Gracie Barra Kids Jiu-jitsu with Prof. Bryan Waltz

The Gracie Barra Kid’s jiu-jitsu programs can have a tremendously positive effect on young people’s lives.
Today’s children are faced with many challenges in life from bullying, to lack of proper role models to unhealthy lifestyles, and activities that build a life and social skills.
“…all of us that train modern Jiu-Jitsu have enriched lives because of the discipline and focus”
This week GB talks with Prof. Bryan Waltz from GB Colorado Springs where he runs a successful GB Little Champions program, to talk about jiu-jitsu for young people.
GB: Prof. Bryan let’s start by sharing with the GB readers how you got started in training Jiu-Jitsu with Gracie Barra? How long have you been training and what got you hooked on Jiu-Jitsu?
Prof. Bryan: I started training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu around 1999-2000 so it’s been about 20 years on the mats for me. I joined Gracie Barra under Professors Roberto “Tussa” Alencar and Don Ortega around 2006 as a purple belt so I have been with Gracie Barra the last 14 years.
The instant gratification of Jiu-Jitsu got me hooked. The fact that you got to test what you learned immediately after learning it through rolling or live training was really addicting. I started with martial arts at a karate-style school that was based largely on katas but after I tried Jiu-Jitsu I felt the difference. The first BJJ classes were exhausting but exhilarating. When you win a match you can’t help but feel good about it and when you get submitted you get an immediate do-over without any sadness or humiliation. The moments when things click and you see your hard work pay off as you jump to a new skill set will hook just about anybody on Jiu-Jitsu.
GB: At your school, GB Colorado Springs you run the GB Kids programs. Your wife Vanessa (and co-instructor at the GB school) says that you are especially talented and passionate about teaching jiu-jitsu to children and run all of the Kid’s programs.
Where do you derive the most satisfaction and fun from teaching the Kids BJJ program?
Prof. Bryan: Teaching kids is a huge challenge. Just about anybody can be a teacher for adults if they have the right technical knowledge. Kids require a lot more. You have to find a proper balance between structure and fun, discipline, and humor. If the class is too rigid and cold the average kid will not love being in class. If it’s too wild or free for all the kids might love it but the parents won’t see the value in a substandard teaching environment. Like anybody who does something well I derive satisfaction from those classes where I strike the balance and everything goes perfectly, the kids learn their lessons with focus, no one gets hurt and there is nothing but smiles. The fun is derived from those moments in-between course corrections and supervision when you get to be the biggest kid in class and in a small way relive the joy of childhood.
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. Bryan: You nailed a lot of the benefits right there! I noticed you said “regularly attending Jiu-Jitsu classes” That is the key, isn’t it? With this, I would add that kids learn the lesson that nothing of real value can be accomplished overnight. Discipline plus consistency is the key to accomplishing any great feat, isn’t it? Learning Jiu-Jitsu is a little like planting a tree sapling in your back yard. You can check its almost imperceptible growth from day to day but eventually, that sapling will have grown into a monster with bows capable of holding a tire swing. I’ve taught kids class for over a decade and have seen so many children begin their journey as quiet kids with all the goofiness of youth and slowly turn into confident young men and women who through the years have become absolute savages on the mats. They learn through time the value of hard work which is the key to so many of life’s endeavors.
GB: What kinds of problems and stresses do some children face and how does your jiu-jitsu program help those children successfully deal with those challenges?
Prof. Bryan: The challenges that kids face run the gamut from mild to severe. Some kids who are too sedentary will benefit from the exercise. Kids who suffer from bullying can overtime grow the confidence and skillsets to deal with all of life’s bullies. Kids who lack positive adult role models to emulate can find inspiration in the adult leadership of a Gracie Barra school. Lonely children can find desperately needed friendships.
Historically, Master Carlos Gracie Sr, the founder of BJJ and the first Gracie in our Gracie Barra lineage, had problems and stresses as a youth. He was unruly and wild according to what we have learned. The lessons of Count Koma, the man who brought the spark of Jiu-Jitsu to Brazil, gave him a focus and a direction in life that he lacked before beginning his journey. Today, all of us that train modern Jiu-Jitsu have enriched lives because of the discipline and focus which benefited one young man so many years ago. Who knows what can be accomplished with so many of our little champions reaping the same benefits!
GB Values: Jiu-Jitsu Culture
Credits: Mark Mullen
Gracie Barra Black belt based in Asia