Starting Them Young: The Future Of Jiu-jitsu

Published on by Dan Dufur

Photo courtesy of John Cooper

It is crazy to see how far BJJ has come. Everybody seems to get better faster. Every tournament I go to seems to have more kids competing than the prior event. I love watching the kids compete. The future of BJJ right before my eyes. Some of these kids may not be able to even tie their own shoes yet. It doesn’t stop them from giving their all in to their matches. When they win, it is the happiest moment of their young lives. When they lose, they cry and get so sad. While it may not be much different than the way adults react, they don’t understand that they are doing something truly incredible. They are learning life changing skills.

I think that learning jiu-jitsu at such a young age is important. The children can learn many good habits while they are so impressionable. Respect, control, discipline, confidence, hard work, and self-defense are all learned through training bjj. It is a great way for them to stay active while doing something they enjoy. The academy is a great place to make new friends and form a strong bond. They can acquire flexibility and learn to move their bodies in many different ways.

While some children have their parents put them in BJJ at a young age, others are born in it. There are so many high level practitioners in the world today that are the children of BJJ legends. They are immersed in the culture at such a young age, that it becomes second nature. Most of them were training before they even knew what it was. Kennedy Maciel, the son of the legendary Rubens “Cobrinha” Charles Maciel has been destroying everybody in his path on the competition circuit. I remember when he was promoted to blue belt and immediately starting crushing people. When he was promoted to purple he began to do the same. Mackenzie Dern is the daughter of Wellington “Megaton” Dias.  She grew up in the dojo, watching from the sidelines before starting to train at a young age. Now she has become the face of women’s BJJ. Ryron and Rener Gracie are high ranking black belts and sons of red belt Rorion Gracie. Their first article of clothing was probably a gi. Many practitioners that are the offspring of jiu-jitsu players become high level instructors or competitors in their own right.

It seems like everybody is getting better faster, and at a younger age. Gordon Ryan won the EBI 6 Absolute tournament at the age of 20. He beat competitors with more than twice the amount of years training BJJ. His hard work and dedication allowed him to grow to such a high level. Grace Gundrum and Cora Sek are teenage girls becoming household names through their jiu-jitsu. The technique and level of understanding that these young competitors have is incredible. In the academy I train at, I can see all the newer students getting better in a quicker timeframe than in the past. The world is at their fingertips. Knowledge is available everywhere. The tools to become whatever you want to be are all around us. It’s up to you to put in the hard work and dedication to achieve your dreams.

All of us BJJ players that started later in life have regretted not starting earlier. I myself could and should’ve started about 9 years earlier. Whenever we see a young kid we say “if I would’ve started at your age I’d be such and such rank”. I do believe that there is a certain time and place for everything. I think certain things are supposed to happen at certain points in our lives. I hope my child and future children take to BJJ at a young age. If they do, it will help them develop into caring, strong, independent, and hardworking members of society. Maybe they will like it. Maybe they won’t. I would love to compete alongside them at tournaments one day. Everybody has their own path and destiny. I plan on starting them young, so one day they may become the future of jiu-jitsu.