Active kids: Jiu-Jitsu for children brings holistic wellness
By Kevin Rebultan
While there are several activities that encourage interaction among children, the holistic wellness that comes with engagement in sports remains undisputed. Studies show that engaging in sports activities gives a child more than just physical well-being, it also improves cognitive processes, emotional resilience, and interpersonal relations.
Among the steadily growing sports today is the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), with Philippines as the first Southeast Asian country to embrace it in the late ‘90s. Considered both as a martial art and a combat sport, BJJ is a modified judo and traditional Japanese jujutsu founded by the Gracie family from Brazil.
Known for its stand-up maneuvers and ground-fighting techniques, BJJ favors one with superior positioning, where numerous styles of chokes, holds, locks, and joint manipulations can be executed on an opponent. In essence, BJJ pays no heed to height, for it teaches a smaller person to defend himself from a larger adversary. This, ultimately, is what makes it suitable and advantageous for kids.
On developing potentials
There are currently 10,000 Jiu-Jitsu practitioners and competitors in the country, and one of the officially recognized teams by the Philippine Sports Commission and Philippine Olympic Committee is the Origins BJJ. Headed by International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation registered Black Belt Antonio ‘TJ’ Sulit Jr., and Brown Belt Pat Jamlang, Origins BJJ was founded in 2012, and had since been initiating programs for kids.
“We are advanced in the sport as compared to our neighbouring countries. Our vision is to remain being a powerhouse in our region, and eventually rise in the World rankings,” said Sulit, whose coaching career began with the Ateneo de Manila Seniors Men’s Judo Team, circa 2001.
To realize the vision, Origins BJJ continues to widen its reach. It has branches in Makati, Manila, Quezon City, and soon in Santa Rosa, Laguna. Some facilities have also started offering Muai Thai and Strength and Conditioning classes, along with Jiu-Jitsu.
For someone who’s been practicing and teaching martial art for 30 years, it was imperative for Sulit to form the Origins BJJ team with the primary purpose of gathering like-minded people, inclusive of both adults and kids from all walks of life. “The knowledge I have accumulated in many years of training is most valuable when it is used to help people attain their goals. So we welcome everyone to train with us regardless of affiliation with other teams,” said Sulit.
As a testament to Origins BJJ’s endless pursuit of its goals, some of its kid students have medalled in a few tournaments, among which are the BJJ Federation of the Philippines Pan Asians, Philippine International Open, Philippine Nationals, and Rollapalooza. Sulit believes that these children are the future of BJJ in the Philippines, and will soon find themselves competing for prestigious international competitions like the Asian Beach Games, Asian Indoor Martial Arts Games, and JuJitsu International World Jujutsu Championships—where Meggie Ochoa was declared as the first Filipina world champion last year.
More programs are lined up to sustain their momentum. “We started having open mat sessions in Nuvali and are looking for formalizing a program and venue in the area within summer,” Sulit shared.
On training the kids
Committed to train its members from the ground up, all coaches of Origins BJJ are homegrown talents who have been instructors for around eight to 15 years. Under their guidance, in 2015, Origins Athletics Training Center in San Juan was founded by 28-year-old BJJ Brown Belt Michael Tiu, who also heads its adults and kids BJJ programs.
“Learning how to teach kids was quite challenging, especially in simplifying complicated concepts and movements to a level kids are able to understand,” said Tiu. However, in relation to being a combat sport which requires close proximity between practitioners, kids are less likely to be inhibited during training sessions.
Origins BJJ program for kids generally caters to children four to 12 years old. Despite the physicality of activities that boys are inclined to enjoy, Tiu attests that more and more girls have been signing up as of late. The classes are a diverse group of mixed nationalities.
Each class usually involves a dynamic warm up to prepare the body for physical training, a study on a certain technique, and drills and sparring as application of concepts to a fully resisting opponent.
Naturally for kids, the incorporation of the ‘fun’ factor in classes is essential for learning. With this in mind, Tiu is fastidious to always come up with ways to engage his students’ attention. “Make everything a game! Disguise drills and warm ups as games, and reward them with another game at the end of the class for good behavior,” he shared.
Eventually, in the basis of the instructors’ assessment of the kids’ progress in training sessions and competitions, the children are moved up to a certain belt rank.
On instilling values
More than the combat skills and athleticism, Origins BJJ goes beyond the trainer-trainee relationship; both Sulit and Tiu can affirm the formation of friendship and family among them.
With such a sense of camaraderie, imparting life lessons is as crucial as teaching technical knowledge and proficiency of the sport.
“I’m proud that our team emphasizes that winning or losing isn’t as important as being a good training partner and a good person overall,” said Tiu, “with friendly competitions during classes come the lifelong friends who they’ll have a special kind of bond with.”
In addition, other values that Tiu believes kids can learn from the sport are humility, confidence, respect, focus, and discipline. As it demands physical interaction, BJJ shifts the attention of children from their gadgets to their personal holistic wellness.