Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) and Muay Thai vs other martal arts for kids

You can honestly never start them early enough imo. I’ve started all mine out just as soon as the gym would accept them. Every gym is different. But it gives them a new network of friends and every gym I’ve been a part of they also give kids time to play at the end of each class…dodge ball or something else like that. It’s really a lot of fun for the kids. I’ve been a kids coach for many years and it’s fun watching them learn and become competitive. There are competitions they can enter if they’re ultra competitive. We have competed in the past, but don’t right now because it’s just too expensive ($100 for each of us to enter). But they’re great ways to test your mettle. A lot of gyms also provide in-house tournaments where the only competitors are those you train with.

My only regret was in not starting these two styles (BJJ and Muay Thai) much earlier in my life. I’m a 2nd degree blackbelt in another form of martial arts (a McDojo style - it took 4 years) and I’ve also trained extensively in Aikido (think Steven Segal). I also trained Karate and Taekwondo before as well. In some form or another, I’ve been training in some form of martial arts since I was 20, in the Army. But I tell everyone…I learned more (and felt more confident that I had the skills to really defend myself and my family) after 1 month in BJJ than I did in all the years I invested in all those other styles combined.

You can never start them early enough imo.

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My son, Devlin and I, received our 2nd-degree black belts in a style known as “Hwardo” (http://kwonschampionschool.com/federation/3734924). You can find us on the list ‘Martin, Harold’ and ‘Martin, Devlin’

It’s much like Karate/Taekwando. We spent 4 years doing this.

1 month of BJJ and Muay Thai I was kicking myself for having wasted 4 years of my life in a lesser form. If your goal is to only be active, then sure…these styles are for you. But if your goal is to be truly able to defend yourself in a real world altercation, there is nothing like BJJ and Muay Thai (there are a few other noteworthy ones), but the high impact, many punches and kicks styles that I spent many years learning just aren’t effective in real life.

In fact, during a tournament 2 years ago, I was competing against a guy who had never trained BJJ, but he was a ‘Karate master’ (that’s literally how he introduced himself to me.) I said to him…OK, but have you ever taken Jiu-Jitsu? His response was no, he’s certain he’ll be just fine…I wished his wife wasn’t present to watch because I took him down to the mat and tapped him out with a rear naked choke in under 10 seconds. He was a foot taller than me and about 50 Lb heavier too.

BJJ in kids is much less ‘sweaty’, than with adults, but they get equally exhausted because the last 30 minutes of each class we spend ‘rolling’ with partners…we ‘roll’ with 5 or 6 different partners and during each 3 - 5 minute session, the goal is to tap your opponent out as many times as you can…and your opponent is trying to do the same thing to you. This clashing of ideas causes a lot of physical activity to occur as one person tries avoiding being tapped while the other is trying their best to get the tap and visa-versa. And for Muay-Thai, it’s nothing but sweat, sweat, sweat, very high cardio from start to finish. Muay Thai is probably the most cardo activity I’ve ever been involved with in my whole life.

The effectiveness of both BJJ and Muay Thai were made clear during the early days of the UFC when Royce Gracie (who promoted me to Blue belt in BJJ personally)…and BJJ/Muay Thai are still the styles used most frequently in the UFC.

Since most fights in real life end up on the ground, knowing what to do when you get on the ground is critical. Karate/Taekwondo and are like fish out of water on the ground.

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The only other thing I would say to anyone considering getting into BJJ is find out their lineage before you begin training. There are many cases of gym owners being called out by true BJJ practitioners as frauds. They say they are, and they pretend to be black belts, but they have the skills of a white belt.

In BJJ we have a saying “The mat never lies.” You can tell someone’s skill level in 5 minutes in BJJ.

So, try to find out their lineage…who promoted the coach, who promoted that person? If they come from the ‘Gracie, Machado or Bravo’ lineage and their promotions can be verified, then they are legitimate. But the coach should be able to clearly tell you who promoted them, and you should be able to google to find that persons name, rank and qualifications in the BJJ system.

I started out in the Royce Gracie network. Anyone that knows UFC knows Royce Gracie. Here’s him promoting me to blue belt in 2012. I now train under a professor/coach who received his black belt from Rigan Michado. Rigan Michado grew up with, and trained with the Gracies in Brazil and is a legend in his own right.

The lineage should be verifiable.

And just for S&G, here’s a pic of Royce putting me to sleep (not really) with the RNC.


@ClaudnDaye, how does the workout differ from other comparable sports?

Comparable sports I’m assuming you’re just referring to “martial arts” in general…but there really isn’t anything I’ve trained in that comes remotely close to the impact of BJJ. Here are some difference.

  1. In most ‘hard impact’ styles such as Taekwondo, you do get a good workout (sometimes), but then at the end of the class, you dawn lots of silly gear and ‘fake hit and fake punch’ your opponents for fear of hurting them. In the real world, there’s no headgear and there are no fake punches. BJJ offers the technique portion, but then they conclude their classes with 30 minutes or an hour of ACTUAL sparring…6 or 8, 3 to 5-minute sessions of actual intense grappling sessions. Lots of sweating and tapping going on. This is practical training.

  2. As I said, I’ve trained many different styles since around the age of 20, but I felt more confident in my fighting abilities after just 1 or 2 months in BJJ and Muay Thai because, as a fighter growing up, I know how fights go down, what happens, where you end up, and you learn everything you need in these two classes to both protect yourself while standing up, but also protect yourself if the altercation goes to the ground. Most hard impact martial artists have one or two good kicks or punches and hope they can knock out their opponents, but that rarely happens. Through BJJ, you learn how to block, then “shoot in” and take them to the ground. Or, if you choose, through Muay Thai, you can just keep the altercation standing if you like.

  3. I’m not into doing things just for the hell of it…such as running. People enjoy running and I think that’s fabulous, but I hate running because it does nothing for me but give me shin splints and make me very tired…but at the end of the day, I’m really not learning anything new. With BJJ and Muay Thai I’m constantly exhausted, bruised, sometimes bloody, etc., but I feel good about expending that energy because I know I’m learning a life skill that may come in handy someday in the defense of myself and/or my family.

  4. As far as the actual workout…I don’t know how to compare it to other things because I’m not a big sports nut…I don’t participate in sports that don’t teach me life skills. All I can say is that the workout you get from BJJ and Muay Thai break your body down to the point that you’ll either break and give up or get stronger. With BJJ, you’re supposed to get to a point where you are not expending a lot of energy or strength, and; instead, relying on the techniques’ you’ve learned to accomplish your goal of tapping out your opponent. You learn proper breathing and relaxing in the face of overwhelming stress of someone trying to choke you out, and you learn how to manage that effectively. Again - very much practical for real-world altercation scenarios.

Not sure what else to add except that I wish I’d started these two forms of self-defense when I was younger because, to earn rank in BJJ is very difficult. BJJ is no ‘McDojo’ (where you basically pay for your belt every x months and get a new belt.) You can go years in BJJ and get no promotions…it’s all about how hard you’re training and whether your coach thinks you’re worthy of a promotion.

Belts actually MEAN SOMETHING in BJJ…when you see a BJJ Blue, Purple, Brown or Black belt, you know you are looking at someone that’s been training for, potentially decades. Here are the statistics regarding BJJ promotions…“90% of people who start training BJJ never make it to blue belt, and then 1% of blue belts advance to become black belts.” The training time for most black belts is at least one decade. But some, like me, will probably take 2 or 3 decades to reach that level because I can’t be on the mat 5 or 6 days a week like many hardcore practitioners.

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This is a great write-up, @ClaudnDaye, and passionate too! You make me regret having chosen other martial arts for my kids :frowning:

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I spent 4 years training with Devlin in a style that taught me nothing about the real world and altercations…and we got a 2nd degree black belt that I don’t even know where it is now… It’s never too late to try out BJJ / Muay Thai…they are everywhere now. Most gyms offer free 1st class. Try them out!

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BJJ is a lifestyle, it’s not just a martial arts. Here is a good article about why it considered a lifestyle. Any BJJ gym worth it’s weight and any practitioner of BJJ tries to live by these lifestyle principles. https://www.bjjee.com/articles/its-a-way-of-life-9-aspects-of-the-jiu-jitsu-lifestyle/

The last paragraph in that article is the most important to me: “It is important to use the principles of Jiu-Jitsu to make you a better person and to not over exaggerate to the point of becoming a extremist and taking other important things like family and career for granted. All in all Jiu-Jitsu should be a positive aspect in your life.”

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And to speak specifically to why BJJ and Muay Thai are preferred over other Martial Arts FOR CHILDREN…it’s simple. If your goal as a child is only to be active, then the martial arts style doesn’t matter. But if you want to be BULLY-PROOF, then these two are necessary. There are no better styles, in my opinion, to teach a child how to TRULY defend themselves in an altercation. I’m not talking about the false sense of security we get from McDojos.

Even the kids have live sparring rounds where they are trying to tap out their partners and learn how to gain dominance on the ground. Muay Thai teaches how to effectively punch, kick and block…all the important skills necessary to protect yourself while standing…and the end of each Muay Thai class you actually spar (no gear) against multiple opponents in punching/kicking/blocking. Actual contact without gear on except shin guards and mouth pieces…the physical contact in an actual sparring round gets the kids “used to being punched” so that they’re not shocked if it actually happens one day. We always say…if you don’t want to be punched, put your hands up. When I get punched…it’s my fault…I should have had my hands up. :stuck_out_tongue:

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BJJ compares pretty similarly to wrestling. Although the techniques and goals of the styles are very different. Muay Thai is compares to kickboxing or boxing with use of more than just the fists. Both are very good, although quite different workouts. We found BJJ to be the easiest to deal with diabetes.


My son is starting BJJ next Wednesday. My only concern is monitoring his BG during classes.
He has a dexcom G6 and the Sony smartwatch3 that is a stand-alone (no phone needed) so he gets reading every 5 mins during class. He is currently in parkour and can wear his watch the entire class. My understanding is he probably won’t be able to wear the watch during BJJ. The instructor was concerned it would get pulled. As they do lots grabbing.
Should I be concerned that they will grab his arm and it will pull his dexcom sensor off? Any suggestions for a compression sleeve or something he can wear over it so it doesn’t get pulled off?!?
Do you agree that a watch should not be wore during BJJ?


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I would say that a watch will be a definite no no for BJJ. They might pull his dexcom off, so a sleeve or something like it would be some protection. If it is like our gym, most of the kids sparring is done with a Gi so they will probably grab his Gi rather than his arm, but it could get pulled off at some point. I would say the benefits outweigh the downsides. The only problem with allowing your son to do BJJ is that he will be strong and have skill which was a real eye opener when wrestling around the living room.


It looks like your son is 10? That’s still young enough that most kids aren’t going super hard in BJJ. Where does he wear his sensors? If on the upper arm, I don’t think there is much of a threat to the sensor being pulled off. The only moves that a kid could/would do at that age that may pull it off would be a quick arm drag or an Amerikana or Kimura. But kids still go relatively softly until they are in the teens.

Watch will definitely need to go. Because we are looping, Liam actually wears his spy belt with RL and phone inside of it, inside of his Gi. When I’m not coaching the kids and being there on the mat for him during his classes, I’m sitting on the sidelines watching his BGs with snacks on hand.

The main coach knows i can and will call him off the mat if i have too due to a sudden crash. Sometimes I have to seat him and let him eat fast carbs and wait for a bit before he can get back on the mat.

There are some challenges but it’s definitely worth the effort it takes.

Regarding a compression sleeve it couldn’t hurt. Liam doesn’t wear one but he may eventually when they begin going harder.


My daughter (10) recently started in taekwondo. I have some concerns (between us) about it’s usefulness as a legitimate fighting style, and also of the belts meaning anything, but she loves it, is focused, disciplined, and respects the process more-so than in any other thing we’ve gotten her involved in. I’d have been more excited to see her interest captured by bjj or judo, but it just so happened that the nearest opportunity was taekwondo and she seemed to love it right away.

I started wrestling at age 10 and continued through high school… had an opportunity to wrestle at the college level but took a different path… nonetheless it’s been one of the things that’s made me who I am today… I went to kajukenpo classes for a few years as a teenager but it wasn’t really my thing…

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While the moves may not be as adapted to street fighting as Krav Maga or BJJ, the most important thing that any of these disciplines teach is mindset, which your daughter should benefit from regardless of style. Additionally, the one nice thing about karate-type disciplines is she will experience what it feels like to get hit, which is a very surprising thing for young women who haven’t ever been hit in real life. I know a number of young women I taught who may not be able to beat a 200lb trained guy in a street fight, but they wouldn’t have crumpled when they were hit the first time either.

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First BJJ class went great. He didn’t go low! (I think we have finally figured out his pre workout carb requirements).
I did buy a “sleeve” for his dexcom G6. He wears it on the back of his arm. We picked up an adjustable Elbow support by equate from Walmart. It is neoprene with 2 adjustable velcro strap (no plastic loops just smooth fabric) It an appropriate length on his humerus and the Velcro is adjustable, to wrap firmly around his humerus. there was even a small dart in the tensor that fit perfectly over the dexcom g6. We are so happy with it. It smooths out the dexcom so he doesn’t have a prominent area that could get grabbed or snagged. It give me piece of mind that we won’t be ripping out $$ sensors

It’s is like this one here (see link) but the equate brand. https://www.walmart.ca/en/ip/tensor-platinum-elbow-support/6000016932924?cmpid=sem_google_en_pla_none_868545289_76686332525_None&gclsrc=aw.ds&&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI8K_lhMDk5wIVFdVkCh3-dAIVEAQYBCABEgJ2JvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds


Glad it went well. He should have a ton of fun! I wish everything that was good for us was as much fun.

My son was an aikido student (age 5-6) but I looked for schools with a focus on self defense. Aikido and I believe Brazilian jiu jitsu do not teach or focus on any strikes or kicks. Aikido is self defense only and my son benefited from this tremendously. There are also no time wasting forms. I also highly recommend a 2007 Japanese subtitled film called black belt…best martial arts movie ever.

Jiu Jitsu actually does encompass stand up offence and defense as well but many schools only focus’s on the ground game because most BJJ schools who teach BJJ also teach Muay Thai which is solely punches, kicks, defensive and offensive maneuvers.

I also took Aikiki (Aikido) for a few years and althoughbit was fun it wasn’t at all real world practical.

I think the teacher matters a lot in martial arts "no such thing as bad student, only bad teacher " to quote Mr. Miyagi. The best argument for aikido’s effectiveness is actually krav maga if you research it.
In 1968 Eli Avikzar, Lichtenfeld principal student and first black belt [26], began learning aikido and in 1971 left for France where he received a brown belt in aikido. Upon his return, Avikzar started working as an instructor alongside Imi where they worked together to improve Krav Maga by incorporating aikido and counter-defenses into Krav Maga

I still recommend the 2007 film black belt. I think the self defense aspect of martial arts is often lost, which is sad. The film tries to remind everyone.