Guest post by Korbett Miller, a BJJ black belt under Saulo and Xande Ribeiro. He is also a student and instructor under James DeMile, one of Bruce Lee’s first students in Seattle.
I have been involved with both standup arts and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for over 34 years. I have also owned and operated a successful martial arts school for the last 20 years in Kirkland, Wa. I have over 280 students that train at my school and I have been at that level of students for the last 15 years. This has allowed be to travel train and compete all over the planet. This has also allowed me to have a great family life raising three wonderful daughters and have a great marriage to my wife and business partner Elise.
In travelling around the world, I have seen great Brazilian Jiu Jitsu instructors who have Black Belt titles voice their frustration with teaching youth students Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. They often say that they cannot compete with the Karate School down the street for some of the following reasons:
1.BJJ is too technical.
-Yes, if you teach kids like adults this is true. However, children learn differently than adults and must be taught differently.
2. Karate and Tae Kwon Do is more flashy.
-Kids are natural grapplers and love to grab, pull, and interact with adults and kids using their bodies..
3. BJJ is too dangerous for kids compared to standup arts
-With the rising concerns of concussion in youth sports, BJJ offers a great alternative to dangerous martial arts.
I have some opinions that I think can shed some light on how I can keep a healthy BJJ youth enrolment at my school and also keep out program safe, as well as how I produce students who compete and do well at tournaments.
If you have ever tried to teach your youth student like you teach your adult students the process can be very frustrating. Instructionally they are vastly different from adults. Let me give you a concrete example.
Adult Approach: Lets use the adult approach of teaching a hip bump sweep. First you gather everyone around in a small group and then ask them to listen to the details of the move. Sit up on the elbow, cross grip right hand, then raise up on their hand and then hits the person with their hip. Voila! The hip bump sweep. Clap on three and try it with your partner.
Adult approach with kids: Well above sounds like a logical plan with kids. However, when you first try and get a group of 7 to 10 year olds in a group. Let’s say you have 10 students. Of the ten, 3 are actually listening to you. The other 7, as you do your detailed explanation, are thinking about Mindcraft, Miranda from Youtube, how many more Pokémon they can catch, etc. When you finally finish your explanation of your technique, the kids line up every which way, most of the kids had no idea what you were talking about, then you are going between the 5 and over a 3 minute round the best kids get 6 reps of practice, while the worst kids got 3.
On Command: This is an approach that was introduced to me by John B. Will, one of my great Australian BJJ coaches. This is how a kid’s explanation may go. You do a quick explanation then quickly have them line up laying on their backs, heads all in one direction. The lead instructor says with“crab” the cue to open guard and sit up on 1 hand. “Grab” this is the cue to crossgrip right to right, “lift” connext hips and raise up on hand and to “tip” complete the sweep.
Once all the students are correctly moving in sync with the commands, then you move to pairing them up and work those same commands. After they have a good sense of the move, then they can work on stringing the commands together. After this, independently practice the drilling and use games bulit to develop the skill.
The value discussion for kids is dramatically different than adults. Kids want to have fun, however, unlike adults your tough program has to satisfy parents and deliver perceived value to them. Most karate schools that have healthy youth environments have a rock solid approach to developing life skills. One way to dramatically elevate the perceived value, and really, the highest idea in a martial arts program is to start to teach life skills as part of your curriculum. When you do this, it makes martial arts more than just teaching kids how to wrestle with a jacket on, in the parents eyes it elevates the value of the program because your are helping to mold and shape the children’s character.
While teaching and training youth students can be a challenge, utilizing these ideas can help not only produce technical youth martial artists, but also allow you to build a healthy student count. Evolving your teaching pedagogy and sharing your knowledge with the youth students can make all the difference in building the world champions of tomorrow.
For more information on how to increase your youth BJJ enrollment go to www.kidsbjjrevolution.com