Jiu Jitsu teaches children more than fighting skills. Jiu Jitsu teaches life skills.
Jiu Jitsu teaches valuable skills to children that apply both on and off the mat. They learn self-defense techniques. They learn physical and mental skills. They learn, day after day, class after class, how to be tough on the outside and tough on the inside.
Training in Jiu Jitsu creates amazing transformations in children that will last a lifetime.
The most amazing change that Jiu Jitsu makes is teaching children how to be strong but gentle.
“Be gentle, kind and beautiful, yet firm and strong, both physically and mentally.”
– Keiko Fukuda
Jiu Jitsu means the gentle art.
At Zenyo Jiu Jitsu Baltimore, we’ve broken down the lessons of Jiu Jitsu into five goals to guide our students in working safely together. The five goals help students learn the amazing life-changing lesson of gentle strength.
The very first goal we set at Zenyo for the children is to always be safe in training. We used to repeat this every class. “Number One: Be Safe!”
All that changed one day with the appearance of a happy boy named Liam. Liam started jiu jitsu with us in Baltimore at 3 years old. He celebrated his fourth birthday on the mats.
Each time that I asked him the first goal, he would reply, “Be nice!” I’d answer, “Be safe!” Things went this way for several classes, Liam always answering to be nice for the first goal.
I liked his answer so much that I changed it to our first goal. Everything else follows from being nice on the mat.
At Zenyo Jiu Jitsu Baltimore, we teach all students that safety is more important than any other technique or submission that we teach. If students are not able to be safe in training and make mistakes without fear of injury, then a dojo can not survive.
I’ve found, though, that it is much more important to stress how to use the body during training than it is to follow an ideological precept.
I’ve had students say after hurting someone, “I didn’t mean to.”
My reply is that I know they didn’t mean to, but that is not the point. No instructor would allow a malicious student to continue training in the dojo.
So safety has to be more than a mental construct; it needs to be a physical construct. Safe training is a result of total body control. Being able to change your mind during a movement is a way to not only protect yourself but also your partner.
In our Brazilian Jiu Jitsu classes, we work to help our students gain control and coordination over their movements through a training methodology that develops the restraint and control necessary for safe training.
Be A Good Partner
Training with the right attitude and the right goals helps create a real treasure in the dojo: a good partner.
Though it might not seem like it at first, jiu jitsu is a team sport. Good partners are the most valuable assets in a dojo.
Students work to refine their technique through drilling in pairs and during sparring rounds or “Combate” — as we call it in the kids class.
If teammates 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.”
Read more on the Zenyo Blog: Creating Big Dividends From Small Wins
Have Good Behavior
I learned early working with children that it is better to motivate them with goals than to punish them with rules. That is why I avoid talking about things students shouldn’t do as much as I talk about the things they should do.
Having good behavior is a positive motivator. When students get rowdy, I can ask them if they are following our goals. I’ve had children honestly respond that they weren’t using good behavior. Then they improved on their own accord for the rest of class.
“If a student is wrong in thought or conduct he cannot be said to have mastered judo (jiu jitsu) no matter how developed in body or technique he may be,” writes Shinzo Takagaki in The Techniques of Judo.
This goal applies to behavior both on and off the mat.
At Zenyo Jiu Jitsu Baltimore, we stress that jiu jitsu outside the dojo must only be used for purposes of true self defense. Our goal is to help children navigate past a world of bullying. There is no place to use jiu jitsu to become a bully.
Jiu Jitsu teaches children how to develop skills that transfer from the mat to daily life. They learn to focus, become disciplined through practice and work together in partnership. They learn to be strong, but gentle.
Learn Good Skills
Learning the skills of a good Brazilian Jiu Jitsu artist is different than learning how to just beat someone on the mat. Big, strong students can easily beat smaller, younger opponents with their size, strength and force. That does not mean they have learned how to use good jiu jitsu.
Our goal at Zenyo Jiu Jitsu Baltimore is to teach skills first and foremost. Students are learning more than takedowns, pins and submissions. They are learning ways to learn that can be used in any endeavor throughout the rest of life.
Movement, finesse, control, and restraint are the markers of good technique.
With good technique and the right mindset, students can train safely with anyone — no matter size or skill.
Beyond that, with good technique, training can be fun for everyone, not just for the best students.
Six-time Brazilian Jiu Jitsu World Champion Saulo Ribeiro instructed in his book, Jiu-Jitsu University, that techniques should be “clean and beautiful.” Jiu Jitsu, he says, should be done “in a way that preserves your partners and friends; injury is unnecessary!”
Strong But Gentle
By keeping these five goals in mind, we’ve established an environment at Zenyo Jiu Jitsu where all our Baltimore students can benefit from training in martial arts.
We’ve created a school where children can learn the incredible lesson of being strong but gentle.