Parents often ponder and ask themselves when is it safe to enroll their children in an activity such as Brazilian jiu-jitsu? Being a contact sport, the immediate threat would seem to be the physicality of the game, but there are other factors to consider.
In a recent interview given to Tatame Magazine (in Portuguese), black belt World and Pan American champion Yuri Simões mentioned that even though his father was a big fan of jiu-jitsu, he didn’t enroll him in a class until he was 9 years old, fearing that Yuri would lose interest too quickly in the sport if he was any younger. This is a valid point. When does a child have social maturity to start practicing martial arts, more specifically jiu-jitsu?
My father was a purple belt, he trained at home many times. He had mats indoors and his friends would come around to roll, they would let me take part. I learned basic positions, but nothing serious. I always asked my dad to sign me on a class but he held me off, afraid that I would stop early. – Yuri Simões
There is also the competition factor. In a martial art such as jiu-jitsu, competition is highly praised, and parents often live through their children’s success, forcing them to engage in the sporting arena at an early (and highly important) stage in their kid’s social development.
To answer “when should a child start practicing Brazilian jiu-jitsu/martial arts” and “when is it OK for a kid to start competing in jiu-jitsu” we contacted Hernani Caroço, an experienced psychologist, who graduated from ISPA (Instituto Superior de Psicologia Aplicada) university in 2008, who has been working with underage children between the ages of 3 and 17 for many years. Mr. Caroço had the following statement:
“An activity of this kind can promote the child’s development, not only physically but also socially and emotionally. The control and management of aggressiveness are important assets in children with symptoms of depression and behavioral disturbances, and participating in jiu-jitsu classes in a balanced manner can help him/her cope and accept these more delicate emotions.
Baring exception to certain impairments, specific to each case, we can say that at 5-6 years of age a child is prepared to take part in martial arts classes, however, competition should be introduced at a later stage, from 8 to 10. Not only will an 8-10 year old child have the maturity to deal with the frustration of defeat, they will also be more predisposed to following the rules set to each specific game, this way receiving supplementary self fulfillment from the activity. – Hernani Caroço
The possible consequences of competitive failure will be proportional to the child’s emotional/social “safety net”, which should be built by its family, friends, coach(es), and teammates. If this “net” is weak and incapable of cushioning the negative impacts of defeat, the consequences will be much greater. What this means is that it is important for the child to have other stimuli, such as social life and a family that does not center itself on their kids’ wins as well as his/her defeats. The mind of a young person is always in development and should not restrain itself into one aspect of life.”
So here lies the answer. Many parents want to produce world champions and their forceful behavior may have a negative impact on the child’s psyche, which may manifest itself at a later stage. Does each child develop at its own pace? Certainly, but these aforementioned guidelines should be kept in mind, as should the youngster’s enjoyment and fulfillment of participating in this activity.
Cover picture provided by Fightzone London.