For Jiu Jitsu to have the desired impact on kids, it must be fun. This is where the hardest part of coaching lies. Making Jiu Jitsu for kids fun for an entire hour is about as easy as mastering the Gogoplata — it isn’t!
Luckily, like mastering the Gogoplata, making Jiu Jitsu for kids fun is possible with the right information. Read on to learn more about making kids jiu jitsu fun and what drills to use to keep kids glued to the mats!
The Ideal and Most Common Age of Children in a Kids’ Jiu Jitsu Class
In a kids Jiu Jitsu class, the attendees are younger than 16. Even with the age limit, the age span isn’t very specific. It tells very little about when to enroll a child in the class.
What’s the right age to start enrolling children in a kids Jiu Jitsu class? Most pro coaches will say that six is the best minimum age to get children started. We have a couple of reasons for this.
First, let’s think about movement acquisition and capability. Children between the ages of two to four are toddlers. At this stage, children are still learning the most basic of movements — standing and walking.
At the age of five, the child’s nervous system is still in the process of consolidating newly acquired movement patterns. For this reason, it’s a stretch to ask children younger than six to participate in movement drills.
By the age of six, most children will have already developed many gross motor skills. Gross motor skills include walking, running, rolling with the chin tucked, pushing, pulling, jumping, and getting up. What do these sound like? These are the basic movements that many see in a kids’ BJJ class!
Therefore, we believe that six years old is the best minimum age to introduce a child to the joys of the mat!
Why Jiu Jitsu for Kids Can Be Tough to Prep for: The Range of Ages
When teaching a Jiu Jitsu for kids class, there’s going to be a wide range of ages. Coaches can expect students that are as young as six years old to train alongside teenagers aged 14 to 15.
The span of ages can create a major problem for the coach. This is due to the different developmental stages the students are in.
With age comes a different developmental stage. With each developmental stage comes a unique way of perceiving instructions and challenges.
For example, a student who is 13 years old will relish the idea of a free roll. This is because a 13-year-old is at the stage where competition is fun. This is not the case for a seven-year-old student who is likely to be self-conscious.
The problem revolves around making the class useful to all the kids in it. Because of the wide range of ages, planning activities and interactions will be a challenge.
Luckily, coaches can develop class structures that not only make class management easy but also make it fun for all ages.
Our Class Structure Makes Jiu Jitsu for Kids Fun!
A typical class consists of a warm-up, drills, and live rolls — if the class is an adult’s or seniors’ class. For kids, Granite Bay Jiu Jitsu has tweaked things a bit.
Like in the adults’ classes, we kick-off sessions with warm-ups. Warm-ups for a kids’ class are different from the exercises in an adults’ class. For kids’ warm-ups, we choose simple movements that are scalable to accommodate various age groups and capabilities.
For example, we start the session off with some jogging. Jogging is something that all of our kids can do. To scale up the difficulty for older or more seasoned kids, we add lateral jogs to the warm-up.
Another example of a scalable movement is the burpee. Since younger children may not be able to perform this movement, our instructors scale it. The scaled version becomes a hand-release pushup and a plank that ends with the student standing back up.
Movement Practice That’s Short and Sweet
Younger children will have shorter attention spans, so our instructors keep movement practice engaging. Because we focus less on technical mastery and more on fun, we make movement practice into a game. One of the ways we make kids’ training more fun is through BJJ solo and partner drills.
“But… Wait! No Rolling?”
While fun is the name of the game when it comes to Jiu Jitsu, so is safety. For kids, we avoid any live rolling.
Live rolling can place some students at risk of injury. This is because children usually don’t know their strength levels, nor do they have the movement dexterity to control their movements.
For example, when young students attempt moves like the Americana, they may crank the arm by mistake. This can injure their partners, and the children who attempted the moves aren’t to blame since they’re unaware of the force they apply.
For our classes, we allow something called partial rolls. Partial rolls are like live rolls, except getting in a certain position is the end goal instead of a submission. When a child gets to mount, the child has already won the roll.
The instructors get to decide what the final position will be. By simply working towards positions, the children achieve a good base that can carry over to their adult BJJ careers. Of course, they’ll also develop technical awareness and good movement habits. They develop all of these capabilities without putting themselves or others at risk of injuries. It’s a win-win!
The Best Drills for Kids’ Jiu Jitsu
Without further ado, here are some drills to add thrills to any Jiu Jitsu for kids class!
Once again, children don’t need to make submissions the focus of their training. Rather, the children can work on other skills like takedowns. Takedown drills do not need to culminate in an actual takedown. The entries and setups will suffice.
Transition and Position Drills
Instructors can also use partner drills to train transitions. For example, a child can move from the guard pass to the side mount and then to the mount. Then, the other child may sweep and end up in guard. From here, the other child can perform the same steps towards the full mount.
Some submission drilling is fine as long as nobody in class cranks hard on the hold. Once again, safety is the name of the game when teaching kids.
Line drills require children to form lines on one side of the academy. From here, they perform movements to get to the other side of the gym. They can shrimp; they can crawl. They may even roll or tumble!
For this drill to work its magic, instructors need to select moves that are specific to BJJ. Performing these movements will train children in observing the proper ways to roll, escape, and move on the mat.
This drill comes from the legendary strength and conditioning coach, Dan John. The get-back-up drill is a method for adult students to learn the mechanics of properly standing up from a grounded position.
When applying this drill to children, instructors may announce a rule. For instance, at Granite Bay Jiu Jitsu, we start by instructing kids to try getting up from a sitting position without using their right hand. From here, we make things challenging by telling them to stand up without using either of their hands.
We can also tweak the starting position. Instead of the sitting position, we can also ask the children to get up from a lying position. Instructors can announce rules and conditions to make this drill challenging, fun, and even silly for kids.
This drill will teach kids proper body mechanics, problem-solving, and creativity — traits that go far in BJJ.
Looking Up “Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Near Me” for Your Kids? We’ve Got Your Back!
Evidence-based in our approach, Granite Bay Jiu Jitsu caters to all age groups. For a transformative mat experience for your kids, try a free week with us. Your kids will be in for a class where good times roll!