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Parent Info for the Gracie Bullyproof® Program

Some Expections for Parents

Parent Info for the Gracie Bullyproof® Program

Hi Parents!

We love having your children participate in our children's Gracie Bullyproof® program! Because it might not be clear what our approach is to teaching children, I wanted to provide some information here that might be helpful to parents. Most of the formal information about the program can be found on our gym website and on the Gracie University website and so I'll just address some topics not covered there.

In most Brazilian jiu-jitsu (hereafter "BJJ") gyms which have children's programs, children are largely taught like adults: they warm-up, learn some techniques, and go straight to sparring (tapping each other out without the threat of punches). In these gyms, like adults, children are expected to compete in tournaments.

Most BJJ gyms have gone the route that many karate and taekwondo gyms have gone over the past 30 years, that is, toward competitions and tournaments. While this is not a bad thing necessarily, it limits training to one aspect of a fight, i.e. kicking for karate/taekwondo, punching for boxing, grappling for bjj and wrestling, for example. Since tournaments have rules, time limits, weight categories, and referees, training for rule-driven tournaments does not necessarily translate to training for real fights at school, on the playground, or when encountering bullies who are likely to bigger, stronger, and more athletic.

The Gracie Academy in Torrance, CA and all Gracie Certified Training Centers (such as our gym) endeavor to focus on the original purpose of Helio Gracie's jiu-jitsu, that is, to allow smaller and weaker people to be able to neutralize aggression against bigger, stronger, and more athletic people in real street-fight and assault scenarios. Therefore, it is a system of self-defense, not a sport.

The Gracie family has proven over and over that their system of self-defense works for that very purpose which is why jiu-jitsu is the fastest growing martial art on the planet. This was shown by Royce Gracie when he beat bigger, stronger, and more athletic opponents in the original UFC's (which was create by his brother, Rorion Gracie). Because of Royce Gracie, the world finally figured out what really works in real street fights (since the UFC back then had no rules and no weight categories!). Fancy kicks and punches turned out not to be as effective as the movies once made them out to be. Believe me, having trained taekwondo my whole life (now a 4th degree black belt in taekwondo), I, too, had no choice but to convert to jiu-jitsu once I found out for myself how incredibly effective it was! It's something that is hard to believe until you feel it! Once you roll around with someone who knows jiu-jitsu, you quickly realize this.

I mention all this here since most parents these days may not know where Gracie jiu-jitsu came from and why it's so popular now, BUT that it has evolved into a sport for 99% for many, if not most, bjj and MMA gyms. Our gym is not focused on the sportive aspect of BJJ nor are we trying to teach our students to win tournaments. Our goal and focus is to teach children how to deal with real-life bullies by giving them techniques and strategies to stand up for themselves should the occasion require it. Just know that they are learning a VERY effective and PROVEN self-defense system which address the real threat of punches and other attacks they might expect from both bullies and kidnappers.

Under the Gracie system, the primary focus for kids is to have fun, learn some jiu-jitsu, and to build character. We don't apply adult expectations onto children. While some children might strive in an adult-like type of environment, most are not ready for a super-competitive and super-charged environment which expects them to technically master advanced movements. Most will get discouraged and quit. Therefore, we try to nurture their natural desire to play in order to guide them on their jiu-jitsu journey.

In the Little Champs program (ages 5-7), we teach the Gracie games, which are games designed to teach grappling principles in a fun way.

For example, the Bulldozer or Steam Roller is a game where kids roll someone underneath them from their knees. While it does not look like jiu-jitsu, the game was specifically designed to teach, in a fun way, the mechanics of allowing someone to roll underneath you so that you can ultimately take their back achieving a back mount position. The back mount is a very powerful way to control opponents.

The Crazy Horse game teaches children the actual mechanics of maintaining the back mount itself, i.e. by learning to hold by using their arms and feet. Therefore, as they get older, achieving the back mount becomes second nature.

In the Jr. Grapplers program (ages 8-12), we teach a simpler version of the adult Gracie Combatives program. They learn almost everything the adults learn, except the chokes (i.e. rear-naked choke, triangle choke, guillotine choke). But they do learn joint submissions, such as armlocks, as negotiating tools with bullies.

In both Little Champs and Jr. Grapplers, we do not expect that kids will learn any technique perfectly on the first try. The goal is not perfection, but to guide them and have fun. Therefore, please don't feel discouraged if you see that your child is not understanding a technique or some other movement. We will simply praise the child, encourage them, and move on. They will eventually get it and so we allow them to do so in their own time.

Therefore, in a Bullyproof class, even though it might appear that we are only teaching them one or two formal jiu-jitsu techniques, they are actually learning a multitude of movements and strategies in one class! For example:

Learning to roll over their shoulder (backward and forward), not necks
Learning to shrimp (which is an effective escape in jiu-jitsu)
Learning agility, base (balance), and basic body movements

Break Falls
Learning how to fall down without getting hurt (falling backwards, forwards, and sideways)

Circle Time
Learning character traits (citizenship, respect, health, manners, caring, and responsibility)
Learning about about staying safe in everyday life and stranger danger

Technique Time
Learning the formal technique(s) of the day

Dodge Ball
Having fun and developing their agility and awareness of others around them.

Therefore, in one class, they actually are learning vast array of techniques and movements that will serve as a foundation for their jiu-jitsu/self-defense journey!

The Black Belt Club is an invitation-only children's class meant for children who exhibit an emotional and intellectual maturity (and desire) to handle more technical and advanced training. Sparring is allowed in the Black Belt club since, by this point, they know how to tap out when they are submitted (and can emotionally accept this), they know to let go of a submission when their opponent taps out, and are just overall ready for more advanced training.

As of right now, we have not been running Black Belt Club, since there hasn't been enough time for students to develop sufficiently to this point. Over time though, I will be watching for kids who might be ready. I will coordinate with parents when I feel that their child is ready for the Black Belt Club. Of course, if parents feel that their child is ready for more, please consult with me and we can talk about the best course for your child.

Generally speaking, Little Champs (ages 5-7) graduate into Jr. Grapplers (8-12), and Jr. Grapplers advanced into the Black Belt Club. Black Club students (when they get to be older in age and ready) advance into the adult Gracie Combatives program.

In the Black Belt Club, parents sometimes feel the need to coach their children from the viewing area. This is not allowed nor necessary. Winning and losing is part of the jiu-jitsu struggle and sometimes parents take it personal that their child was tapped out by another child. Just know that tapping out is a normal part of the jiu-jitsu journey. It does not mean that your child is not learning. It also does not reflect on the parents if their child taps out. Coaching your child during class puts undue pressure on the kids, turns class into a tournament, and stops being fun. Once it stops being fun, children tend to quit.

I may not have addressed all your questions and concerns here, so please feel free to ask any questions you may have about your child's training. I'm happy to help out anyway I can!

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