John Wooden once said a good coach can change a game but a great coach can change a life. John would know as he was one of the most revered college basketball coaches in the United States.
During his tenure as the head coach at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA), John led the team to ten National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) national championships in a 12-year period, including a record of seven in a row. John passed away in 2010 but his impact on his players can be seen till today and all of them credit him for their success.
Coaching is more than showing a fancy move or giving instructions. It is an intimate relationship between two people that involves trust and respect, regardless of ability, age, or gender. Unlike basketball, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is still in its infancy and coaching is still at its trial and error phase.
Most instructors make the mistake of coaching kids who do BJJ the same way they would coach adults as there are very few coaching programs out there that cater to young warriors. This leads to a high dropout rate among children as they are stressed and bored during training.
Knowing this, Operations Manager and Assistant Coach for the BJJ Kids program, Stephen Procida, together with Head Instructor Zorobabel Moreira, came up with a unique coaching method to help kids from the age of four onwards to learn martial arts through games.
“Kids have a shorter attention span than adults. With this in mind, we incorporated games into the syllabus so they will have fun learning and not burn out quickly. Games will also keep kids coming back for more as they are enjoying themselves,” said Stephen.
“For example, the back mount is a dominant position in BJJ. We can’t tell four-year-olds to secure the back mount and stay there so we call it riding the bull. Instructors imitate a bull and the kids have a great time holding on to us. It is a game to them but they are learning something valuable in the process,” he further explained.
Just like riding the bull, there are many more terms that are used by the instructors to keep kids engaged. Kids are also encouraged to compete but are not pressured to do so, according to Stephen.
“With the rise of BJJ in Singapore, kids at FaMA are able to compete in local tournaments if they want to. Participating in a competition will provide numerous benefits but we do not pressure or push our kids to do so. We will provide them with all the support that they need if they want to compete."
Growing Up Expat
For most expat children, it is always difficult to move to a new country every few years. The process of making friends all over again is awkward and strenuous for most young children. Stephen, who grew up as an expat child himself, believes martial arts can help children settle into their new environment seamlessly.
"I wish I was into BJJ as a kid because that would have made it easier for me to make friends whenever I moved to a new country. At FaMA, we create an inclusive environment for the children. They are training partners and they become friends almost immediately,” said Stephen.
FaMA - Fitness and Martial Arts Established in 2016, FaMA is a world-class martial arts training facility located in the heart of the Central Business District in Singapore. Walking distance from the Clarke Quay MRT station, FaMA’s main goal is to help people improve their lives through martial arts regardless of age or athletic capability. Each program is led by experts in their respective fields. Whether it is weight loss, a fun workout, camaraderie, competition training, or just to break a sweat, FaMA has something for everyone.
Little Warriors (Ages 4-7)
Fun through martial arts with FaMA’s Little Warriors program. Little warriors will spend their time learning about BJJ through games such as sumo-wrestling and belt tag in a safe and clean environment. These games will complement any existing exercise or training to help improve balance, speed, coordination and alertness. Self confidence and discipline is also key in this class.
Junior Champions (Ages 7-12)
Future world champions will get a head start through FaMA’s Junior Champions program. Students will gain insights into techniques and tournament rules from experienced BJJ competitors of the highest level and how to apply them in a competitive setting. Good sportsmanship and respect is constantly advocated by instructors to help these next generation of medal winners.
Little Tigers (Ages 4 - 12)
Self defense taught through a series of mini-games such as dodgeball, through the hoops, and monkey in the middle to develop footwork, punch protection and kicking techniques. Safety is top priority therefore there is minimal contact between students and sparring is not allowed.