to facilitate the growth of emotional and physical fitness and strong values. Working alongside our students, we help them grow from within and develop the abilities necessary to excel. Life promises to present challenges. So our program exposes students to constructive challenges, teaching them how to overcome them with the help and support of our coaches. This prepares the children for the time they when they must confront problems on their own.
Jiu Jitsu is both a strategic thinking game and a physical sport, which requires students to exert themselves both physically and mentally, mind and body working together in tandem, to succeed. Students must constantly learn and push themselves past their limits to achieve the desired outcome. At times, a child may be trying his or her best and is emotionally invested in the activity, but the efforts just aren’t yielding the results for which they are aiming. This can be emotionally frustrating for the student. But if he or she is able to persevere and crack the barrier that is holding him or her back through more intense learning and hard work, the result will be an unmatched satisfaction that builds confidence.
Now don’t get me wrong, our objective here at the academy is still to help kids learn how to effectively execute world-class Jiu Jitsu. This standard of excellence remains. But it is the child’s emotional development that is key to his or her success in Jiu Jitsu, and in life. If kids are unable to deal with their emotions on the mat, their progress will be stunted. People are perpetually faced with new challenges in life, and these challenges will become more complex and more competitive, just as they will as one progresses on the mats in Jiu Jitsu. Our children will need to be prepared to face them head on. The question, then, is: “Are we giving our young people opportunities to take part in activities that will prepare them physically and emotionally for life?”
This question is addressed by Clayton Christenson in his book (which I highly recommend, and which is available on Amazon here) How Will You Measure Your Life? He speaks about the value of allowing our kids, and ourselves, to engage in activities that present us with challenging experiences, to position us to be able to navigate and solve them before we are forced to face them in life. The author goes on to suggest that putting our kids in tight situations is like offering them a “course in life” where they will have the opportunity to hone their abilities to perform under pressure and develop leadership skills and accountability.
One of several ways we work with our students to help them develop emotionally is to give them room to explore escaping from a vulnerable position or to implement a technique. We don’t always immediately jump in to fix a technical error unless they are in a dangerous position. This allows the students to learn from their own mistakes and to face and overcome momentary defeat and the disappointment of not performing as well as they would have liked. This is not an easy approach in the moment as it often entails children dealing with hurt feelings and discouragement, where they may even cry. But it is part of the learning process and will help to make them stronger. Further, to immediately intervene and coach a child on what they need to do technically to win a match can reinforce a performance-based mindset. It is not helpful to the students if we communicate to them that the most valued component of the game is to come out on top, rather than to embrace the learning process.
This is a difficult route to take as a coach or parent because it is hard to see someone we love struggling as they wrestle through challenges. Our initial reaction may be that we become so focused on how the child is rolling and on what they need to do immediately to win the match, that we jump in and offer solutions the instant they are struggling, with the intent to be helpful or avoid hard feelings. However, we are not protecting our children by doing this. Instead, we may be forfeiting an opportunity to build their confidence and to increase their technical ability through leaning to deal with tough emotions. When we focus on the development of their emotions, integrity, and character, by default the techniques will come. We view this as an opportunity to teach them not only the mechanics of the sport of Jiu Jitsu but also to gain confidence and self-esteem through learning and hard work.
In speaking with students after defeats or poor performances, we praise them for trying their best, teach them that losing is part of the learning process and part of the game, encourage respect for their teammates and their coaches and encourage continued hard work and perseverence. From there we address the technical aspect. Christensen also mentions in his book that “when you aim to achieve great things, it is inevitable that sometimes you are not going to make it.” He councils us to urge our children to pick themselves up and try again, telling them that if they are not occasionally failing, then they are not aiming high enough. Christensen goes on to say that we should be celebrating failure just as much as we celebrate success, if it is the result of striving for an out-of-reach goal. Bouncing back from temporary setbacks is one of the biggest motivators I have seen to make students rise above themselves.
We measure the success of our Jiu Jitsu program by observing the degree of improvement from when the child first entered our academy. Some students have an abundance of knowledge about Jiu Jitsu and are more athletically endowed; therefore, they tend to be better at Jiu Jitsu. But the true measure of success is how willing they are to learn and put in the work to improve. I have seen many students overcome and become the top in the class through persistence on the mat.
That is why we say: “it’s not about Jiu Jitsu”. It is about the personal development and transformation of each student. Equipping our students with the experiences they need to learn to persevere through challenges, to have the ability to deal with pressure, and to be prepared to navigate tough moments in life is our mission. One of the most important jobs we have is how we raise our children, and by ours, I mean the entire generation that is coming up behind us. To miss investing in our children, our future, is to fail.
– Professor Tony Passos
From the “it’s not about Jiu Jitsu” files, I heard an extraordinary (and for me, emotionally impactful) statement from a parent tonight – “on the mats, my child isn’t autistic.”
Over the years, we’ve had a lot of kids come through that carry the label ‘special needs’, in one way or another. As someone who has had my own challenges, I’ve always viewed the kids on the autism spectrum as My People. I can identify with a lot of the challenges they face and can see a lot of what’s coming at them, and I take a special interest in helping coach them.
I very much enjoy, and am energized by, hearing from the parents of all of our children about the positive changes they are seeing in their kids, whether it’s on the mats, at home, or at school (and that some of the kids report seeing in their parents who train, for the record – they are watching you!). Every person has room to grow, even the ones that look like they’ve got everything together, and seeing that growth is a source of joy and motivation. It’s especially rewarding to see it from the kids with unique challenges: knowing that we’ve constructed an environment where any child (or adult!) can succeed and realize growth within the same context, the same framework, and under the same expectations, regardless of the starting hand that they’ve been dealt, means that what we are doing is working, and that what we are doing is RIGHT.
So yeah. It hits me to hear “my child has goals now. My child is behaving in school now. We haven’t had a weekly meltdown in six months. My child sleeps through the night now. My child smiles now, tells jokes now.” This is the child that was there, the entire time, and Jiu Jitsu is simply providing the leverage to let them shine through.
– Coach Paul
Give your child a summer they will never forget! Team Passos is hosting its Kids’ Jiu Jitsu Summer Camp, ages 6 through 12, from June 25th to 29th. While here, your child will train in a supportive environment where they will be cared for and strengthened physically, mentally, and emotionally so that they can grow and thrive to their fullest potential.
During the week, students will learn applicable self-defense skills, gain confidence, discipline and social skills all while having a blast. Your child will benefit from one-on-one guidance from our team of Coaches and enjoy making new friends.
Camp will begin at 2:00 pm Monday through Friday and finish at 4:00 pm. Additionally, your child has the option to stay for the first kids’ class immediately following. Kids classes are from 4:00-5:00 Monday, Wednesday and Friday and from 4:30-5:30 pm Tuesday and Thursday.
No prior martial arts skills is required. Everyone is welcome. Contact our academy today to register your child for a fun and confidence building week!
During kids class, it is not uncommon for a young student to cry on the mat. Here is a bit of our take on the topic.
The reality is, crying during class will happen. It’s inevitable. When it does happen, it should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. If the child is crying because of true pain due to an injury, then that should be dealt with appropriately and medical attention will be sought, if needed. Thankfully this is an extremely rare occurrence at our academy due to the structure and rules we have in place. In all other cases of crying our policy is to approach the situation differently.
The reasons behind crying on the mat are varied: the child may be frustrated, they could be intimidated, or maybe simply embarrassed, for example if they are losing a match. Crying can also be used by kids as a form of manipulation. It is also important to address crying on the mat quickly, because this is one of the few behaviors a kid can do in class that will distract all of the other students and disrupt the progression of the entire class. More often than not, a kid crying in class is their way of avoiding an uncomfortable situation or getting attention rather than true injury. We also find that it is commonly the same offenders who are repeatedly disturbing class. Unless they are crying due to real pain, we will make it clear to them that this behavior is unacceptable, and teach them the skills and tools to handle their emotions and express themselves in an appropriate way.
As instructors, part of our job is to teach our students how to handle their emotions, and the best way to express themselves. When I see kids crying on the mat it is most often out of frustration, mental pressure, or even a form of manipulation, rather than them being in pain. It is therefore up to the instructor to employ his or her judgment to assess where the child is in terms of emotional development, and therefore determine the real reason behind the tears.
This is particularly relevant to students who attend a regular class. The instructor will be able to figure out if a particular child using crying as a way to avoid an uncomfortable situation, or to get attention, because a pattern will emerge over time.
In this way, if we were to give the child a easy out of the situation, such as quickly ending the warm up or whatever it may be, we would be doing them a disservice as instructors and mentors. Instead, as long as they are in no physical harm, it is better to allow them to stay in the uncomfortable position so they can figure it out for themselves, work out their emotions and explore other ways of overcoming difficulty, rather than escaping the situation or giving up. By letting them find their own achievement, we give them the tools to success that they will carry into adulthood.
The habits and attitudes we are helping kids develop at an early age through Jiu-Jitsu are critical to their success later down the road. In most cases, left to their own kids will eventually learn that crying is not socially acceptable and “grow out of it”. However, this doesn’t mean that they have learned to deal with their emotions. If they are not challenged and taught how to appropriately handle their emotional reactions to situations, this will often manifest as unhealthy anger or in some cases psychological issues later in life.
Our policy is to be strong against crying in class. In many cases what may look like tough love or disregard for the child’s feelings from the outside, is actually a specially targeted way of helping our kids develop emotionally to become healthy and functioning adults. In these circumstances, it is our responsibility as instructors to make it clear to the student that their behavior is unacceptable. We should also take this opportunity to teach them other skills and tools to handle their emotions, and appropriate ways of expressing themselves.
Had a great time at our kids Zoo-Jitsu barbecue this past weekend. There were volleyball and soccer matches, bubbles, gigantic beach balls, and races. Thanks everyone for coming out. Can’t wait to do this again!
Great coaches at every stage in life is essential to achieving success and fulfilling our fullest potential. Who are your coaches and mentors at this stage in your life? And, who are you pouring into as a leader?
Thankful for our amazing team of coaches!