I was brought to BJJ by my 9 year old daughter. I wanted to find a sport that we could both get involved in, both for the getting-in-shape and the something-to-do-together aspects. We started with Tae Kwon Do after she attended a TKD presentation at school. TKD had some benefits (exercise, memorization, discipline), which also created negatives (mindless following of directions, memorizing unrealistic "forms," less-than-intense physicality). After a year, we quit.
I was then looking for another sport to try together with my daughter. I sought Muay Thai, since she was half Thai, that would also give her the cultural aspect to learn. However, I could not find a Thai instructor within driving distance. So, BJJ seemed to be a good idea to me, as I wrestled in yesteryear.
For my daughter, BJJ wasn't really her sweet spot, She was a more girly girl type into fashion and drawing, but still liked boy stuff (shooter games, ziplining, roller coasters). Jiu Jitsu required focus and seriousness. Two things she needed some work on. These two things showed little improvement in the beginning. However, she wanted to go to class half the time, since she made some friends with the son and daughter of Arturo Ayala, the Muay Thai instructor and a BJJ team mate.
I then had rotator cuff injury and elbow surgery that basically had me out of BJJ training for 6 months. I took her inconsistently to class during that time. After being lazy for another 3 months to get started again in BJJ, we both started taking class consistently at the beginning of this year.
I resolved at this time that I would not force and nag her to go to class, which was the case about half the time before the hiatus. I told her that if she blew off class too much (like twice in a row), I would cancel her BJJ training. She has actually not required a lot of coaxing since then. I think that it is partly because she is getting older and she has friends in the class, but it is also definitely a component of the head instructor Michelle Welti. She is amazingly patient and not everyone is that way with my daughter, who is a chatterbox. She also looks up to Michelle, who is a successful BJJ competitor, but my daughter's admiration is more on the personal level.
Assistant instructor Andrew Babeu does a great job too, be her connection to Michelle has the "its a girl thing" component. Andrew, I know sometimes you may roll like a girl, but you are just going to have to dig deeper into your inner girly to really connect with the girls on the team.
My daughter's liking the class has also helped me be consistent in going to class, as I had to justify any class skipages with more than just my easy-to-accept-an-excuse self.
I believe that we have also passed another milestone in BJJ with having done our first competitions. After my getting a gold medal at the New York Open, my daughter was really excited. She wore the medal around the house and told her friends at school. She said that her one friend thought she was lying. I asked why. She said, "he's seen you before...you're fat." Rotten kids.
This weekend was the Copa Nova tournament in Ashburn, VA. I had planned on competing, but started to get sick the night before. It was really hard to get out of bed to go to the tournament, but she really wanted to compete, and her not making it would have really bummed her out. She was very excited, a little scared. All the emotions that I had before the NY Open. This was something that we discussed and it was great to share in that experience with her.
I was surprised that she was so adamant on competing. She never really took class very seriously and retained limited knowledge of technique. Michelle and Andrew had to prep her for the tournament, by getting her to not make noises when she sparred (a family trait). I first signed her up for only the Gi division, but she wanted to also be in No Gi.
Although she lost her 3 matches (they gave her 1 extra match for practice), she progressively improved her performance. She got a bronze in the No Gi. That made her happy and proud. She was very disappointed that she lost. The next day, she was in a great mood. The roller coaster ride of emotions that competition brings on is apparently the same, young or old.
Will this experience at competition drive her to take BJJ more seriously? I hope so. That's why this is a two part blog. Once I know that answer, I will write Part 2. Whatever the answer is, BJJ has been a great experience for both of us. Who would have ever thought a sport that is typically relegated to the domain of sweaty dudes wrestling would be a good fit for a Father Daughter activity?
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