Learning BJJ can be incredibly beneficial for children, but it can often be difficult to know when kids should start training in Jiu-Jitsu. It’s easy for adults to determine when to start the sport, because you really aren’t ever too old to start taking on any new hobby. With that in mind, it’s simply a case of following the old advice of ‘the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second-best time is today.’ It’s a little different with children though, because there obviously is an age at which they’re too young to start learning the sport in any meaningful way.
For more of our opinion pieces on various topics, visit our opinion piece archives.
When Should Children Start Learning BJJ?
The most important thing to remember when considering whether your child should start learning Jiu-Jitsu or not is that all children are different and develop at different speeds. There are some toddlers who could quite happily start learning some movements and plenty of older children who still aren’t ready to start BJJ classes. Because instructors have to make a rule somewhere, most of them will draw an arbitrary line in the sand somewhere between 4 and 7 for their classes. Rather than looking for a specific age that a child should be capable of learning the sport, it’s better to focus on what’s actually required in order to start learning instead.
By doing that, you’ll be able to make a good case to an instructor that your child might be ready despite still being too young for their classes officially. Or alternatively, you might be able to appreciate that your child is probably not ready for classes even if they do meet the age restriction for your local academy. Instructors will try to break up the class by playing games with the children to keep them engaged in learning BJJ, but they still need to be able to pay attention at some level. A child needs to be able to actually understand the rules of any games they’re playing, because they’re likely designed to help develop certain skills needed for grappling.
Not just that, but children need to be capable of playing well with the other kids in class and need to be capable of appreciating the gravity of the situation in sparring. If a child is likely to act out and harm a teammate intentionally or can’t understand that ignoring the tap could lead to injury, then they really shouldn’t be put in a situation to do either of those things. Obviously in an ideal world, the coach of any reputable kids class will be able to fix both of those issues in due time but it’s worth being aware of them yourself as the parent and making a judgement call beforehand.
What Can I Do Before My Child Is Ready To Learn BJJ?
Just because some children aren’t ready to start learning BJJ, doesn’t mean they can’t learn some of the key things involved in the sport. There are many different skills like pummeling for underhooks or controlling the back that are actually fairly straightforward in their simplest form. Obviously smaller children aren’t going to be able to understand the intricacies involved in these battles, but they can get to grips with the basic ideas. Even if they’re not quite ready to do that in class, they can do it in much shorter bursts at home like 10-15 minutes of games with parents or siblings.
There are also a number of sports that are a little less risky but still provide a great foundation to start learning grappling from as well. A child that might not be mature enough to start Jiu-Jitsu may still be able to make good use of a local gymnastics or dancing class, learning to have fun doing an athletic endeavor and getting basic skills ingrained in them. A lot of these types of activities will often be better-run for small children than BJJ academies too, because these hobbies have a far greater level of professionalism when it comes to teaching children on average.
What If My Child Doesn’t Enjoy BJJ?
There are thousands of martial arts practitioners all around the world who have children that really couldn’t care less about learning to do what they do, and BJJ is no exception. Most parents look forward to being able to share their hobbies and passions with their children, but that doesn’t mean that their children are going to show any interest in them. First of all, if a child isn’t interested in doing BJJ then simply don’t make them. They may change their mind later on in life, but they definitely won’t if they’re forced to do it now. Even if they never do want to take up the sport, it’s important to be okay with that and understand that not everyone will enjoy Jiu-Jitsu.