Why are karate schools packed and our BJJ kids program are not?

I have a unique background in the martial arts.  I was a child martial artist, starting in 1981 in Monroe, Michigan.  The moment I walked into the school, I knew that I was going to be doing this for the rest of my life.

I trained an art called Wing Chun Do, which is an early version of Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do.  Fast forward 12 years from starting in martial arts, I was living in the back of one of Bruce Lee’s students schools.  Working under James DeMile was an amazing experience, and it was when I first really started to teach kids a Mixed Martial Arts curriculum.  Although we do lots of mixed arts in my school in Kirkland, our Brazilian Jiu Jitsu program is one of our more popular programs.  However, it was not always this way.

Right now my school sits at around 300 students. What’s really interesting is we have been at that student count for the last 12 years.  In having my school for the last 20 years, I have had students start with me when they were four years old and train with me until they leave for college. I think there are some reasons for the that.  I do not have all the answers about school management, sometimes I do not even know the questions it seems.  However,  I think as instructors, especially in BJJ,  we need to ask ourselves the following questions in order to build a program that will appeal to both parents and to kids:  

For the kids-

Are the classes fun?  

Am I learning new things?  

Am I getting hurt?  

Am I getting made fun of, or made to feel bad early in my training?  

Is the instructor positive?  

Does my instructor understand and help me with developing grit, self-discipline and “the growth mindset”.

Am I in a class with little tiny kids?  

Am I in a class with giants?

Parents, which are just as important as the students, must also be happy with your service that you are providing their family. 

For the parents-

Is my kid learning more than just how to wrestle with a jacket on?

Is my child learning life skills?  

Is the school clean?

Does the school smell…..good…..or bad?

Is my child learning self-defense?  

Does the school only cater to the competitors?  

Is there a way for my timid or shy child to really learn to be confident and strong?

These are all very candid questions you must ask yourself about your martial arts program.  Then once you know the answers, you can start the lifelong quest in finding the ways, both big and small, that make your program better.

You can adopt lots of stuff the Karate schools.  However there are people, like myself, that are trying to make a difference to transform our schools to produce the next generation of Saulo’s, Xande’s, Rafa’s and Marcelo’s.

We have to upgrade the systems, mat management techniques, and the content we provide our youth students so that it will appeal to both the parent’s watching, as well as the kids participating in our classes.

Play your cards right and that tiny little kid that you toy around and train with will ultimately grow up and be able to legitimately be able to submit you (which is our goal in the first place).