We are in the process of working with various Placer and Sacramento County organizations at our two locations to expand our work with at-risk youth by creating a submission grappling youth mentorship program. This will involve training a combination of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, wrestling, and chess. Each student will be assigned an active practitioner that’s identified as a successful, productive member of the entrepreneurial community that will personally commit to helping their trainees succeed by holding them accountable with regard to the goals they identify during onboarding (each mentor is background checked by the Charles Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Association and personally vetted by the program directors). We want to incorporate multiple forms of effective grappling styles to act as the backbone of our program for several reasons:
- We believe it’s the best combination of martial arts one can train for overall self-defense, which is a concern for anyone and everyone at all stages of life. In today’s world, being able to defend oneself without striking is critical to avoid injuring one’s opponent.
- Martial sports are an effective way to encourage lifelong learning as a lifestyle, open-mindedness, and the acceptance that one must keep their ego in check at all times in order to progress in life. No other activities have shown the same level of effectiveness in producing voluntary change in the individual than martial arts, particularly the more effective martial arts that fall into the category of “martial sports” that involve large amounts of active resistance (boxing, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, kickboxing, Muay Thai, Sambo, and wrestling), which is critical in establishing the efficacy of both the martial art(s) and the training.
- They offer the practitioners consistent structure and require a willingness to accept and embrace self-discipline; the onus is on the individual to progress. Furthermore, the competitive nature of all three martial sports individually and in conjunction with one-another (which we’ve found fast tracks progression amongst all three) offers year-round opportunities for competition that will drive young practitioners toward a consistent training schedule (no seasonal time off).
- Eligibility to practice and compete is contingent upon good study habits and where appropriate (student has struggled/is struggling with academics) - is showing consistent improvement. Our youth in both our private and nonprofit programs must stay on top of their schoolwork in order to compete, as their academic progression is their primary priority.
- Olympic programs: the youth need opportunities to improve their situations, and with competitive options in two of the martial arts they’ll be training with strong Olympic programs behind them, our program will offer them opportunities that other activities simply cannot. We have two facilities out of which we can operate and have already completed the requirements to get our students into organized Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, and wrestling competitions.
Chess is our program’s accompanying game of choice. This decision ties back to a common practice in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) in which students simultaneously train BJJ and study chess in order to develop broad, fast-acting critical thinking skills and emphasize how appropriate planning, general strategy, and the acceptance of recurring failure in a controlled environment are essential in developing new skills - something that goes extremely well with and even augments BJJ training. Chess also makes for a great activity that can be played in and out of the academy thanks to modern smartphones, with games that can take place throughout the day and can even be paused for long periods of time. This makes for another positive activity that the students can do with one-another and even with their mentors.
The mentorship aspect of the program takes the values that are developed by the activities (martial arts and chess) and adds active accountability to the equation via an adult role model that plays an active role in their students’ lives. This relationship provides each student with a lifeline to a vetted individual that they can safely emulate. The idea is simple: young people that train martial arts and enjoy them will find themselves drawn to other individuals that do the same, and will likely perceive their seniors within the activity with skill more positively than they would another adult mentor. The dynamic that ensues will make the students more open to advice from their mentor, and more likely to ask questions based on their interactions on the mat (where asking questions is highly encouraged when learning and practicing new techniques), especially when their mentor is carefully selected based on their success on and off the mat. These interactions will instill an innate understanding of the value of networking and looking to successful individuals in navigating life’s waters - while providing a meaningful, long-term friendship for both the student and the mentor.
Our program boils down to activity and mentorship as a means for personal development. The things our students learn on and off the mat, and the encouragement via forward momentum that they’ll receive for the work they do will push them toward values that many struggle to develop in a conventional setting for a myriad of reasons: self-motivation, self-discipline, planning, strategy, long-term thinking, networking, academic and vocational development, and understanding the role of failure and the inevitable delay one must accept to take the high road - all as a means for achieving success.