If MMA is growing more and more on the tastes of the youth, Jiu-Jitsu is unbeatable with the children, who are becoming all the more plentiful around gentle art academies. Addressing this increase, João Crus, our GMA in Texas, has a conversation about it with Nalty Junior:
How did you get started working with children in BJJ?
I come from a culture where children spend a lot of time playing outdoors, and because of that they are coordinated and it keeps them safe and healthy. When I came to this country and witnessed a culture of children playing video games and not developing their physical skills and getting overweight, I decided to do something to help. I remember working really hard to educate people about what I was doing. After a certain amount of time, this initial work paid off and a big interest grew in the neighborhood my first school is located. Plus, I love teaching children.
How long have you worked with children?
It’s been a solid seven years now.
What do you think is most challenging when working with children?
Working with children is more complex than working with adults. Even though both groups have different challenges, for children it is really imperative to provide a structured and consistent plan of classes, which my curriculum provides.
Teaching children is more complex than it looks. Whenever you are dealing with children in their developmental process you are going to be dealing with their families as well, and that can be challenging if you don’t have the right skills to deal with it.
What were your biggest obstacles as you developed your program?
I am originally from Brazil and English is my second language. I quickly realized that in order to be a guide for children I needed to improve my communication skills. I also realized that I needed a form of communication with the children that could go beyond the language. I felt the need to communicate with them in their own world. After a couple years of searching different sources I was able to start developing that skill.
What were some of your “a ha” moments as you developed your children’s program?
One of these moments was when I found out how to help a little boy that was driving me crazy with his lack of attention. I could not make him focus for more the 10 seconds, and it made it really heard for him to learn BJJ. One day I had the idea to blindfold him for the class and I did the drills of the day directly with him. Once blindfolded, he could not look for distractions and was able to be connected with his own self. He learned how to focus and was able to do the drills on his own without assistance; he became, from that day on, one of my best students. It became clear to me that there is no uniform way to teach children, each child has a different need and way of learning and you have to identify the individual needs within the group
Another moment for sure was when I found out about other teaching methods for children – more specifically, the Montessori method, which allowed me to learn in depth about the importance of a healthy childhood in order to be a healthy human been.
What do you think is essential or fundamental in developing any kid’s program?
Being able to establish a connection with the children and families involved in the program is an important step in this process, because family participation makes it sustainable.
What do you think makes your approach to working with children so interesting?
I am concerned with the child development as a whole, my method doesn’t only address teaching BJJ techniques, it addresses physical and emotional development, communication and cognitive skills. I believe these elements will help the child to be a free thinker and emotionally independent.
How can your curriculum help other martial arts instructors?
Even though this DVD was created to help BJJ instructors develop their children’s programs, instructors from other martial arts can benefit as well, by offering an interesting way to introduce the fastest growing martial art (BJJ) to their program and keep their student body satisfied.
My approach is the link that makes my teaching method effective and different.
I have created a diverse community of students that enables the group to grow despite their differences – children and adults alike.
What was the process of developing this BJJ DVD for children like?
It all started by observing other people trying to teach BJJ to children and not having a guideline to follow or basic information to start the teaching process. I have seen as well a lot of people with very good intentions but not prepared for a task this big.
Developing this children’s curriculum DVD, I incorporated many important components that address the complexity of teaching children. Things like different developmental ages, language used, motivation, and being able to make it interesting to children were all thoughtfully considered when making the DVD.