If you’re the parent of a child with disabilities, autism, attention deficit disorder or behavioral problems you may wonder if Jiu Jitsu is a good choice. Most parents of children who struggle with behavioral problems are concerned that teaching their child to fight will make everything worse, but it turns out that the research says exactly the opposite. Kids who participate in martial arts learn self-control and confidence. With the confidence to know that you can defend yourself should you need to; many children recognize that it’s not necessary and displaying self-control is a far better choice. Instructors instill in the students that respect comes through controlling yourself rather than fighting.
Several studies have been done on children with autism in relation to participation in marital arts as well. These have seen marked improvement in balance, cooperative behavior, attention span and ability to play well. In addition, negative behaviors such as fighting and acting out decreased as well. The highly structured environment of a Jiu Jitsu study is exactly what many of these kids need to thrive. They learn to work as a team and have respect for others.
Many young people who struggle to focus, are easily agitated, or are naturally aggressive find Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to be the perfect outlet for all that energy. It allows them to leave it all on the mat and walk out of the gym with a clear mind and a renewed sense of calm. Jiu Jitsu differs from traditional team sports by shifting the focus to the individual. For the most part you’re competing against yourself in a challenge to become better than you were yesterday. This self-imposed discipline is far more powerful and effective for many kids, than discipline imposed by others.
Team sports such as soccer or football just aren’t for every kid, some simply don’t feel comfortable in those environments, but it turns out that many of those same children are completely at ease in the Jiu Jitsu studio. They often improve their performance at school as well. A child with autism may struggle to communicate with their teammates or pick up on social cues. This can lead to feeling isolated and frustrated, but in Jiu Jitsu the child is working as an individual while surrounded by others. They get the same sense of being on a team, the support and encouragement when they succeed, but without the pressure of needing to interact appropriately with them.
If you have a child with special needs we strongly encourage you to bring him or her and come observe a Jiu Jitsu class. This is the perfect chance to get a sense of what it will be like and feel the atmosphere that surrounds this incredibly powerful sport.