Every so often parents tell me that their child is starting to not enjoy their Jiu Jitsu because they are not being challenged.
I often wonder when a child plays ball sports, how they are challenged.
I guess when they play sports like AFL, netball and football the opportunity to compete against other teams is the challenge. Whereas in BJJ if the athlete lives in a regional town or city, they have to travel. This becomes the deterrent because at least one parent of the family unit has to travel and it can be an expensive venture.
So how does the child remain challenged in the sport of Jiu Jitsu?
White belts learn four fundamental positions; back control, guard, side control and mount. Within these four positions they learn about attacks, defences, escapes and must apply these skills when wrestling.
Advanced belts learn more complex positional plays.
I like to think of the four fundamental positions as seeds. When you plant a seed and it's given the right conditions, it can grow into a beautiful plant.
As the plant grows, it has a trunk, limbs, branches, stalks, twigs, leaves and flowers. So how does a seed come into Jiu Jitsu?
Lets look at the seed called guard.
When first learning about guard, you learn about passing, sweeping and the submissions, these could be the roots of the plant.
As the athlete becomes competent with the position, they may become quite skilful in a specific submission or easily trick their opponent into a sweep. They start to see how they can better use their limbs and may start to play with an 'open' guard.
Now the trunk of the plant has been established, the athlete is shown a new aspect of the guard and this can formulate a new branch.
Should the athlete like the new technique they've been shown, they may become competent with the skill set and learn how to react to their teammates movement and therefor start to upskill in that guard. They'll learn how to manipulate balance, trap limbs, sweep and submit in various ways.
Over time some training partners will start to understand how the athlete is playing the position and learn to defend it.
The athlete that had been working so hard at that open guard play is now being challenged and has to upskill to best their teammates, and the cycle continues.
When athletes tell me that they’re not being challenged, I ask them when they last used the technique they have been concentrating on in a wrestle. More often than not I get a blank expression and they tell me that they tried but it didn't work.
Now it’s not about a technique not working, it’s about the athlete not allowing themselves to be beaten so they can understand and develop a new game.
Depending on the athlete’s persistence, some positional plays take months if not years to master. Only when you come up against someone you’ve never played against before who has been training for a similar timeframe, and you can execute your chosen technique and win, can you say you are not being challenged.
So the next time your child athlete tells you they are starting to get bored at training, ask them what they’ve been learning for the last few months. When they tell you, ask them when they executed that technique last or how frequently they are able to best their teammates with it.
If they tell you they don’t or can’t, they are not challenging themselves.
By the way, this happens with adults too!
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