GB Kids: A Parent Asks “How old should a boy/girl be to start BJJ?”

Recently, a parent that knows I teach jiu-jitsu messaged me and asked “How old should a boy/girl be to start BJJ?”
Their son was already involved in swimming and the father – himself a Karate black belt – was looking to get his son involved in learning Jiu-Jitsu.
This is a common question from parents who recognize the value that training jiu-jitsu can bring to young people but are unsure if their child is physically and mentally ready to begin Gracie Barra kids Jiu-Jitsu classes.
Professor Fabio Villela and Professor Felipe Guedes are especially passionate about their school’s Little Champions programs and shared their knowledge and experience in running successful children’s jiu-jitsu classes.
First of all, the children’s classes at Gracie Barra are separated by age.
“While for adults the defining criteria for class separation are students’ level, with children it is age, then level. In other words, at Gracie Barra, we first separate students by age, then by level.
The reasons behind this are as follows: The difference in learning needs for children of different ages is more prevalent than between children with different levels of experience; It is easier to accommodate children from different levels but similar ages than children with same level but different ages.” ICP5
Now to answer the question: “At what age should my child start training jiu-jitsu?”
Prof. Fabio Villela: “We have our Tiny champs class is for kids potty train, as soon they get off diapers!”
Prof. Felipe Guedes: “Most of the Gracie Barra Schools are open for 3 years old to start training Jiu-Jitsu, at a class that is for 3 to 4 years old. Every child is different, and they are all welcome to come and try it, at that age 6 months is a big difference, so if the child is not ready the parents just need to try again in a few months.
But generally, at 3 years old, the child does not wear diapers anymore and can communicate with others.
Remember that at this age the benefits that most parents are looking forward to providing to their kids are, coordination, balance, control, interacting with other kids, listening skills, responding to commands, eye contact, fun activity, exercising, etc. Also, have in mind that kids don’t have to be “good” to come to Jiu-jitsu, they come to Jiu-Jitsu so they become “good”.”
** “Tiny Champs – 30 minutes
Little Champs 1 & 2 – 50 minutes
Juniors, Teens, and Advanced – 60 minutes ICP5
* “It is unsafe to teach submission to children under five years old.” PCI5
Prof. Felipe goes on to explain the multiple benefits of training jiu-jitsu for young people.
GB: Many parents are aware that enrolling their children in a martial arts program can help instill confidence, discipline, cooperation with others and respect in young people. What do you feel are the primary benefits for kids to be regularly attending jiu-jitsu classes?
Prof. Felipe Guedes: “I’ve been teaching martial arts for kids since 2008, to hundreds of families. And I’ve seeing Jiu-jitsu helping their kids in so many ways! Every child is different and we use Jiu-Jitsu to benefits each child in the best way possible. Some kids are on one side of the spectrum being very shy, for those the first benefits that the parents notice is the level of confidence becoming higher, they start to understand what they are capable of and not allowing anyone to take advantage of them and being comfortable on their own skin and even helping them to be more decisive and confident to make decisions.
Their abilities to interact socially with other kids improve so much, and they are not afraid anymore of looking others in the eyes when having a conversation and having to even speak in public.
Now for the other side of the spectrum, we see very physical and aggressive kids, learning how to control themselves, respect authority, and follow rules. They become more gentle with others and normally great leaders among their friends. So, we work on finding the healthy balance between building them up or mellowing them down.”
GB: What kind of positive feedback have you heard from parents whose children have started jiu-jitsu?
Prof. Felipe Guedes: “Fortunately many!
And it varies a lot from age to age, the specifics of the feedback we hear from the parents are different when is a 4 years old or a teenager.
Things like:
– better confidence
– coordination
– following commands
– healthier lifestyle by exercising and choosing a healthier diet
– better behavior at home and at school
– better attention span
– leadership skills
– learning how to lose and how to share
– helping with chores and sleeping on their own bed
– better grades
– not afraid of taking risks
– respecting others, and even saying no to drugs for the teenagers!”
See also on GB Blog: Winning in Jiu-jitsu and in Life with Prof. Jefferson Moura (Part 2)
Writer: Mark Mullen, Gracie Barra Black Belt