As a salty white belt, I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that most of the improvements in my Jiu Jitsu and myself as a person can be traced back to a few months ago when I was asked by my Professor to help with the kids class. At first I was apprehensive, I didn’t know if I was ready for this or if I was good enough. I was NOT, but it turned out okay because soon I realized it was more about learning than teaching. Here are five things I’ve picked up spending time with the kids classes:
1. The Details
Remember the sweep that coach just showed you but you can’t nail it down, or you complete it but it is so rough that it is unrecognizable compared to the beautifully executed and flawless sweep that was just preformed? That’s normal, and with any technique you will have to drill it for countless hours to nail it down perfectly. Want a shortcut? Teach the move to a couple of kids. You will be forced to look at the technique under a microscope, think about it in a different and more easily explainable way. This, after teaching the same technique countless times and correcting kids as they are drilling will make you remember every little detail, thus improving your understanding of the technique.
2. You Discover How Much Patience You Truly Have
I can distinctly remember being five years old, tears flying out of my face and screaming like a banshee in karate class and just in general being a “brat”…I am paying for that now. Something you must never lose while working with children (this is applicable outside of BJJ) is your patience. You are forced to be the calm one, and try to handle the kids even at their worst. Just remember that the kids class will end, so be calm and think of a way through it, just like when that guy in class that outweighs you by a metric ton and decides that he is content tapping you with his famous side control. Maintaining your composer will help the kids in the long run, they will trust you and you will have a much easier time with them and in your rolls.
3. There are no Mistakes, Only Lessons
It can be very easy to criticize yourself, flooding your head with defeat and doubt. This too will change if you begin teaching kids. When children are drilling or rolling you will naturally see some “mistakes” being made (just as with us white belts), you can use that as an opportunity to fix their technique and make it even better. Likewise, when you are rolling and you tap every 10 seconds, you learn not to beat yourself up (Your classmates are doing a good enough job at that) but rather to try and learn from where you fudged up and apply that lesson later on.
4. How to be a Counselor and Better Teammate
Everyone has had one of those days. Your boss was a real big “Richard” or your significant other has decided not to play nice and you are just considering skipping training all together, but you grab that GI out of your closet, get the gym bag ready, shuffle out of your house and make your way to the Academy. Kids have those days too, whether it be a bully at school or a possible myriad of issues in home life. Over time the children will grow to trust you a respect you (If you have stuck to number 2 on this list) and they may come to you with these issues. It is important to maintain an atmosphere that kids will feel comfortable talking about their issues, just in the same way you can roll and maybe vent to a teammate that is willing to listen; then leave the academy feeling like a load was lifted from your chest.
5. What BJJ is Really About
For most, BJJ started out as just a fun way to get in shape or meet new people. However if you stick with it you will notice something more. I know for me personally, after my first month helping with the kids class I felt to understand what this Jiu-Jitsu was about. We teach our kids that you do not need super powers, or loads of money to be a hero or help people, but rather you simply need to try your best. Just like Jiu-Jitsu requires you to give your best effort in order to improve, so too does life.
In conclusion: I can’t say you will experience the same benefits from helping in the kids class that I have…. But I’ll go out on a limb and predict that will be an experience from which you will grow both as a martial artist and as a person. If your instructor gives you the opportunity….GO.
By Randall Goodson