In class, when I teach a child a move some people ask me how do you do it? How do you teach a child something as difficult as Jiu Jitsu? Well…the answer is a bit like Jiu Jitsu itself, simple not easy.

When I was a blue belt, a black belt visited Master Sauer’s school who had a profound effect on my Jiu-Jitsu philosophy. He taught an hour class on the upa, which apparently I didn’t know how to do correctly. He basically said that if you can’t do the movement without someone even on top of you then you probably can’t do the move with someone on top of you.

Something clicked.

I started applying this concept to my kids to see what would happen. This made a drastic change in the results I would get in class. Everyone was picking up things quicker because their basic movements were already so much better. And if a child had trouble with the movement I could move the child into a better position to do the move correctly.

So why does this work?

Well, by its very nature grappling is tactile. You have to feel the energy of the opponent and adjust. Also, children are learning to move their bodies for the first time and haven’t built up as many bad movement patterns as adults have. Moving a child into the correct position works because a child’s body learns faster than the mind. If you teach a child movement then they will be able to move correctly and execute the move even without being able to articulate it themselves.

Too often I see adults trying to explain away moves and over teach to children. Not all children understand “moves” until they have a baseline of knowledge, most adults don’t either. But if you have the child build the movement without any resistance or even another kid on top of them then they can start to discover it for themselves. Their body will learn and slowly adapt to the energy of the stimulus they are given. This is my favorite way to teach children jiu-jitsu.

The funny thing is…this is also a good way to teach adults Jiu Jitsu. I know because that is exactly what that black belt did for me. When you train the movement first, you don’t compartmentalize Jiu Jitsu into “moves” you flow and learn as the fight progresses. It’s not about how many “moves” you know it’s about what movements you can execute under pressure.

This has always been my goal. To make my students, children and adults alike, functional with their Jiu Jitsu. So that is why I think you should train movement and not move in BJJ.

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