(The above pic of a young Rickson is from Kron Gracie's Website)
There, I said it!
On Fridays I spend an hour or so teaching my younger brother Sam the basics of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and it's a great time. It's part me using him as a guinea pig for teaching, but more importantly I get to spend regular time with him. I think we both get just as much out of the walk to and from the gym as from the time on the mat. He's starting to become a familiar face and a lot of my friends at the Labs have commented on how lucky he is to start learning at such a young age- Sam's 14.
Neither Sam nor I have any long-term plans for his BJJ training and if was to quit and join a basketball club, we'd probably be shooting some hoops on Friday afternoons. The comments have however got me thinking about the perceived correlation between starting age and BJJ / Grappling ability and here are my thoughts.
Starting early does not guarantee anything. It does not guarantee that you would be a better player and it definitely doesn't guarantee that you will be a better coach or instructor!
It CAN help, that's all! It CAN. There is a possibility that by starting the learning process early you could initiate a chain reaction that may lead to achieving greatness in BJJ, or anything else really. First, there are numerous factors that need to be present and planets to be aligned before this can lead to anything tangible.
In his fantastic book Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell describes the process of success and if we were to boil it down to one thing it would be 10,000 hours of practice. He shows you, through a multi-disciplinary approach that that figure is more or less the golden formula that you need to shoot for. Now, do you have 10,000 hours to spare? I don't. My wife doesn't and most people I know don't.
My brother does. Children have time. They maybe short on cash, strength and regrets but time they have in abundance. If that time is combined with an interest in sports, presence of a coach qualified to teach BJJ grappling to children and understanding (supportive and financially stable) parents for the duration of those 10,000 hours then we have something. That's why I love being a part time grappler. My mission is to find the most efficient ways to make everything I do benefit my BJJ / Grappling journey and vice versa.
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