Kids are easy right? Wrong. One of the biggest challenges thus far is keeping the kids engaged. Currently we have a kids program with students ranging from 4 years of age to 10. Their age gap and simply growth and development has presented some unique challenges. You cannot just say “Hey James, you need to do it like this rather than like that”! You also cannot say, “JAMES, You would have gotten the move if you had paid attention during the technique instead of doing cartwheels.” Kids are kids, and they literally are at a different developmental stage than each other, despite being peers.
One of the things that has been very tough is keeping their attention. Kids love to be engaged, they love to play and most of all they love to have fun. If we turn something into a game, we have them hooked, but how to add the discipline to the game while not overwhelming them with details. Sitting and listening to someone talk/teach is difficult because I imagine it feels just like school. While we are A SCHOOL, we are not THAT school. Recently we have incorporated a grappling dummie into our warmups and even into some of the various games we play. We call him Mr. Stoic, and we remind them that they need to be disciplined in order to set a good example for Mr. Stoic. They love it, they go along with it and it ends up being fun. The good part is, Mr. Stoic is designed and made for grappling so it helps to demonstrate various grappling techniques using him.
With the kids, we are teaching them jiu-jitsu but we also are focusing on other life skills. If the children never learn any jiu-jitsu at all (not a problem we have), and they walked away with positive values and attitudes that would be okay with me. We are there to teach martial arts, but we are also there to teach them about life. Through martial arts we teach them about overcoming struggles, about never giving up, respect, and team work. These are things that will stay with them regardless of how long they continue training, and values that end up better preparing them for the struggles that life has coming their way. Mental toughness is something that is earned the hard way, no one can give you that mindset. You gain it by overcoming difficulties and growing from those struggles. We have a saying in jiu-jitsu “The mats don’t lie”. The translation break down to mean- you can’t fake being good at jiu-jitsu. No matter what belt you wear, your skill will show in the way you grapple and spar. The same can be said for life and how they carry themselves. At the end of the day we want our children to succeed! Our goal is to give them the tools to do just that!