Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Can Kid's Really Learn to Defend Themselves?

Image result for kids defending themselvesI was listening to a YouTube video last night discussing the reason why Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu doesn't award black belts to youth (under 18 yrs old).  There were several comments I agreed with in the discussion, such as not awarding a black belt to an 8 year old. But there were a few point I didn't agree with, and one that worried me immensely. It was the belief this instructor had that kids are incapable of defending themselves against larger opponents or attackers.

The instructor in the video commented that kids can't be black belts in Brazillian Jiu-jitsu because they aren't big and strong enough to defend themselves until they are a minimum of 18-21 yrs old. Say what??? I am okay saying they can't be black belts until that age because they are not mature enough or because their bodies are not physically developed to complete all the techniques, but to say they can't defend themselves until this age is crazy! (Now, I know not every BJJ instructor or program has this belief.  For example we don't, and the school I came up with didn't have this belief).

First, let me set my standard on defending an attack.  I believe it is the ability to break the grab attack, block the strike or weapon attack, and then get away! Isn't getting away the real goal? And I don't believe you need to be a black belt to do this. I start out day one with all students teaching them how to defend themselves. Realistically, it take about a year of training to have enough knowledge to defend most attacks, but I believe students who only take one month of classes from me are better prepared to defend and attack then someone who hasn't taken any self defense. Of course, a black belt is going to be more prepared to defend themselves, but that doesn't mean white belts can't defend themselves.
Image result for kids defending themselves
Second, let me tell you my standard for awarding a black belt (adult or junior black belt), so that you know I stand for my belief that kids can defend themselves. In my opinion a truly skilled black belt must have "the ability to defend oneself against any attack thrown – grab, weapon, ground attack, etc.  Defense skills used must be effective [and one must demonstrate the] ability to defend oneself, escape, and never give up." There are additional requirements such as time in training, good moral character, fitness etc., but I hope this cuts to my point that I believe kids and adults have the ability to defend themselves against an attacker.

FYI - In our school, it takes about 8-10 years for an average kid to achieve Junior Black Belt and 1-5 years more to earn full Black Belt. That means a kid who starts at 6 year old (our minimum age to start teaching actual self defense skills) won't be qualified to earn a junior black belt until a minimum age of 14 yrs.  And yes, I know my 14 year old students can defend themselves. That doesn't mean I am going to throw them into a group of gangbangers and say, "defend yourself."  It means that if they use all of their abilities to avoid an attack, then if one does unfortunately arise, I know they will do everything possible to survive that situation. For full Black Belt I do not have a minimum age, but 16 years old is about the youngest most youth are prepared for the responsibility of being a Black Belt and have the maturity to complete all the requirements for full Black Belt. This is my standard and those who don't agree or like this standard can seek training from a different school, but I believe this sets a high standard for Black Belt that is reasonable and obtainable. But I am getting off point....

Back to why I believe kids can learn to defend themselves.

My Reasoning behind my Belief

  1. I have seen it first hand over 24 years of teaching youth. It only takes one good strike, kick, or putting up a strong fight to distract an attacker long enough to get away. Remember, getting away is the goal! 
  2. Watch the news. About once per year, I see a kid who defends a kidnapper, attacker, etc. If this isn't enough proof than nothing I can say will change your mind, and we will just have to agree to disagree on this point.
Bad things happen. You can do everything possible to avoid them, but they may still happen.  I teach kids to defend themselves in case something bad does happen.  And I believe 100% that a child under the age of 18 can defend themselves.


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