Question: First off, what is BJJ? What do kids do in class?
Answer: BJJ is a form of wrestling, but also has elements of Judo and Sambo. Kids learn how to fall safely, how to knock someone off their feet, how to get out from under someone, and how to pin someone down. There is no "striking" in BJJ. In class, kids first warm up, then they pair up and take turns drilling techniques, for example, practicing a particular take-down or how to get past someone's feet into a side-pin. The focus is on learning the technique, with your partner helping you by responding in the right way. Then you switch roles. For the younger kids we always close with a short game that focuses on movement, agility, strength, or conditioning. For the older kids we close with supervised sparring appropriate for their ability level.
Once a kid has learned the basic techniques he or she can also participate in structured sparring drills, for example trying to throw someone while the other person resists. As kids develop skills the sparring drills become more open-ended (but always supervised by an adult).
Question: What are the benefits of BJJ?
Answer: BJJ is a whole-body sport that trains balance, coordination, strength, flexibility and conditioning. It also builds both confidence and self-control. For those kids that are on the shyer end or who aren't "natural" athletes we work with them at their own pace in order to build up their skills over time. For the more active kids we work with them to improve their control.
BJJ is both an individual sport and a team effort - your team mates on the mat help you develop your skills and cheer you on, but competition and improvement is individual. We focus on each child's improvement while emphasizing how important it is to help the other students in the class as well.
If your child is competitive, BJJ offers a safe outlet for that energy. Kids can compete "all out" safely - no head trauma or damaged knees. There are many local competitions such as SubLeague, and we always provide coaching support.
BJJ also has a self-defense element - increasing your awareness of people around you, being comfortable with physical contact and agression, and knowing how to throw someone off you are all part of improving your own physical safety. Learning this as a kid is very important, and will stay with your child through the rest of their life.