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What are some of the reasons why youth athletes drop out of sports?
Coach Amanda watches over warm ups in kid’s martial arts class
At least 30 million kids between the ages of 6-17 play in organized sports programs each year and of those 30 million about 35% drop out each year. A more staggering statistic is 70-80% of youth between the ages of 13-15 drop out of organized sports entirely. One of the most widely cited studies on why youth athletes stop playing organized team sports is called “Participation and Attrition Patterns in American Agency-sponsored and Interscholastic Sports.” 8,000 boys and girls from 10 to 18 years of age in 17 US locations completed a survey on their participation in school and non-school sports programs.
In this survey, 2 fun related reasons were found to be dominant in why kids dropped out of playing sports, these were followed by reasons related to time constraints, lack of coaching, and dislike for the pressures involved with playing sports. They found that three changes would likely induce the greatest number of drop-outs to play the sport again: “Practices were more fun”, “Coaches understood players better” and “I could play more”.
Coaches Amanda, Trent, and Mina get the kids warmed up in kid’s martial arts class
What this study shows us is that when kids are young and participating in sports the FUN factor needs to be the number one rule. Too often coaches and parents believe that playing a more competitive and concentrated schedule year around, beginning when kids are young, will produce a successful athlete and this could not be further from the truth. When you look at for example the Canadian Long Term Athletic Development Model (LTAD http://www.canadiansportforlife.ca/learn-about-canadian-sport-life/ltad-stages) there are multiple stages which young athletes need to progress through to allow them to fulfill his/her full athletic potential later on in life. It is during the early stages of this program which children begin to develop basic physical literacy by learning about agility, balance, coordination, and speed (ABCs). These basics will serve them as training in the later years begins to become more specialized. During this time the focus should be on having fun and participating in a wide variety of sports with a minimal focus on competition.
When you look at the alarming rate of injuries suffered by youth athletes (http://resultsperiod1.com/site/injury-statistics-for-youth-sports-in-the-united-states/) annually in the United States something is wrong with the way we are coaching and training not only the athletes but the coaches and volunteers who are working with them. Coaches who work with youth athletes need to understand that they cannot undertake the same training volume and intensity as teenagers or adults. A more concentrated training and competition schedule when kids are young is one of the major factors of injury and burnout.
In a report called “Go Out and Play: Youth Sports in America” from Women’s Sports Foundation (2008) when parents of kids were surveyed about the reasons behind kids completely stopping playing team sports were asked why it happened, the main reason given for both sons and daughters was “no longer fun”.
Fun game of jiu jitsu virus in kid’s martial arts class
To allow the youth athlete the greatest possibility of reaching their full athletic potential later on in life it is imperative that when they are young the joy of sports and having fun should be the number one goal. Allowing the athlete to mature and develop slowly and steadily is also crucial to keep them out of the high incidence of injury and allowing them to develop the building blocks of physical literacy which will give them confidence to excel and enjoy sports for their entire lives.
When it comes to martial arts families and kid’s martial arts I often wonder how it gets started. Who is the one that takes the family to the next level? Who are the ones that support the leisure activity that becomes a habit and then becomes a lifestyle? I wish I could speak from experience…I am a novice at best and my daughter has been training longer than I have but not quite a year. What I see where we train is families really trying to support each other in their training. That doesn’t mean that all spouses train but they help drop the kids off, pick them up, attend events, and train themselves. It’s really an impressive feat when you consider the logistics.
Kid’s martial arts and other activities
When you think of all the different opportunities to be active families have to pinpoint what they want to do and how they can achieve the time and consistency to reap the benefits. It’s the same if it’s kid’s martial arts or piano lessons-we have to make time. I’m certainly of the mind that children should have as much fun as possible. They need to experience a lot of different activities. When family members train or actively participate with kid’s it bonds them. I know it’s helped me in my relationship with my daughter. I’ve seen parents, wives and husbands all take part in each others training at the gym. I’ve seen younger siblings watch their older siblings in the kid’s martial arts class and want to join. I’ve seen the same young children model what is happening in class as they watch their older siblings. It’s fun and it’s cute to see that kind of participation.
Kid’s martial arts family spotlight
In the coming weeks I will be talking to and interviewing some of the parents and children that train to find out their stories. I will be asking to see how they found out about Brazilian jiu jitsu, if they trained in any other disciplines, and how they got their children in the kid’s martial arts class.
I don’t have too much to offer personally just yet. Over time as I train, my daughter trains, and her younger brother eventually starts to train in kid’s martial arts I may have more stories. However, I can share an actual conversation that took place between my daughter and I one evening after her homework was done and she was going to bed:
Me: Great job with your homework! Now lay down, it’s time to go to sleep.
Daughter: Can I jump on the bed?
Me: No. You can lay down and get ready to go to sleep.
Daughter: (pointing to her 3yo younger brother) Can I do jiu jitsu on him?
Me: (chuckling and trying not to laugh) No. You have to get ready to go to sleep.
There are many different thoughts on conditioning for children in all sports, not just kid’s martial arts classes.
Adult coaches watching the kid’s martial arts class, watching the future.
Some parents think that we should start earlier rather than later, others believe that you should start later. Some coaches in youth sports believe you should run kids silly and others believe you should just teach skill. Other coaches think that intense short interval training is best for younger kids rather than longer less intense training.
Why do athletes believe they need to train so hard all the time? Is it the perception that harder equals better? Or do they believe if they are not working as hard as possible they are not improving? Is this belief an indication of the misguided notions of the coaches and parents who are mentoring these young athletes? Or did the athlete see a video of one of their idol’s workouts on youtube, leading them to mimic that elite athlete’s particular workout (but without understanding how that workout ﬁts into their idol’s monthly or annual workout program, or its place in their idol’s long-term development as an elite athlete)?
This line of questioning was then answered with hard facts when Mark says:
Let’s look at the science involved to better understand how these athletes should be training to properly develop their heart to maximize performance, particularly at young ages.
Kid’s martial arts and what’s best for our kids
Reviewing in kid’s martial arts class
When it comes to kid’s martial arts and any other sport for that there is definitely a trap, at least for parents, to want the best and I know I have fallen into that trap myself. We always want what’s best for our kid’s but sometimes we have to really understand the developmental differences of a young child, an adolescent, and an adult. It doesn’t matter if it’s kid’s martial arts or any other youth sport, I think we all fall into the trap of “working harder is better” when it’s really “working smarter is better.”
I invited Mark to come see one of my daughter’s classes and reached out to him to do a guest blog post. He has many ideas based on actual scientific studies and development in youth athletics and feel his insight would be good for this blog on kid’s martial arts.
I often find articles on youth development and youth sports. I’ve come across one that is very interesting titled: Losing is good for you by Ashley Merryman. It’s a great piece on understanding how kids develop in environments that can be academic or sports related. You may remember her from a previous blog post I wrote Kid’s martial arts and gratitude.
In her Op Ed piece she speaks to the notion of trophies and who receives them. She states in the opening lines:
Whether your kid loves Little League or gymnastics, ask the program organizers this: “Which kids get awards?” If the answer is, “Everybody gets a trophy,” find another program.
Her stance, which makes sense to me, is that sending children the message they can get a trophy for participation is counterproductive to their development and dealing with stress and competition.
Kids matches in kid’s martial arts class
Kid’s martial arts and problem solving skills
Children are so much smarter than many of us give them credit for and it’s due to there adaptability in situations that can be stressful. To quote from the article again:
By age 4 or 5, children aren’t fooled by all the trophies. They are surprisingly accurate in identifying who excels and who struggles. Those who are outperformed know it and give up, while those who do well feel cheated when they aren’t recognized for their accomplishments. They, too, may give up.
It turns out that, once kids have some proficiency in a task, the excitement and uncertainty of real competition may become the activity’s very appeal.
If children know they will automatically get an award, what is the impetus for improvement? Why bother learning problem-solving skills, when there are never obstacles to begin with?
Teen coach watching over a drill in kid’s martial arts class
One of the reasons we enjoy the gym we go to is that nothing is handed out and that skill is rewarded appropriately. The children in the group understand what’s expected of them and what they need to do to get the next level. That’s not to say they are taskmasters and the children are under constant stress in their kid’s martial arts class but they know what is expected of them.
Kid’s martial arts: don’t spin a loss into a decorated victory
As the founder at SBGi Matt Thornton says often, one cannot fake jiu jitsu anymore than they can fake speaking Spanish or playing guitar. This makes it a great tool for the kids to be able to learn and adapt to in their kid’s martial arts class.
Drilling with a resisting partner in kid’s martial arts class
When children make mistakes, our job should not be to spin those losses into decorated victories. Instead, our job is to help kids overcome setbacks, to help them see that progress over time is more important than a particular win or loss, and to help them graciously congratulate the child who succeeded when they failed.
Kid’s martial arts: knowing things will get better
With anything new, we start out excited and happy to learn. It’s exciting and there’s a vigor to the learning process-you meet teachers/coaches and students. But how many times have we heard the saying “It’s not how you start; it’s how you finish that matters.” I’ve learned that tempering my own expectations when starting something new has helped propel me over a longer period of time and that consistency is the real challenge for getting good at anything.
I see this in my own daughter as she has grown in her kid’s martial arts class of Brazilian jiu jitsu. We all hit these plateaus where we start to have negative self-talk. I see myself in her when she says things like “I can’t do it,” “I’m too small,” or “I’m not strong enough.” It’s really interesting for me, as a parent, to help coach her through some of these tough times because, given the mere fact that I am older and have experienced it, I know things will get better with fortitude and consistency. I read and hear platitudes in Buddhist teachings to accept the suffering, indeed at times to enjoy and revel in the experience itself. The difference for my 7 year old daughter, and an opportunity for me to help her in her kid’s martial arts class, is she doesn’t know what’s on the other side. She’s only 7 and hasn’t had these experiences. I’ve had them and have difficulty getting through it as an adult at times-we all have had them.
Giving instruction in kid’s martial arts class
Kid’s Martial Arts : it’s a group effort
Adult coaches watching the kid’s martial arts class, watching the future.
Obviously, I work towards and am invested in my daughter doing well, but the great thing about her kid’s martial arts class is that her coaches are also very invested in working with her and helping her through the same tough plateaus. They are that way with all the children in the kid’s martial arts class. They meet the kids where they are because the coaches have been there. They understand the suffocating feeling of being in mount bottom or giving up your back when you didn’t want to-they know the feeling. They help teach the kids that it won’t always be that way; they are models themselves that there is a place beyond the frustration they may, and generally will, experience in a kid’s martial arts class.
Kid’s Martial Arts and life skills
“Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention. Be astonished.
Tell about it.”
Demonstrating in kid’s martial arts class
Such is life. We all feel, love, and learn from our experiences. It doesn’t matter if it’s some frustrating politics in the work place, a three-point shot we can’t seem to hit consistently, or not feeling strong enough in a kid’s martial arts class. We have had those frustrations and we’re all still here, moving forward…
There are so many reasons in our lives to be grateful. Whether its our families, our jobs, or homes we all have something. Lately, I’ve been watching and reading a lot about the zombie apocalypse. It’s a fairly pervasive theme that we have seen permeate our culture-the idea that the undead would run rampant. I’ve been reading The Disaster Diaries by Sam Sheridan, watching the show The Walking Dead, and also watching zombie movies like Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland.
A favorite treatment of the zombie motif that I enjoy is the movie Zombieland. I like it because there are rules to living in Zombieland by the main character that he attributes to his survival. Rules like Rule #1: Cardio, Rule #2 The double tap, Rule #3 beware of bathrooms, and Rule #4 Seatbelts.
My favorite is Rule #32: enjoy the little things.
kid’s martial arts class in session
What does that have to do with kid’s martial arts?
I’ve learned, as a person and a parent, that enjoying the little things can happen any time, anywhere. It’s simplicity often makes things seemingly intolerable profoundly acceptable. I bring it up in kid’s martial arts because it happens when I take my daughter to class. She has all these mini victories in class, I see coaches who care and who are kind, and I enjoy the company of others at the gym. It’s like the show ‘Cheers’ “where everyone knows your name.” Ironically, Woody Harrelson is also both in Cheers and the movie Zombieland.
kid’s martial arts class, all ages
Enjoying the little things is in the music that is often played at the gym-I’m a big fan of finding new music and bands to listen to but it’s also nostalgic to hear Rick Springfield’s Jesse’s Girl play (takes me straight to grade school!).
It’s a great place where everyone get’s along, the adults watch the kid’s martial arts class as they wait for their class to start and the teens watch also as they wait for their MMA class to start.
Adult class hanging out while kid’s martial arts class is going on…
It really is the little details that you have to enjoy. Maybe some people don’t notice them when they are there, but I can assure you many people notice when they aren’t there.
We all hit walls as we grow and move in this life. Sometimes it’s a financial wall, an emotional wall, or some kind of academic wall. Whether it’s something in our professional or personal lives we all find these obstacles as we continue evolving. Kids are no different, whether they are in school, in a kid’s martial arts class, or a sports environment. Whenever we hit these walls we see what is happening, or we don’t, around us. One thing for certain, we learn lessons about life and about ourselves. The most basic tool I use whenever I hit a wall is to stop and survey what is important, find out what is fundamental in the situation. I had the opportunity recently to try and impart that to my daughter when she hit a wall in her kid’s martial arts class.
Coaching kid’s martial arts class
I am so very proud of her progress in her kid’s martial arts class but I have noticed that she has been comfortable and needs a challenge. She has been doing well and the coaches have seen her progress as well which is a testament to how astute the coaches are and how well she is doing in her kid’s martial arts class. The interesting thing is that many children don’t have the context of what a challenge is as their parents or other adults might understand the situation. Children are very much in the present moment and do not have the perspective that older kids or adults have. I had to understand that before I was able to understand her situation-I had to determine what was fundamental for her in the situation and meet her where she was, as opposed to have her reach me within a context she still did not understand.
The challenge, the balance of kid’s martial arts class
One aspect of coaching that is always tenuous is challenging a student enough to spur growth and not demoralize them. It’s difficult because every child has a different threshold of what/where that line is whether it’s kid’s martial arts or any other sport. Many times, as I have done, we go past it, but most coaches never give a challenge that they don’t think is achievable by the student. Often times, the coaches see more in the students than the students see in themselves. This is fundamental knowledge: the challenge is getting the student to realize that they are better than they think they are and the balance comes in finding the right challenge for that student. This is true of kid’s martial arts or mathematics, a problem may seem unsolvable but the intent is still to solve the problem. The student may believe they cannot achieve the task but even “failure” to solve the problem is a lesson learned.
Coach Amanda coaching the matches in kid’s martial arts class
What is fundamental…
I’m happy my daughter had the support of her coaches and her fellow students. I’m glad she was able to experience her challenge in a safe environment and that she kept going. I think often of a quote when I think of what is fundamental to learn in challenging situations:
The most important thing is not victory, the most important thing is don’t get defeated.
I work towards that end with myself and my family. My daughter’s kid’s martial arts class offers her the opportunities to learn as does life itself…it’s fundamental to moving forward.
Portrait of q & a in kid’s martial arts class
by Luis T.
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There is one thing that I am always encouraging my kids to do and that is to say “thank you.” Luckily, it works most of the time. My daughter says “thank you” when she gets off the bus, she says “thank you” when she finishes her meals and she says “thank you” when we let her watch Brave or Avatar: Last Airbender for the billionth time.
warm ups in our kid’s martial arts class
Kid’s martial arts and effort.
I have written many times about the various reasons martial arts are good for kids, you can see my interview with Sam Sheridan for some really good ones. One reason is it gives me the opportunity to encourage my children to work hard. I work at rewarding them for their continued effort whether it’s cleaning their room, reading books at night, or going to kid’s martial arts class. There were studies highlighted in the book NurtureShock that showed kid’s performed better when given positive feedback on the work/effort done rather than praising natural ability i.e. “You must be really smart” vs. “You must have worked really hard.” Here is a talk from Ashley Merryman, a co-author of the book, that illustrates this idea:
Kid’s martial arts and being grateful
When I used to coach it was hard work. There were practice plans to put together, game plans, player evaluations, not to mention the patience and consistency involved in managing large groups of children who have 6 second attention spans. Every time a child came up to me and said “thank you” it made the experience very rewarding. I see the work that the coaches put forth in my daughter’s kid’s martial arts class. They make sure to coach the kids, to help the kids understand, but also that they have fun in their kid’s martial arts class. The coaches give the children great feed back for the hard work the children put forth in the kid’s martial arts class.
Coach Amanda watching over a match in kid’s martial arts class
Kid’s martial arts and being happy to train
I also encourage my daughter to say “thank you” to her training partners and praise the hard work her classmates exhibit in the kid’s martial arts class. The coaches and her partners are all their to help her learn and she is their to help her partners learn as well. From my point of view, saying “thank you” creates a positive feedback loop that encourages everyone’s hard work in class from the coaches down to the newest student in class. Without the work of the coaches and the help of all the kids in her martial arts class she wouldn’t be having all the fun she is having or learning all that she is learning. Rickson Gracie, I think says it best here:
“You learn when you are having fun, training in a smooth and gentle way. You need to work on improving your technique until you are comfortable in any situation. Eventually, you will develop a subconscious understanding of the techniques and they become reflexes. Only after you have done all this you are ready to take your natural abilities “off the shelf” and add them back into your game. Now the effectiveness of the technique will be at least ten times better.”
As a parent I am often under the stress of worrying. I have a 7 year old daughter in a kid’s martial arts class learning jiu jitsu and a 2 year old son who is quite the handful. I think as parents we are hard wired to worry about our kids. We have to nurture them, help them, guide them, and make sure we do the best for them whether they seem to like it or not.
kid’s class matches
Kid’s martial arts: why I enrolled my daughter
On occasion my son accompanies me to watch his sister in her kid’s martial arts class. He loves running around and it’s cute to see him try to line up with the older kids when the coach gets class started. I worry about him running around, getting into things, or finding new uses for some things he finds around the gym-he’s quite imaginative. I enrolled his sister in kid’s martial arts classes because I worry about her and want to give her tools in her life that will help her. I wanted her to learn jiu jitsu specifically because of the guard work. I want to be the parent that gets the call saying “You’re daughter choked out my son!” To which I would reply “Well, he may have deserved it?” She loves her kid’s martial arts class and she gets along well with all her classmates. I really enjoy watching her in class. I also enjoy listening to her talk about her kid’s martial arts class outside of class. I will also have my son enroll as soon as he is old enough to help him learn some humility. He is a sweet boy and I think that being in a kid’s martial arts class will help him grow. Plus, it puts his sister in a good position to be a mentor so she can help him.
Sibling match in kid’s martial arts class
Even with kid’s martial arts, we’ll always worry to some degree
We, as parents, will always worry to a degree. We will always want what’s best for our children. there’s nothing wrong with that either. I know I will likely worry about them quite often; however, there are moments when my daughter is in class and she does well or she gets through a crucible of sorts and I am very proud of her. There are times in class I watch her with her friends having fun and I know everything will be alright. Its a great vibe and I know it’s made an impression on her as well.
It’s all part of the beauty and terror of being a parent.
We scheduled a time to speak on the telephone so I could ask him some questions and had a great conversation. We talked about his 4 year old son, Kung Fu Panda, Brazilian jiu jitsu, bullies and the bullied, and how important a good environment is for learning martial arts. He made a cup of coffee while we were on the phone and as we spoke his volubility improved notably.
SBGiKids: Are you going to enroll your child in martial arts? What martial arts would you look and what benefits would you look for?
Sam Sheridan: My son is only 4 right now and I don’t live in Iowa, so we’re not quite into getting him into a hardcore wrestling program yet. He loves Kung Fu Panda, and Ninja Turtles. I’ve done a few karate classes with him, they were fine. They were about putting on a gi and running around and perfectly pleasant people involved. I will definitely do martial arts with him…I think jiu jitsu is a wonderful sport for kids for a lot of reasons. I think it’s a great anti-bullying experience. Not only because you learn to just be relaxed, when someone is trying to push you around. I even think it’s almost more valuable for the bullies because everybody’s a white belt when they start. Everybody’s universal experience upon starting jiu jitsu is that you get whooped, you get controlled, and you learn to tap. The skinniest, little kid in the class taps you 50 times. After a couple of months you start to understand, hang out under pressure, and survive. Eventually, you’re tapping people. It creates a great atmosphere because the experience of being a novice is always fresh in your mind, even after you’ve been doing it for a long time. That’s why I think when you roll with white belts you’re very forgiving– because that was you just a few months ago.
“It creates a great atmosphere because the experience of being a novice is always fresh in your mind, even after you’ve been doing it for a long time”
I definitely think wrestling will be something I want to get him interested in, because of the mental toughness aspect. I think it’s one of the few sports that really focuses on mental toughness. You have to learn to push through exhaustion…getting your ass kicked in practice, that can be something that is difficult to find; especially in this modern day and age, we’re all pretty comfortable. In particular in southern California and living in Santa Monica we’re pretty soft, life’s pretty good. Having a little adversity; to deal with overcoming lactic acid and overcoming fatigue and overcoming the desperate desire to want to quit are really valuable lessons. There’s a lot to the striking arts but I think that’s more if he wants to do that stuff, when he’s old enough to understand the ramifications and the repercussions. I’m not going to push him hard in that direction. Certainly, if he wants to turn pro as a fighter, we’ll have a long talk.
SBGiKids: You mentioned how jiu jitsu is beneficial for a bully for it’s humbling effect, what about the kids getting bullied?
Sam Sheridan: Just with a few months of jiu jitsu you learn so much about how to handle a bigger body on top of you, you learn how to relax, how to control your breathing, not to panic, not to take damage or not to put yourself at risk. Even in 6 months you can learn a lot of great stuff. If I have a kid with 6 months of jiu jitsu wrestling against a bigger kid, he’s going to tap that kid, or at least he won’t get too beat up. It gives you a great way to defend yourself. And most of it, again, is dealing with fear and that kind of panic of being trapped, almost claustrophobia when you’re under a stronger guy. It’s why I think police officers should do it. I think police officers don’t get paid to train enough. The first thing that happens in an altercation is you freak out, you fill with adrenalin and you’re much more likely to escalate. You may pull a firearm when you didn’t need to, when you were ok. If you had just kept breathing and kept calm, you’d realize the man wouldn’t have been able to hurt you. Maybe—but either way, you’re decision-making process would be less influenced by adrenaline. So, just the mental side of things for kids: learning not to be scared of physicality and what it’s like to have a body on top of you, and that it’s not the end of the world. The only way can do that is the through repetition that’s in jiu jitsu and wrestling. I think that’s what gives jiu jitsu the advantage over Tae Kwon Do some of the other the traditional martial arts is the concept of randori: training at very nearly their top speed and intensity…in the sport jiu jitsu there’s an element where you can practice pretty hard, pretty safely. Whereas point-sparring in karate or TKD is fun and safe, but maybe kids aren’t exposed to the PACE and FEAR of live sparring.
SBGiKids: What of the concept of discipline for kids in martial arts?
Sam Sheridan: I think that’s a comfortable place for traditionalists to go. There are some advantages there, but I also think it’s kind of an old-school thought, or a cop-out. It’s not like these kids are going to TKD for 2 hours every day, and really learning discipline. They’re going once a week. They may learn a little about balance and about controlling emotions, those are wonderful things, but I think it gets overstated in martial arts. Most of that stuff is about parenting and the environment they’re in. Learning self-discipline is great, but I’m a little questionable of the idea that martial arts teaches great discipline to kids, just automatically. Listen, in Rio (de Janeiro) and in San Paulo, some of the jiu-jitsu guys are all kinds of thugs. It happens everywhere, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to have a great kid. Ideally, that’s what it’s supposed to do; but I know plenty of really serious, really smart martial arts practitioners who don’t really practice mental discipline, and don’t really practice honor, or turning the other cheek, or that running from a fight is the best self-defense. There’s a lot of ego and machismo and we’re kidding ourselves if we think that’s not part of the draw, the mystique of martial arts.
SBGiKids: In Fighter’s Heart you did mention that your muay Thai coach had practiced meditation and you wrote about going on a silent retreat.
Sam Sheridan: I did go to a silent retreat for a few weeks in northern Thailand. Meditation is different…now we’re talking about a much older kid or an adult. In martial arts you’re dealing with questions that are endemic to little boys: Am I tough? Am I strong? Do I have agency? Can I make decisions? Can I control myself? Can I keep myself from being mastered? I think the mistake people make, they think being in martial arts is because people want to be a badass. Most of it comes from fear; most of it comes from “I don’t want to be mastered.” That’s the driving engine that gets most little boys. Yes, they want to be Bruce Lee, they want to be the fantasy. Even most professional fighters want to be what they see on TV which is Bruce Lee and the Ninja Turtles. But when you actually start training, the practice is about self-defense and it is about staying in control of your own fate, and not being dominated by other men. It’s that fear that drives you. I think that the confidence you get in being able to handle yourself is a much greater boon than meditation or any kind of mental aspect.
SBGiKids: Then is confidence what parents are looking for instead of discipline in martial arts?
Sam Sheridan: Well, I think what you’ll find is that they are completely inter-linked. Without the ability to discipline yourself, without self control, you can’t advance. You don’t advance until you master yourself, to some extent. I think that’s an essence of jiu jitsu: it’s not instruction it’s rolling. It’s getting in there with bigger kids getting squished and squashed, and it sucks. If you can control yourself, tap, and not be ruled by ego, then you can last, learn, and get better. Then you start developing confidence. There are all kinds of hilarious, fantastic, street fight footage of blue belts taking down street fighters again and again because there’s nothing the tough street fighters can do…and you’re not even hurting the guy. You’re taking them down and controlling them. It’s what Renzo (Gracie) used to do: choke a guy out, sit on his chest and if he woke up and still wanted to fight he’d choke him out again. It’s probably the most pleasant way to end a street fight that there is. Discipline, concentration, and confidence are all very interlinked. The nice part about jiu jitsu is that they are all essential to any progress.
SBGiKids: A question rose while listening: what is the distinction between actual fighting and training? Some parents think that training in martial arts is encouraging fighting and aggressive behavior.
Sam Sheridan: People are going to be afraid of what they don’t understand, that’s just natural. As our culture has moved away from any kind of understanding of violence, any kind of wrestling or struggling is going to be viewed with disfavor. It’s essential to understanding the world and I think that for little kids it’s a great tool because they are going to wrestle/fight anyway…
SBGiKids: Do you roll around with your son?
Sam Sheridan: Yeah, of course. My wife calls him a little killing machine. He wants to be a kung fu warrior. He thinks he can beat me up. He’s convinced, he’s 4.5. He says “Watch out daddy, I’ll bruise you.” When I did Fighter’s Heart I did all theses radio shows and almost all of them were women’s radio shows and I heard “I understand my son a lot better now, having read your book I understand my sons a lot better.” Your kids, your little boys are going to be drawn to action movies, violence, and fighting. It’ sociology, cultural, and it’s genetic. There’s a huge genetic component to it. We had kids in the neighborhood whose parents wouldn’t let them have toy guns, but what happened? Those kids picked up sticks and pretended they were guns. They still played with imaginary guns. I think it’s a little like willing blindness if you think that little boys aren’t drawn to this stuff. All I would say is that it’s a great sport and art and a place to use up negativity and turn it into positivity, a place where negative energy can get used up in a real constructive way. A good fight gym, I don’t care how much anger you have, they’ll take more. If you want to come in work, spar, hit the bag, and learn how to fight, there are always guys who are willing to train. I would say the most important thing is that you have to have a good vibe. Gyms are all different. There are a lot of qualities of atmosphere and camaraderie…I would be very cautious about putting my boy in a class. I would want to hang out and see what the classes are like for a while before I make a real commitment. Even as an adult there’s all kinds of gyms I’ve trained at, that I’ve had a bad experience at– and you don’t want to get hurt. You want your early experiences to be good ones. They’re so potent, those first few weeks and few practices. They stick in your mind forever. You want to make sure they are with good instructors, students, and people you like. You know, a good vibe. I can’t stress the importance enough of a good vibe. Your intuition and gut are great indicators for the atmosphere of a gym.
For info on training at Straight Blast Check the website or give them a call!
Most people do not enjoy the struggle. Actually, it seems that people avoid a struggle whenever possible. I want to say that struggle is something necessary for growth when it’s viewed as a challenge. I also believe that there is a difference between something viewed as a struggle and something viewed as a challenge. It can get semantic but there is a distinction in many cases. Struggles and challenges occur everywhere in life: at work, in our families relationships with one another, in sports, and even in our most passionate endeavors.
Questions in kid’s martial arts class
Here are some definitions from dictionary.com:
strug·gle verb (used without object)
1. to contend with an adversary or opposing force.
2. to contend resolutely with a task, problem, etc.; strive: to struggle for existence.
3. to advance with violent effort: to struggle through the snow.
1. a call or summons to engage in any contest, as of skill, strength, etc.
2. something by it’s very nature or character serves as a call to battle, contest, special effort, etc.
3. a call to fight, as a battle, a duel, etc.
4. a demand to explain, justify, etc.: a challenge to the treasurer to itemize expenditures.
5. difficulty in a job or undertaking that is stimulating to one engaged in it.
Coach Amanda coaching kid’s martial arts class
Kid’s Martial Arts are no exception to struggle or challenges…
As a matter of fact, I would venture to say that children engaged in kid’s martial arts classes are subject to just as many challenges and struggles as any child involved in team/school sports. This makes it a microcosm of learning that can prepare the child for all challenges and struggles in life, not just in their kid’s martial arts class. We’ve all heard the cliches that nothing worth having comes easy. I posit that a challenge a struggle is somewhat necessary to go beyond where you have been. I’ll give an example: My daughter is learning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and when she started she wasn’t timid be she would get beat often and had to learn to tap. This experience is the same for everyone regardless of age when they start BJJ and not just kid’s martial arts. She has been training fairly consistently now and I can see, it’s like I see the wheels in her head churning and problem solving, that she is far more competent and confident because of those early struggles. Sam Harris describes it this way in his article The Pleasures of Drowning:
In the end if we’re to grow, if children are to learn in their kid’s martial arts class or in life, there has to be a challenge and a struggle. I’ve seen my daughter grow and I’ve seen her set an example for her younger brother who also loves watching her in her class as I do. Her kid’s martial arts class offers a safe place for her to be challenged and to see where she struggles and learn from those struggles.
Kid’s martial arts: this is Rita Pearson and she says every kid needs a champion.
“Rita Pierson, a teacher for 40 years, once heard a colleague say, “They don’t pay me to like the kids.” Her response: “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.’” A rousing call to educators to believe in their students and actually connect with them on a real, human, personal level.”
I first saw this at work and I immediately thought that it was something applicable to any endeavor in which we are teaching children. It’s not specific to kid’s martial arts or sports and that brought up another idea: coaches as teachers. When I first started coaching I knew plenty about the sport I was coaching but I needed to find a way to convey my knowledge and the head coach said this to me: “A coach is basically a teacher, look to education principles and apply it to what you’re coaching/teaching.” Kid’s martial arts and other sports do not fall under the umbrella of most education subjects unless it’s Physical Education; however, the principles of learning are the same for any subject.
In the above video what struck me more than the idea of teaching why and how was her emphasis on relationships. I love the quotes she uses:
”No significant learning can occur without a significant relationship” -James P. Comer
“All learning is understanding relationships.” -George Washington Carver
Friend in kid’s martial arts class
Kid’s martial arts and relationships
One of the things I have enjoyed watching as my child has been going to her kid’s martial arts class is the relationships she has developed. She makes friends pretty easily and she is not shy. Her coaches are great at not only teaching but also fostering relationships amongst the kids. They also do a great job of fostering relationships between themselves and the students by splitting into small groups and playing with them before class and in drills during class.
Coaching a small group in kid’s martial arts class
The gym itself does a great job of having socials, picnics, Ninja Nights, and movies in the park for parents to hang out with other parents, the coaches, and other students that take not just kid’s martial arts classes but even the adult classes. As a parent and former coach I know how important those relationships are to building an open environment where kids feel safe to grow, take risks, learn, and have fun.
Having fun in kids martial arts class. One tribe. One vibe.
Kid’s martial arts and what we can do to encourage
I am often looking at parenting sites and reading up on different things to compliment posts on this kid’s martial arts blog. I came across another blog post that I found extremely interesting which led me to this article that is applicable to any parent if their child is in a kid’s martial arts class or playing on a basketball team: What Makes A Nightmare Sports Parent — And What Makes A Great One.
Kid’s martial arts class, June 2013 Student of the month
Kid’s martial arts and parents
As a parent I know how hard it is sometimes to sit on the sidelines and watch what’s happening with your child whether it’s soccer, a piano recital, or a kid’s martial arts class. It’s difficult because you want to help, as a parent you want to guide them and instruct. When I first read the article the part that struck me and drew me into the article was this little piece and the 6 words:
It’s so simple and yet I had to think if I had ever said this to my daughter. I know that I will from here forward. I have also coached in the past and I have helped kids learn and see things about the sport that I coached. Personally, it’s difficult to separate the coach from the parent sometimes. In the article there are 5 descriptors of the “nightmare parent” and the “ideal sports parent.” These apply to any parent whether the kids are playing lacrosse or in a kid’s martial arts class. The 5 point they make for the “ideal sports parent” are:
Cheer everybody on the team, not just your child
Model appropriate behavior
Know what is suitable to discuss with the coach
Know your role
Be a good listener and a great encourager
Paying attention in kid’s martial arts class
Kid’s martial arts: the kids
The main thing I took away from the article is that there are roles for everyone and my role as a parent is to support my child in her kid’s martial arts class. I have to realize that the coaches coach and it’s up to my daughter to behave herself in her kid’s martial class i.e. pay attention and practice. She has to learn to respect her coaches and her fellow classmates and that is a process that only she can experience in her kid’s martial arts class and beyond. As a parent, hopefully an “ideal sports parent,” it’s my job to be supportive in that journey and let her have the experience.
Working with kids in a kid’s martial arts class there is a certain level where children are always honest. They may not be entirely honest when they think what they say or tell you may get them into trouble but, generally speaking, children are honest about their feelings and what’s going on in their lives. We always hear that honesty is sometimes brutal, it can be hard to hear sometimes, but with children there is little malice when stating the truth about something-it’s very matter of fact, simple, and to the point. I think this happens because many kids have a limited vocabulary and understanding. I’m always reminded of Denzel Washington in the movie Philadelphia when he says “Explain it to me like I’m a 6 year old,” in his cross examinations.
Honesty is a key ingredient to having heart in kid’s martial arts classes. When I did a search to see what “having heart” means, how other people describe/define it, the prevailing definition of someone with heart is someone who perseveres. Someone is said to have “heart” when they accept a challenge, persevere and continue moving forward despite obstacles or hurdles. I most often associate “heart” with underdogs, people who go against staggering odds for what they believe in or what they have a passion to do in their lives. In the search the movie Rudy came up, but there are many other movies that have that same theme…most of them sports movies of one kind or another.
Coaching the kid’s martial arts class
Kid’s martial arts and honesty
Of course, for kid’s martial arts there are many movies out there and I have mentioned The Karate Kid more than once on this blog. For many kid’s martial arts classes having heart, encouraging working hard, and being a good person are all fundamental aspects of what the kids learn. When kid’s are honest with themselves and honest with their coaches that certainly leaves the door open for those kids to accept challenges with and open heart. Every class becomes a challenge, every class becomes a learning experience to learn more about themselves.
Having heart in a kid’s martial arts class
The great thing about kid’s martial arts class is that the kids all have heart. Watching them try, watching them learn is a joy. I see it in the faces of the kids in my daughters kid’s martial arts class. Kids want to be good at what they are doing and they want to do things really well. In the end having heart is about trying, it’s about learning to push the boundaries and being ready to learn from your experience on the mat regardless of whether you win or lose.
Everybody is afraid of something. We all have our idiosyncrasies and phobias-for some its spiders, heights, or closed spaces. In kid’s martial arts a common fear is that of losing or not performing well. Most fear comes from what is unknown and he outcome of matches or sparring is not known. I would venture to say that the butterflies that we get before tournaments or performances is that little bit of fear…and that’s healthy.
Coaching in kid’s martial arts class
Kid’s martial arts: what is fear?
Many people vilify fear as a negative, that it hinders us and it keeps us from living a full life;however let me posit that fear is no something to be rid of in our lives. Fear can be healthy and we have to respect it, acknowledge it, and keep moving forward. There are far too many instances in which fear is healthy and gives us the timely warnings we need to understand. The trick is to not let your fear paralyze you.
In kid’s martial arts classes fear can manifest in many ways-fear of losing, fear of doing it wrong, fear of embarrassment, fear of letting down your team/coach. The environment in the class has to be one that can foster growth and still challenge the children to apply what they have learned. They have to feel like they can get past the fear to see that what they were afraid of isn’t really that bad.
Coaching in kid’s martial arts class
Kid’s martial arts and learning to move past fear…
One of the things I notice about the coaches in my daughter’s kid’s martial arts class is that they are always encouraging the kids to keep trying. They work with the kids on their level and break things down for them to understand. Understanding it mentally, academically, is important but the difference is the coaches also help the kids use that knowledge in the matches. I have to admit there was one time I was watching my daughter roll and saw it in her face that she recognized how do do something under the duress of the match. She can get excited and not pay attention to what shes doing at times, she’s 7 years old. I saw that she recognized what to do in a certain situation because her coach was helping her-she was listening, focusing, and applying what she had learned. It was a glimpse, for me, into what every child is capable of doing.
Learning to move past fear, learning to trust the people around you that are trying to help you, and evolving are some benefits of moving past fear. Vulnerability, accepting the fear, accepting you may fail is part of the larger picture that opening up andmoving past fear can lead to also accepting your greatest rewards.
There are many different aspects of taking something for granted-we take our health for granted many times or we take for granted that certain people will always be in our lives. It’s often a shock when such a change comes about-losing our health in some form, like a broken leg or a torn ligament; or losing a loved one to any circumstance whether it’s divorce or death.
I was late to playing the game of lacrosse and I picked up my stick in my last year of high school. I would practice a lot because I knew that skill wise I had to catch up to the other kids on the team. I didn’t have the advantage of having played since I was a child like others. I believed I could develop my skill and that I had the tools but I did not take for granted that it would come easy.
Kids martial arts class, a small group collaborates
Kids martial arts and what we think is always around…
I am very aware of that sensibility now that I have children and have been very conscious of that fact in searching for things that they will enjoy and reap benefits from in later years. It’s not a question of only wanting them to be accomplished but giving them tools to learn and grow with whether it’s in team sports, piano lessons, or kids martial arts classes. The important thing is building up momentum and getting them on the right track to grow and evolve.
There are so many things that we take for granted in our lives and one reason I chose to get my child involved in something like kids martial arts is because I was not able to take advantage of that as a child myself. It warms my heart that she is doing well and enjoying her kids martial arts classes. I see how beneficial this type of class is for her in learning respect and humility but also building self confidence.
Kids martial arts: learning, adapting, and assimilating
Kids martial arts class, getting pointers in individual drills from Coach Amanda
I notice how she behaves in her kids martial arts class, how the coaches give the kids duties in class, and encourage good behavior outside of class. I also notice that within in each class there are trials and tribulations that the kids go through-the learning process and the problem solving is apparent. Each child seems to have their own way of problem solving and the groups as a whole collaborate well. No child has time to take their skill for granted because there is always a new challenge on the horizon. The challenge can be part of the homework assignments the children get to learn life skills, a more experienced practitioner, a smaller partner, or a partner much larger.
When you are too busy learning, adapting, and assimilating new info it’s often too difficult to take things for granted. I like that the coaches help all the children and adjust to the children to provide a good learning experience for each child-and there are different ages, types, and skill levels in the class. The coaches use that diversity to their advantage and in the end it makes them better coaches.
We are very fortunate to have this type of learning…it’s nothing this parent will take for granted.
I just read this great post from SBG black belt Cane Prevost about diversity in a gym called Evaluate a gym in 5 minutes or less. It’s a great post! In the piece he writes a little bit about the history of the gym here in Portland, but more importantly he succinctly shares and describes the marriage of coaching and curriculum.
Warm ups in kids martial arts class.
When I first started looking for a kids martial arts class I wasn’t sure what I would be looking for in a gym. I knew it would have to have certain standards that I think any gym would have in it’s best practices i.e. cleanliness, a standard curriculum, etc… I searched and checked out the gyms close to our home. At that time I didn’t have Cane’s blog post to read and apply but I understand the sensibility he writes about and was very fortunate to notice it when I visited SBG. In the post he writes about a few different models out there and, though it’s not exactly the same, I came across the archetypes he talks about in his piece often over the years. He brings up three distinct models: the
“tough test’ class, the “encouraging effort” class, and the class with tough tests and encouraging effort. Reading the piece it was nice to see someone articulate what I had been looking for in a gym.
Kids martial arts and diversity in the kids class
When we first started taking kids martial arts classes, she was only the 2nd or 3rd girl in her class and it was nice for her to be able to have someone to bond with in her kids martial arts. I have seen that the group has flourished and also grown in size since we started taking classes.This has been a boon to the the coaches in the kids martial arts class. The coaches can now work with small groups of kids to help with their skill levels appropriately. The group has also bonded together at social’s, Ninja Night’s, supported their coach Amanda at Pan Am’s, and other teammates in getting ready for tournaments.
Coach Amanda with a small group in her kids martial arts class
Kids martial arts class and fun
In the end, the diversity and chemistry of the group, coaches and kids, is a boon for everyone. The coaches can develop and refine their coaching skills and the kids can grow and learn at good paces with the right coaching. Kids in out kids martial arts class learn to help and support each other. The real fun is how the whole group welcomes new students and helps guide them on the mat, and that is always lots of fun!
Competition can be a touchy subject sometimes when talking about kids. Whether it’s something like little league or kids martial arts many parents have a different view on the role of competition and when their kids should engage in it. It’s unfortunate that there have been situations in many youth sports that have given “competition” a bad connotation to it.
Live drills while coach Amanda looks on in kids martial arts class.
I find it’s very important for kids to learn about competition in kids martial arts classes. They have to learn how to be a good winner. They also have to learn how to deal with losing. There are many reasons but I think the main one is for a child to learn how much work goes into preparing and going to a tournament. It’s goal oriented in the short term-there’s a tournament, you need to prepare and the tournament will happen at a specified date and time. Some kids will love the whole experience and yet others may not like the experience, whether or not they win.
There are many ways to compete and make competition a part of the curriculum in a kids martial arts class. Tournaments and encouraging them is one facet of competition. Another facet is having a curriculum in a kids martial arts class that encourages having an actively resisting partner in kids martial arts class. At SBG this concept is called Aliveness and it’s about having a resisting partner often during the process of learning. It’s another form of competition and it’s a self correcting mechanism for the child to learn what works and doesn’t work in a kids martial arts class. It enables the child to learn from when s/he wins, understanding what worked; but also from when they lose, understanding what didn’t work. The child can then refine their timing, energy, and motion to get better and keep learning in a positive kids martial arts environment.
Resiliency in kids martial arts
Here’s a great video about SBG to help give context to the concept of Aliveness:
In both situations-whether it’s a tournament or training in a kids martial arts class with Aliveness-the common thread I see is building resiliency. To compete in tournaments can be very scary and facing an unknown competitor, someone you are not familiar with, can be daunting. There is a lot of work that goes into kids martial arts classes, travelling and preparing It gets exhausting. When you are consistently training with partners in a kids martial arts class who are resisting and you are consistently learning and re-learning it’s a longer journey. It can be a journey that gets frustrating and hits plateaus or setbacks. All these are true when training over a long period of time and preparing for a tournament. Resiliency is the ability to keep moving, to keep learning. It’s the idea that obstacles are opportunities to learn and grow.
Kids martial arts and beyond
In speaking with founder of SBG Matt Thornton about the topic of kids martial arts and competition, he added: “All children will eventually have to learn how to compete in one form or another as adults. They will compete in school, compete for jobs, compete for promotions, life is in a sense one long competition. By teaching them how to compete, and think about competition in a healthy way when they are young, I think we give them a huge advantage.”
I had a talk with my daughter and she was having a rough day in her kids martial arts class. She wanted to have matches with kids that are less experienced than she is so that it would be easier for her. I said to her that she must be getting better because her coach wouldn’t be matching her with kids who are a challenge if there wasn’t something to learn. She’s still new to her kids martial arts class, only a handful of months, but she’s doing well and learning. In time I will see how she takes my advice. She may not yet be ready for tournament play but she’s on the right path for it…
Coaches watch as they ask some students to demonstrate for the class
I’ve noticed that I always talk about the benefits of kids martial arts classes and one those benefits is patience. The kids in the class learn patience in the process of learning. In a kids martial arts class patience and focus comes from listening and learning. Another aspect that I neglect to talk about is how patient coaches need also be with the kids.
Kids are temperamental. They can be fussy, distracted, and moody. To work with kids you must have patience. Patience to work with the seemingly insurmountable tragedy of not having a water bottle, or if they have questions about something other than the subject at hand. Keeping the children focused and having direction for them is important for maintaining the kids focus in a kids martial arts class.
Coaches having fun with the kids in martial arts class.
The kids martial arts coach
When you coach children it’s important to guide them. In order to do that they have to be engaged and having fun. Pacing is important and ending on good notes is also important. The pacing helps the kids have a rhythm to the class to keep them invested in what’s happening in the kids martial arts class in the present tense. Ending things on good notes gives the promise that they will continue and come back to class to learn more, a future hope of benefit as well.
Flexibility is essential for coaches, especially when dealing with different kids of different ages and developmental stages. Most kids have a very short attention span and it’s difficult to keep them engaged. When a coach puts a practice or class plan together they know what they’re doing and what they want to accomplish. Working with kids a coach has to keep things flexible to adjust to the group of kids and what their needs are for that group in that kids martial arts class.
Patience comes in with everything else going on in between: water breaks, choosing partners, guiding individual drills, and matches. Coaches are tasked with teaching and putting every child in a position to be challenged. The coach may see something the child can learn from: a situation they can be uncomfortable or familiar with-it depends on the child. The coach is the authority in the kids martial arts class and that’s not to say they aren’t firm. I have often seen my daughters coaches impose “consequences” when there are trespasses in the form of burpees or push ups.
If the coaches are patient, the children see and learn from them in the kids martial arts class. The coaches become the role models of patience. The children emulate that patience with each other in their kids martial arts class and have every opportunity to do so at school and home as well.
Our coach Amanda is prepping and getting ready for Mundials and we’re very excited for her! She is a great coach, competitor, and a wonderful person. She has quite the “curriculum vitae” and we’re proud of our kids martial arts class coach:
1. She’s currently undefeated in the North West, with the exception of placing 3rd as a blue belt in the Men’s division, and 2nd place as a purple belt in the Men’s light weight division.
2. She’s won a Super fight as a Blue belt against a Purple Belt. (2011)
3. She’s won another Super fight as a purple belt against a brown belt.(2013)
4. She’s 2-0 in MMA, however her current focus is Jiu Jitsu.
5. She brought home 3 Gold Medals at Grapplers Quest in July 2011:
Won Advanced No Gi, Won Advanced Gi Blue Belt Light Weight, and Advanced Absolute Blue Belt.
6. This last month she competed at the Pan American Jiu Jitsu Championships and Placed 2nd in Purple Belt Adult Female Light Weight Division.
Mundials is less than two months away and we’d love to see if there is anyone out there to help sponsor our coach. If you’re interested please let us know so we can help support her.
In her own words:
“I am a full time Coach and Competitor, I love Jiu Jitsu and plan on doing this as long as I’m able to. I won’t promise you anything that I cannot fulfill. So, as much as I’d like to tell say that “I’ll bring home the gold”, I can say that I will always represent my team, my coaches, my students, and put one million percent into what I do.
If your interested in supporting me, I will wear your patches, consume your products, get more shredded than the next person and be awesome.”
In my daughters kids martial arts class she gets homework. It’s normally a monthly assignment that has a short story and then some questions to answer. It needs to be turned in before the end of the month and throughout the month it is reinforced in the kids martial arts class. Some of the topics include Teamwork, Courage, and Friendship.
This month in kids martial arts class
This month it’s Self Respect.
In researching to find kids martial arts classes for my daughter it was important to me that the coaches are able to convey certain basic principles of respect for the art and also respect for the the kids in the class. The children need to be able to resepct each other and be able to respect themselves. Some kids are afraid-afraid to fail or look silly and seem to tread lightly to not make a mistake. Other kids are headstrong and may question everything or argue what may be an alternative. And still other children are incredibly intrepid and run to drill headlong. A coach has to deal with each type of child in a kids martial arts class. Reinforcing self respect in class is important because a lot of children will look and compare themselves.
Kids Programs and belt ranks at SBGi kids martial arts class
What is self-respect in kids martial arts?
The main idea of self respect is loving yourself for who you are, accepting yourself. Even adults have the comparison bug, we’ve all heard of keeping up with the Jones’s, it’s not isolated to children. The great thing about the kids martial arts classes is that it teaches self respect in an environment that it’s ok to fail and learn. Now, to clarify, it’s not an environment where “failure” is what’s expected;however, we can all learn from the obstacles in front of us that we can’t YET overcome. The coaches talk to the kids, show the kids, encourage the kids, and work with each kid when they are in class to foster an environment where a child can try and learn. The ideas are reinforced in class when the kids are getting ready, during class in their drills and matches, and after class with the homework.
In the end it’s a positive sentiment that my daughter brings home and share with her friends…that’s healthy self-respect.
Kids Martial Arts class: coach Amanda having kids demonstrate in class
Not many people think of any kids martial arts as a team sport. It’s looks as though it’s an individual or solitary endeavor. It’s one vs. one. You against me. It’s not often that many people recognize what is happening in the class when kids are being matched with other kids: I’ve noticed in our kids martial arts class that the coach chooses matches and switches people up specifically for what challenges that child. Each child in that kids martial arts class is being placed in the position of coaching their partner or learning from their partner. The more experienced kids have an opportunity to learn to be patient and help their fellow teammates. The less experienced kids have an opportunity to be mentored by other, more experienced, peers. Having a kids martial arts class with different skill levels helps but you don’t want the lesser skilled kids to get discouraged by being constantly over matched; conversely you don’t want your higher skilled kids getting bored by not being challenged. Good coaches in a kids martial arts class, or any othe class or sport, will foster this type of camaraderie. A good coach will be able to teach the kids martial arts class and also empower the kids themselves to learn from each other-which is exactly the same as any team sport.
Teamwork in kids martial arts
Kids martial arts class. A kids class Ironman.
I’ve coached for many years and was able to work with some very impressive coaches. I’ve been fortunate to work with and be around coaches that understand it’s the kids that walk through the door. The coaches can show them the door, teach them what they need to do but they cannot do it for them. One coach that I worked with won coach of the year-when he spoke about it he said something to the effect that he only won because people didn’t think the kids could play as well as they did. He believed in the kids and showed them how they could win and play well…they’re the ones who actually went out and executed. It wasn’t only the execution, it was also that each teammate was there for each other. They lifted each other up and helped each other out when things didn’t go well and they all shared the triumphs as well.
Kids martial arts and the SBGi Ironman
At SBGi they have a belt promotion tradition that is impressively special: The Jiu Jitsu “Ironman”:
The sentiment behind the ‘Ironman’ is that everyone in the gym has contributed and played a part in that persons growth on the mat. In the words of founder Matt Thornton “It is the entire Jiu Jitsu community, the entire meritocracy, that you will find on an SBG Jiu Jitsu mat, that helped mold that individual athletes game.” This sentiment is true for the kids martial arts class all the way up to the adult competition team.
It seems only fitting that the tradition is performed in the kids martial arts class as well as the adult classes. The children learn to respect their coaches but also respect and trust each other-trust that they will learn, trust that they will be supported on bad days, and trust that they will have teammates to share their achievements because they were all a part of it.
It’s incredible sometimes to see the capacity children have to learn. They are sponges. They see and absorb things around them in their environment. They can repeat back to us things we have said and model behaviors we ourselves have demonstrated. The hardest part for all of this is figuring out how to get them to pay attention, to stay focused. Kids are easily distracted and easily re-directed. They don’t always seem to follow things and their attention span is akin to a stream of consciousness narrative in a James Joyce novel.
Working with kids in sports and seeing my child in her kids martial arts class I know how difficult it is to keep a group of kids on task. The skill comes in recognizing when you have to let the kids release their “wiggles” and when they can listen to you with intent. The other art to teaching is keeping the information concise. When you’re coaching something like a kids martial arts class-an art that involves thinking, recognizing, and reacting accordingly it’s difficult to get all the things they need to know in a small package.
I also believe that focusing is learning in 2 different ways-it’s paying attention to what is being taught but also, when practicing, being aware of what is happening in the moment. I think many of think of it as being a singular goal and working towards that goal but another part is being aware and being flexible to work around obstacles while keeping the goal (your focus) in sight. This is difficult enough as an adult that understands the concept and reasoning, how do you you express it to a child who is experiencing it for the first time…?
Kids martial arts classes are FUN.
Some tug-of-war games in the kids martial arts class
Kids are fascinated with things that are fun. Parents know that if you want a child to clean up their room you can make a game out of it, make a race when walking home from school and all of the sudden the legs aren’t tired anymore. I’m sure some of the parents understand. The more the kids see something as playing the more they will invest in it.
My daughter loves the Jiu-Jitsu “virus” game that is played in her kids martial arts class and it’s great because she runs around avoiding “contamination” from the coaches who start chasing the kids while crab-walking. She also loves the lessons she learns in her kids martial arts class-she’s always asking for permission to climb my back and then explain that she’s putting her “hooks” in and what a “seat belt” hold is.
The coaches in her kids martial arts class are great at working with them, giving them the space they need, and coaching them through the matches. One can see that the kids are paying attention, focusing on what the coaches are saying. The coaches are great about asking the kids questions about what they just learned to keep them focused. In a kids martial arts class it’s important to keep the kids engaged and on their toes-both figuratively and literally.
The real fun for me as a parent is watching how my child is learning and listening to the coaches in her kids martial arts class. Sometimes she doesn’t pay attention-kids won’t be riveted every moment. When she does focus, when I see the other kids feed off of each other’s learning, rooting for each other, helping each other, and coaching each other I can’t help but feel that sense of wonder, that sense of being in the here and now…it’s a lot of fun.
Get to know the Head Coach of the SBGi’s Kids Martial Arts program: Coach Amanda!
What did you do before you started BJJ/SBGi for fun or as an activity (sport, hobby)? Do you still do it? Before I started doing jiu jitsu I rode my bike; and I still ride my bike.
How long have you been training? I’ve been training for 3 ½ years. I started in August 20th of 2009.
What other disciplines do you study, if any? Besides doing jiu jitsu I on occasion will practice boxing/MMA. (I don’t do enough of it)
How has studying this discipline helped you? Practicing all around has helped me win two MMA fights (2-0)
What about SBGi is different than other places you may have trained? I haven’t trained anywhere else, but I do know that SBG’s coaches and the way that we train is undeniably the best. I wouldn’t want it other way.
What’s your day job? Coaching is my day job, training is my night job.
Name something you’ve never done that you want to do? Three things: 1) Win Pan Ams 2013. 2) Win Mundials 2013. 3) Obtain the 135lb bantamweight belt for the FCFF: Full Contact Fighting Federation 2013.
What are some practical/daily applications to learning martial arts that you’ve learned besides self defense? Have you ever had to use it for self defense? Doing jiu jitsu has helped me problem solve outside of the gym. I think about it when I wake up, while I’m doing the dishes, when I go to bed. Luckily, I have not had the opportunity to use martial arts to defend myself. I would feel really sorry for the person if they ever decide to attack me.
How has learning and training at SBGi affected you in your daily life? It’s a constant positive force.
Coach Amanda rockin’ a Mickey T-shirt back in the day…
What’s your favorite ice cream flavor? I don’t really like ice cream.
What’s your favorite food and why? I’m a sucker for pizza, the vegan kind, because its radical.
What kind of experience do you have working with kids besides kids class at SBG (could be babysitting, volunteering, mentoring, nieces, nephews)? I helped take care of/raise my two brothers and sister. I had an absent father and my mom needed the help. Being the oldest it taught me to be responsible even when I didn’t want to be. I babysat a ton before I got ‘real jobs’. I was a nanny for a couple years when I first moved to Portland as well.
What’s your favorite part of teaching/working with kids? They are completely honest (well at least most of the time) They tend to say whatever is on their mind, I admire that, most adults want to sugar coat everything. When they apply themselves to what myself and the other coaches are teaching, its inspiring and amazing as to what they can accomplish.
Did you study any martial arts as a kid? Nope.
What qualities do you admire most in children? Sincerity. Comedy.
What is your favorite martial arts movie? I don’t really have a favorite martial arts movie. I really like Charles Bronson Death Wish 3.
What is your guilty indulgence pop song that you’d be embarrassed to admit you like? As a kid I listened to a lot of Taking back Sunday. Its bad pop punk but I still dig it.
In this series we are profiling the kids martial arts class coaches. This week we will learn a little bit about coach Craig Leto.
What did you do before you started BJJ/SBGi for fun or as an activity (sport, hobby)? Do you still do it?
- Before I found BJJ I was into Kickboxing and Biking. I still bike but I don’t spend much time doing striking stuff.
How long have you been training? -3 years
What other disciplines do you study, if any? -MMA
How has studying this discipline helped you? -It really makes you appreciate how timing and proper technique can overcome strength and size.
What about SBGi is different than other places you may have trained? -The coaching style; SBGi is the only gym I’ve trained at where you feel really involved in the learning process. There is more of a collaborative feel to how we train.
What’s your day job? -Computer technician
Name something you’ve never done that you want to do? -I would like to climb Mt. Hood.
What are some practical/daily applications to learning martial arts that you’ve learned besides self defense? Have you ever had to use it for self defense? -Balance and coordination. I haven’t had to use BJJ in a serious self-defense situation but training in any “alive” combat sport will give you the confidence needed to stay focused and safe if the time comes.
How has learning and training at SBGi affected you in your daily life? -I have traveled to great places to train, met interesting people and have some good friends because of SBGi.
What’s your favorite ice cream flavor? -Coffee!
What’s your favorite food and why? -Thai food. The spice; It must flow.
If you could describe yourself in a haiku what would it say (use of three lines of up to 17 syllables; most commonly, 5, 7, 5)? - I want to ride my bicycle Do I have all my gear? Pajama Party
What kind of experience do you have working with kids besides kids class at SBG (could be babysitting, volunteering, mentoring, nieces, nephews)? - I was a camp counselor in high school and did my share of babysitting younger cousins.
What’s your favorite part of teaching/working with kids? - The sense of intrigue they have is amazing to me. Somewhere along the line of becoming an adult most people just start accepting things and stop asking “Why?”
Did you study any martial arts as a kid?
- I did Soo Bahk Do A.K.A Tang Soo Do for about 5 years.
Coach Craig’s relaxing in Portland.
What qualities do you admire most in children? -Their endless supply of energy and cheeky shenanigans always makes me smile.
What is your favorite martial arts movie? -Return of the Dragon
What is your guilty indulgence pop song that you’d be embarrassed to admit you like?
-Call me maybe. ( As performed by Jimmy Fallon and The Roots.)
This is the first in a short series to profile the kids martial arts coaches at Straight Blast Gym in Portland, OR. I sent all the coaches the same list of questions. Here are the answers for inquiring minds that want to know…
Coach Trent as a kid (on the right).
What did you do before you started BJJ/SBGi for fun or as an activity (sport, hobby)? Do you still do it?
*Before SBG, I played baseball mostly as an outfielder. I wrestled for a little while and also did some climbing.
How long have you been training?
*I have been training at SBG since November 2011.
How has studying this discipline helped you?
*Learning jiu jitsu has taught me to set realistic goals and has humbled me as a person.
What about SBGi is different than other places you may have trained?
*SBG is a very relaxed and laid back atmosphere making it a great place for me to train.
What’s your day job?
*I am currently a full time student at PCC.
Name something you’ve never done that you want to do?
Something I want to do that I’ve never done is jump out of an airplane (with a parachute of course).
What are some practical/daily applications to learning martial arts that you’ve learned besides self defense? How has learning and training at SBGi affected you in your daily life?
*The biggest benefit I’ve seen in learning BJJ besides self defense, is the effective way it can be used as a relaxation technique. Rolling with higher belts has taught me to not get caught up in winning, but rather focus on what you can get better at.
What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?
*My favorite ice cream is the cold and frozen kind.
What’s your favorite food and why?
*My favorite food is bacon. Mmmm.
What’s your favorite part of teaching/working with kids?
*My favorite part of working with kids is how funny they can be without knowing it. I did not study martial arts as a kid for any significant amount of time. Overall, kids are great students who can give you new perspectives once you get past the short attention span.
What is your favorite martial arts movie?
*Favorite martial arts movie is Kung Fu Hustle.
What is your guilty indulgence pop song that you’d be embarrassed to admit you like?
This is the definition of character as described by dictionary.com:
char·ac·ter [kar-ik-ter] noun
1.the aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing.
2.one such feature or trait; characteristic.
3.moral or ethical quality: a man of fine, honorable character. 4.qualities of honesty, courage, or the like; integrity: It takes character to face up to a bully.
5.reputation: a stain on one’s character.
Bullying has been a growing concern for many parents in the last few years. There have been many instances of kids being bullied into hurting themselves and generally making things difficult for families and schools. Another reason having kids in martial arts classes is a good idea is that they can build character to know how to handle situations where bullying can be a problem. Some of the things that many people have a concern about is whether teaching martial arts will give the tools of Brazilian jiu jitsu, or whatever art they study, to bullies. It’s true that there are many kids martial arts schools that promote the “might is right” ethos but there are just as many kids martial arts schools teaching respect for others and respect for the art the children are learning.
“Dad, he’s too small!”
My daughter is 6 years old and she has a 2 year old brother who is a bit of a bull in a china shop. There have been times he is aggressive and I’ve mentioned that she can lightly practice her jiu jitsu with him to help protect herself. She has the presence of mind and the respect for the martial art, thanks to her coaches, to know that it’s still too rough for her to practice with her 2 year old brother. To me that shows the acumen with which the coaches are working to teach the children respect for the art and respect for each other.
Building character in kids martial arts classes
This is the definition of character I am using:qualities of honesty, courage, or the like; integrity: It takes character to face up to a bully. I think that more often than not the children model these qualities form other kids in class and from their coaches as well. In my daughter’s kids martial arts class she is learning it’s essential to understand and critically think about what you’re doing in the moment. She’s in a safe environment to learn and can look at things with coaching and with experience. It’s important for her to have the feedback from her partners and her coaches because it builds character and respect for those in her kids martial arts class. When she doesn’t do well it’s a learning opportunity to get feedback and hopefully she will someday reach a stage where she can help coach others. I certainly try to encourage her at home to teach it to me because teaching someone else something helps build that character. I may not be in her kids martial arts class but I can tell she enjoys it because she remembers and tells me about what she learned. I also ask purposefully to reinforce what she has learned and have her recall the days lesson.
I think that building confidence is the art of failure.
I know it sounds counter-intuitive but stick with me for a minute. I think that building confidence is building competence in what you do and in order to find out what that is you have to proceed down a new path that is unfamiliar. In essence you have to learn what you don’t know and that entails not being good at something the first time. Building confidence is about feeling secure in who you are, in what you do. There are a lot of people who need to feel confident and need to feel like they can win. Whenever this idea pops into my head I always go back to a Sam Harris article: The Pleasures of Drowning.
There’s a good story in it of a master aikidoka who apparently is so confident in his technique of felling opponents without touching them that when he engages with someone who is not a complicit student or follower he has a stark experience. It’s unfortunate that it had to happen that way but in the end my guess is that the master probably learned a lot about his art.
I don’t necessarily advocate that kids should fail on purpose because failing, or succeeding for that matter, without any struggle isn’t beneficial. It’s a fine line because failing often can be discouraging and winning all the time will create a hubristic demeanor. We all experience this in our stages of life: in some cases we feel defeated and in other cases we feel overly confident.
Kids martial arts and cleaning your room
I notice that my child has gained a lot of extra confidence in her kids martial arts class and it has worked for her and against her some times since starting. Some days when I tell her to clean her room she will argue with me about the merits of cleaning her room and it becomes almost ontological when she debates. In the end she still has to clean her room. I’ve been able to leverage what she learns in her kids martial arts class so that she will clean her room to practice. She will clear a space on the floor where once was a mess of toys so we can roll and she can teach me what she has learned in her kids martial arts class. She was sure of herself and confident prior to taking kids martial arts class, I feel fortunate she has that personality trait. Occasionally, however, hubris surfaces somewhat profoundly. There are times when she, too, has a stark experience with reality. The way I approach it when she is discouraged or upset about something is to be sure that she is aware that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, but she can continually learn and grow from those experiences. I see that she is learning humility and gaining confidence in her ability to learn in her kids martial arts class. There’s real value in that ebb and flow of learning from mistakes and feeling good about when you work hard to keep moving forward and reaching a new level…that builds confidence.
Can kids martial arts training help your child be more compassionate?
I often wonder how compassion has entered the consciousness of many martial artists. It seems to be a theme that runs through many different martial arts. Compassion, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is: sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.
I think there are many reasons to have your child enrolled in kids martial arts training, I’m just uncertain if compassion is the first thing that parents think of as a reason. There are a lot of parents who don’t want their children in any kind of kids martial arts class because they think of it as fighting, and they don’t want to encourage fighting. This comes up often in different discussions and I think that it is somewhat merited. There is plenty of glorification of violence and various characters are portrayed as being a master of a certain martial art. A lot of bad movies and TV shows are out there. I feel fortunate those weren’t the kinds of movies I liked.
Movies, Kids Martial Arts = Kung Fu Theatre
I remember staying up to watch Kung Fu Theatre and watching Bruce Lee in Fists of Fury. I loved it! I loved the story and was wholly, emotionally invested in the protagonist. There are also the spaghetti westerns like Maginificent 7 and Fistful of Dollars which I, as I grew older, found out were based on the old Kurosawa samurai movies Seven Samurai and Yojimbo. I suppose you could throw in Star Wars as well which is a story initially based on another old Kurosawa film called The Hidden Fortress. There’s always a good guy and a formidable bad guy.
I think some people think if they enroll in kids martial arts training the children will grow into being bullies….
I read a good piece on a fighter today that I found intriguing because it seemed the furthest thing away from being a bully. What grabbed me to follow the link to the original piece/interview was reading this quote:
“It’s important to be playful and I think that’s the key to success, not just for athletes but for everyone; also to be calm and composed. The better you feel, and the more at ease you are with everyone and everything, the easier it is to focus; also your brain functions quicker, and you have more ambition, energy and self-confidence,” -Gunnar Nelson Ultimate Icelander
Kids Martial Arts can be compassionate and lots of fun
Another point that Gunnar Nelson said in the interview that struck me was when he says “They think maximum result during training is necessary and can’t stand to lose to training partners. That to me is a mistake and it is generally a bad idea to stand on a pedestal. If you do that, you’ll miss out on so many things you could learn. During training sessions, I’ve been beaten up numerous times, by fighters I would easily take inside the ring. It’s okay to give up sometimes, because it means you’ll come back stronger.”
To me, that is compassion and it makes all the sense in the world. It’s similar to when I’m playing chess just for fun and I want to see where a move takes me without concern for winning or losing. I just want to see how the game evolves and both of us playing can learn. However, I also see how it may be a little strange for people to hear someone say something like “it’s okay to give up” without the context. When you’re playing there is competition but when it’s fun people lose track of keeping score as they keep it playful. Just having fun is enough to enjoy the endeavor-whatever it is you are doing.
Kids martial arts training should be fun. When it’s fun the kids don’t want to stop playing, which is essentially learning and guiding each other. I know my daughter loves it. In her kids martial arts class she learns about friendship, respect, and has lots of fun playing games. She’s currently in a class of mixed levels and she seems to learn from her fellow students as well as her coach. This is a dual bonus because she’s learning on two levels: (1) there is some form of mentorship and passing on what they know to each other and (2) they are role models for her to play a similar, helpful role for her younger sibling as a big sister and future students who will follow and take a kids martial arts class.
If I asked her she would just say that her kids martial arts class is fun…
So we’re at the beginning of a new year and everyone is looking forward to an exciting 2013. I noticed at the last kids martial arts class that many were on vacation. We were very happy to be able to go to class and it was very considerate for the coaches to hold it for the kids.
Click here for more info on Kids Martial Arts at SBGi in Portland
I was able to get to the kids martial arts class early because I caught an early bus by accident. It was nice to be out and about a little, it kept things normal for the kids during vacations. The coaches were really great, hanging out with the kids and though the kids focused on playing (a lot) they got some good rolling in. I was a proud father, I have to say, because of the way my child performed in class. It has been a short time but she has learned a lot and retains a lot as well. The kids martial arts classes are so much fun for her that she remembers having fun and what games they played. This has, in turn, revealed some interesting attributes of confidence and humility at the same time.
John Wooden is often quoted saying “Sports don’t build character…they reveal it.”
I try not to be a helicopter parent and interfere with the coaches when she’s in her kids martial arts class. I check in with coaches because I know my daughter and how she can behave. It’s always nice to hear feedback about how I can help her in her kids martial arts class. I’ve talked to coach Amanda, who leads the kids martial arts classes at SBGi, about her progress probably more often than necessary. My daughter really enjoys going to her kids martial arts class and seeing her coaches and classmates.
On the last day of her kids martial arts class for 2012 she was matched with another student who she thought she wasn’t good enough to roll with but coach Craig assured her it was a good idea to try something that might be uncomfortable, that she was safe. She was concerned because he is a higher ranked belt and she had the awareness to know that he had been going to classes longer than her.
After class he reported that she practiced and rolled with her partner a few times in her kids martial arts class. He said that she accepted the challenge but didn’t last very long in the first match. Each successive time he noticed that she would last a little bit longer, learning from the previous match, and he continued to encourage her, coaching her through each successive match. She listened and became more comfortable with her own uncomfortable situation. She did well, learned she could hang with a higher ranked classmate, and had a great time. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that her higher ranked partner was also an amazing leader for her-he didn’t completely overpower her with skill but also did not make it easy in any way. It’s as if he knew that letting her “win” wouldn’t help.
I can understand that there are different ways to run kids martial arts classes and there are technical standards that adhere to levels/ranks; however, there are some amazing things that happen when you have a good group of people. At the SBGi kids martial arts class it’s an open and accepting environment to learn for everyone. The coaches teach kids martial arts class and also teach/participate in adult classes. There are intangibles that are understated because they are simple details that make a huge difference. My daughter exhibited humility, confidence, and courage because she had a good coach, and a good partner, in her class that exhibited humility, confidence, and competence. I imagine that she will continue to grow and learn in her kids martial arts class and it will help her outside of class. She will someday model those for her younger brother and other kids as well.
“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” -Henry Ford.