Unlocking the Secrets of Teaching Jiu-Jitsu to Kids

If you've ever wondered what it takes to be an effective Jiu-Jitsu instructor for children, you're in the right place. Teaching martial arts to kids is a unique and rewarding endeavor. It requires not only a deep understanding of Jiu-Jitsu techniques but also a grasp of how children learn and develop. In this blog, we will dive into the fascinating world of teaching Jiu-Jitsu to kids and explore the crucial concept of understanding how kids learn.
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The GBK Program - Tailored for Kids

The Gracie Barra Kids (GBK) Program was meticulously developed with the age of the students in mind. Countless hours of research, consultation with experts, and hands-on experience went into creating a program that truly works. This program is not just about teaching Jiu-Jitsu; it's about understanding the unique stages of children's development and adapting your teaching strategies accordingly.

Stages of Development

If you are an ICP certified instructor, then you will have read the course on GBK. However, in 2023, we conducted community research on what instructors were requesting support in. One of the top areas was working with kids and understanding strategies to teach our young students.

The GB Institute team dove deep into our community and found experts that could help instructors to understand kids better.  Understanding the stages of child development is the foundation of teaching Jiu-Jitsu to kids. Let's break down the key stages and how they impact your teaching approach:

1. Preschool Age (3-4 years) - Tiny Champions

At this stage, children are taking their first steps in social skills and cognitive development. They're just starting to grasp concepts like sharing and cooperation. Instructors working with these tiny champions must create a positive and engaging learning environment. Keep your technique demonstrations short and sweet, lasting no longer than the age of the students (3-4 minutes), and make sure to incorporate energetic games to keep their attention.

2. Early Elementary Stage (5-6 years) - Little Champions I

As children transition into formal schooling, they're developing foundational skills in reading, writing, and basic math. Instructors should maintain a structured yet positive environment, use visual cues, and encourage quick social interactions. Remember to be kind and flexible with your expectations, as they are still learning these essential skills.

3. Middle Elementary Stage (7-9 years) - Little Champions II

During this stage, children become more independent and capable of critical thinking. They can process verbal information more accurately and require less repetition. Encourage curiosity and problem-solving abilities, and be prepared to support various learning styles. Provide opportunities for teamwork and communication skills, which can solidify their learning.

4. Late Elementary Stage (Ages 10-12) - Juniors

Children in this stage are preparing for the transition to middle school, and they can handle more complex techniques. Challenge their thinking and problem-solving abilities by introducing higher-level techniques. Instructors can also start teaching discipline more directly. Provide meaningful feedback to help them develop their skills further.

5. Preadolescence and Adolescence (Ages 13-15) - Teens

At this stage, students undergo significant physical, emotional, and social changes. Instructors should create a supportive and inclusive environment, challenge them physically and mentally, and accommodate varying learning abilities.

Understanding the Definitions

Before we move forward, it's essential to define some terms related to child development:

  • Milestones: These are specific skills or abilities that individuals typically acquire at certain ages or stages of development. They serve as markers for tracking progress.
  • Cognitive development: This involves the growth of intellectual abilities, including thinking, problem-solving, memory, and language development.
  • Language development: It encompasses the acquisition and progression of language skills, both receptive (understanding) and expressive (communication).
  • Physical development: This refers to the growth of the body and its parts, including muscle and motor development.
  • Social Development: This is the acquisition of social skills, relationships with peers, and understanding of social norms and roles.
  • Emotional Development: It involves the development of emotional awareness, regulation, and expression.

Learning from the Experts

To further enhance your understanding of how kids learn and how to work with them effectively, we've enlisted the help of two experts: Lena Kazaryan and Amanda Grummon.

Lena Kazaryan, a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), shared insights into creating a positive learning environment and understanding different teaching models and their applications. There is the “I Do” model where the instructor demonstrates, which GB does well and with every class according to the GB Method. Then, an instructor releases the students for the “You Do” model, where the students try the technique themselves, with the instructor walking around and giving feedback. Lena then describes the “We Do” model, which we do not typically use in a class but can benefit students who need extra support. This teaching model allows instructors to connect with struggling students as they learn a skill, an invaluable tool for junior or assistant instructors.

Amanda Grummon, a GB Black Belt and BCBA focuses her work on behavior management. She emphasizes that behaviors aren't inherently good or bad but can be challenging based on when they occur. Amanda provides strategies to address challenging behaviors in students effectively. One of which was to get a better understanding of the function of the behavior to understand why a student behaves in that way.
If you are an instructor and want to learn more about how to teach to kids, then check out the ICP 2024. We have a wealth of resources that will help you develop that skill set.

Bringing It All Together

In conclusion, understanding the stages of development for school-age students is crucial for instructors and families to align expectations with what a student is capable of doing. By adapting teaching strategies and parental expectations to accommodate differences in learning abilities, a conducive learning environment is created that promotes Jiu-Jitsu growth, social development, and overall well-being in students.

Remember, teaching Jiu-Jitsu to kids is not just about techniques; it's about understanding the unique journey of each child and guiding them on their path to empowerment and success.

 So, whether you're already a parent, student, or instructor, or considering taking on this rewarding role, equip yourself with the knowledge and insights shared in this blog. Your journey to inspire and empower the next generation of Jiu-Jitsu practitioners starts here.