My 13 year old son has started BJJ and MMA classes.

The lessons are 45 minutes long, he goes 4 times a week, twice for BJJ and twice for MMA.

The classes are for kids 8+, This costs £55 a month.

I'm completely ignorant about marital arts or how it's coached. However, from what I've seen it doesn't really appear to be very good. But I admit I just might have the completely wrong impression.

These are the things I regard as problematic.

Next to no coaching, the coaches are spending an inordinate amount of time with a select few of the kids that are already very skilled but very little time with anyone else.

They get shown an example of a technique, usually twice, in front of the class and then just get told to do it.

But they are not coached on how to do it. No one seems to be going around observing and then correcting mistakes or giving feedback.

More than half the time is spent not doing jiu jitsu. 45 minutes lessons and I would say they spend about 20 minutes doing actual BJJ. The rest of the time they're running around, doing exercises, playing games. I understand there has to be a warm up period but it seems weird.

Kids putting themselves in danger. They were told to do rolls, basically the coach just did this roll one time and told the kids to do it. They then proceed to do so with some of the kids jumping forward and using their heads/necks to land on. Three coaches were standing around chatting while this happened and no one stopped it and made sure they were doing it safely.

He's been there for 3 weeks now and he's hardly spent more than a handful of minutes with the coaches or being shown anything.

Is this normal ?

What should my level of expectation be ?

The gym looked pretty reputable.

1 Answer 1


As a licenced instructor who has worked with children for over 20 years, I'd like to differentiate between things that are "normal" and things that are "questionable", at least in your description.

I do in no way feel qualified to judge a specific place from third-person descriptions here. The following remarks are to be understood as general in nature.

Normal for children and martial arts (in western societies at least)

  • It is quite normal to have at least half of the time spent with unspecific movements and games. This is not only because there needs to be a warm-up - which generally can be shorter when it comes to children compared to adolescent and especially mature students. It is mainly due to the fact that children have a shorter span of attention and that any sport at that age should aim to improve general athleticism and coordination just as well as sport specific abilities. This is even taught in many instructor licensing materials.
  • It is also quite normal that movements are shown a few times in front of everyone and the class should get going. This is partly due to the history of martial arts, where classes were much smaller and concepts like different learning types had not been a thing.

What is questionable

  • Coaching means constant interaction during repetitions, ie. observation and correction. You need to have an eye on everyone and usually move from "worst/most dangerous mistakes" towards "needs refinement", even interrupting training phases if you see some bad (or just "not good") things happen across several students.
  • Rolls (and everything else) should be taught from safe movements and positions (close to the ground, with hands-on help) up to more complex and dangerous movements. Just showing a complex movement and not providing safety and help is reckless. But, truth be told, instructors are somewhat in a bad place due to sexual abuse/assault regulations vs. actual manual help in these movements, up to the point where guidelines basically say it's best not to touch children at all. Kind of makes good coaching impossible in martial arts, especially for bodily learning types, but that's that.


Coaches should be in constant interaction with their students - all of them equally - and have the responsibility to provide a safe form of learning techniques. Not doing so suggests not being qualified well for teaching children in particular. Since children classes are the cash cows of martial arts schools (as for every sports club), you will often see people not personally or otherwise qualified for training children doing so nevertheless, though.

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