Jiu Jitsu's Amazing Lesson
Pierce started Jiu Jitsu when he was five years old.
Like most kids his age, he has tons of energy. His mom, Alix, says that he loves ninjas and copying the moves he’s seen.
She saw our Jiu Jitsu class at Meadow Mill Athletic Club and decided to sign him up.
“Committing to Jiu Jitsu for Pierce was the best thing we never planned to do,” she said. “After his first class, he came out telling me how much he loved it! I certainly wasn’t planning on a multiple-
time-a-week commitment for him, but he was in it, so we were too.”.
Pierce was so excited that he got to “fight” in his first class. You could see his eyes light up. You could almost hear the thoughts in his head. “Hmmm…normally I get in trouble for fighting, but at Jiu Jitsu they tell me to fight? Let’s fight!”
The Gentle Art
Pierce got his chance to fight. Not with a little brother or older sister, or even dad, but with kids his own age and size.
He soon learned that fighting is hard.
If you are not strong, you get hurt. If you are not gentle, you hurt someone else. Both of these feel bad.
And this is when kids start to learn the amazing lesson of how to be strong but gentle. Jiu Jitsu, after all, means the gentle art.
“Pierce is a very driven and sensitive kid and was all about winning,” his mom said. “Not winning would make him ashamed, angry, or so frustrated that he would just stop wanting to play.”
Learning to fight helps children work through these feelings. They become physically and mentally stronger. They learn to deal with frustration and losing.
At class, Pierce learns to fight but also how to develop control and cooperation with other students.
This cooperation is essential to being a good partner.
If children are focused only on their individual goals, the group can suffer. A good partner is supportive to those less skilled, helpful in bringing teammates up to speed, and unselfish in training. In this way, good training can be created between all students.
Judo founder Jigoro Kano called this concept Jita Kyoei or “mutual welfare and benefit.”
“If everyone acts with the spirit of mutual cooperation,” Kano wrote, “each person’s work benefits not only himself, but also others, and attaining this together will bring mutual happiness. Activities should not be engaged in simply for self-interest. Once started, it is only a matter of course that a person will find goodness in harmony and cooperation upon realizing that his efforts will increase the prosperity of all.”
Rough-and-tumble play, like Jiu Jitsu, teaches children the essence of Jita Kyoei, all the things that make up mutual welfare and benefit.
“Research on rough-and-tumble play in animals and humans has shown that it is necessary for the development and maintenance of social awareness, cooperation, fairness and altruism,” writes Dr. Stuart Brown in his book Play: How It Shapes The Brain, Opens The Imagination and Invigorates The Soul.
Strong But Gentle
Pierce took to the idea of Jita Kyoei. Kids understand the concept intuitively.
Now it guides his training. His mom said: “Jiu Jitsu has enabled him to be proud not only when he wins a match, but also when he holds his own against someone more experienced or stronger, or when he does a good job practicing Jita Kyoei with a new student or someone smaller than him. It has taught him resilience: how to come back from feeling hurt either in body or pride.”
At times, when he lines up to fight, he knows he needs to be strong. Other times, he knows he needs to be gentle.
When he is unsure, right before his bow and wrestle, he will say, “Can you use Jita Kyoei please?” The other kids in class have picked up on it, too.
Pierce has continued his training through Zoom lessons at home with his mom.
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