Two weeks ago when I was sitting in the hospital as my wife was in labor with our twins, reality hit. Life was going to be different. Not in a negative way, but in a positive way.
As it got closer to their due date, my friends and teammates would always ask, “Are your kids going to do Brazilian jiu jitsu?” Of course, I would love for them to train, but ultimately it is going to be their decision. And what I’ve realized is that my kids will be able to benefit from BJJ even if they never step on the mat.
For the past six years I have taught BJJ to both kids and adults. During that time there have been parents and their children on the mats at the same time. There is also a group of kids at the gym whose parents train, but they have no interest in BJJ themselves. But for some reason their parents bring them along frequently. It was not until I became a parent that I realized why these parents chose to bring their kids to the gym.
A Positive and Diverse Place
I cannot think of a more positive environment for a child to grow up in than a BJJ academy. Most parents turn to martial arts to teach their kids discipline. Discipline is only one of the positive aspects of martial arts. I would argue it is the least important of them all.
BJJ attracts people of different ages, educational backgrounds, and professions. But despite the diversity, everyone is there for one reason – to get better at BJJ. In today’s society the workforce is more diverse than ever. It is important for kids to see people of different ages, races, and educational backgrounds working together.
In every BJJ gym you will see students who are older receiving instruction from younger students. There are men teaching classes to women and women teaching classes to men. Unlike the corporate culture of some companies, in BJJ differences are not an issue. Kids learn the importance of taking instruction and feedback from anyone.
An Active Lifestyle
Despite all the research and advances in healthcare, the U.S. population is getting heavier and sicker. I am not claiming to have all the answers, but one change I feel families need to make is to place more importance on living a healthy lifestyle.
Having kids is challenging and often parents let themselves go, using their kids as an excuse. I understand having kids presents difficulties, but that does not mean you have to stop exercising. Kids will copy what their parents do.
Make BJJ part of your family routine. Bring your kids to the gym. Let them see you and a room full of other students exercising and trying to better themselves. Even if your kids have no intention of stepping onto the mat, simply bringing them to the gym will be enough to show them that exercise is an important part of your lifestyle. No matter what sport or activity your kids want to do, it is important for them to be active.
A Healthy Approach to Eating
Part of the BJJ lifestyle is also proper nutrition. Too many parents serve their kids foods that are processed because of convenience. Kids are going to be kids and want to eat chicken fingers and pizza. These should be a treat and not the norm.
Teach your kids the importance of healthy eating and how it affects your performance and brain. There is nothing worse than trying to train BJJ after a day of eating junk.
I feel if you educate kids so they can make smart food decisions on their own, they will be less likely to binge at parties, too. There is always that one kid who was never allowed sugar at home and then at a birthday parties goes crazy and eats everything in sight. Too little or too much of anything is not good. Moderation is key.
Anyone who starts training Brazilian jiu jitu has a story of why they walked in the gym. Over time that story changes. Since the birth of my kids, I have changed my story.
When I first started training it was to help me manage a stressful time in my life. Now it’s to share something that I love with my kids, something that is part of my lifestyle. It is my hope that my kids can get as much out of BJJ as I do – even if they never step on the mat.
Photo 1 courtesy of Shutterstock.