Table of Contents
- 1. What is Autism?
- 2. Autism and BJJ
- 2.1. Builds Confidence
- 2.2. Builds the Ability to Perform Physical Activities
- 2.3. A Nutritious Diet
- 2.4. Social Interaction
- 2.5. Communication Skills
- 2.6. Development in Growth
- 2.7. Reduces Anxiety
- 2.8. Improves Balance
- 2.9. Strengthening of Neurons
- 2.10. Deals With Aggression
- 3. John Howard - An Accomplished BJJ Brown Belt With Autism
- 4. FAQs
- 4.1. Can an Individual with Autism become a BJJ fighter?
- 4.2. Which Martial Arts is Best for Autistic Children?
- 4.3. Is Autism a Disorder?
- 5. Conclusion
1. What is Autism?
It is a developmental condition that changes how the individual perceives the world and how he likes to communicate with people and choose to express himself. Autistic persons can have difficulty focusing on things. It is a developmental disability that occurs due to chemical differences in the brain.
Often people consider it as a mental condition. That is not the case. Autistic people are also normal people, they just tend to avoid gatherings and noise.
Children suffering from Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) do not have great communication skills. It is sometimes different and more demanding for autistic children to concentrate. Autistic children avoid keeping eye contact. They have delayed language learning and movement skills. These children remain isolated from other children of their age group.
Adults with Autism
Adults with ASD have accomplished great things because ASD enables adults to do things that are hard for other mundane people, like great inventions and matchless creativity. Renowned Hollywood actor and director Anthony Hopkins, Charles Darwin, classical poet, painter, sculptor, and architect, Michelangelo, Jane Austen, and Sir Isaac Newton are some examples of adults with autism. These people have contributed with their skills in a way that has impacted everyday life. So there is a difficult ASD phase: the childhood phase and the possibility of a gifted adult phase.
2. Autism and BJJ
BJJ is a combination of effective athletic and mentally engaging exercise routines with a great emphasis on mutual respect, communication, and teamwork. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu offers a great extent of benefits to adults but we are not discussing adults. What does BJJ have to offer to children? BJJ is one of the few martial arts which offer every practitioner a complete outlook on life in terms of behavior, communication, mutual respect, habit building, and increased attention span and focus.
Learning Challenges of Autistic Children
In children, ASD delays their learning skills and autistic children can face difficulty keeping up with their classmates. But that does not mean that they are abnormal kids. Just because they perceive things in a certain way, that does not mean they are abnormal. They have special abilities and need special attention and guidance. The biggest challenge for parents is to identify their children’s comfort zone that not only supports their learning pace but also ensures the overall development of their personalities into a successful and productive part of society.
Why Should Parents Enroll Their Kids in BJJ Kids Classes?
Because of the practical support and complete set of positive habit-building under a communicative and mutually respectful environment, many parents enroll their autistic children in renowned BJJ academies. It not only makes them an active part of the community but also helps them become more communicative and decreases their social anxiety. An environment that is based on mutual respect and community standards potentially improves their motor and communicative skills to the level where they can thrive in a society like any other child of their age.
How Can BJJ Improve The Learning Skills of ASD Kids?
As the saying goes, a sound body has a sound mind. By incorporating the highly engaging and supportive learning environment of BJJ in the lives of children, they will learn to focus more on learning physical strength and can achieve athletic fitness. BJJ gives them a practical sense of achievement and identity. In BJJ institutes, these children learn to build communities with their fellows and develop interpersonal social skills in a seamless way. They also learn how to control their anger.
2.1. Builds Confidence
Autistic children are not very confident. Those children tend to get tense when they face social gatherings and have difficulty communicating confidently because of their social anxiety. They are also not habitual of adopting new habits, meeting new people, and learning new things. It is because they prefer familiar routines, and social gatherings are nightmares for autistic kids. But they do have intense and specific interests and innate capabilities.
When autistic children enroll in the traditional BJJ learning environment, their confidence is enhanced, their social anxiety decreases and they start to learn basic self-defense techniques which ultimately boost their confidence. It is because learning BJJ allows them to think that they are learning something new and they can get better at it. They also have validation and physical and mental support from the BJJ kid's community.
As the children acquire these traits through the BJJ environment they get a sense of accomplishment which is necessary for them.
When children know that they can handle the things which come their way, their confidence starts to develop.
Helps Children to Focus
Autistic children find it difficult to focus and pay attention to a single purpose. BJJ provides them with a platform, supportive environment, and community to develop their skills and sharpen them through the most effective and natural process. BJJ demands and teaches attention and focus from its practitioners. When these children get accustomed to BJJ they treat it as a part of themselves and start to focus more on the grappling techniques. It is because BJJ is a fun sport.
2.2. Builds the Ability to Perform Physical Activities
BJJ is a physically demanding sport. Being a grappling sport, the fighters execute different techniques and submissions by gripping their opponents. Children suffering from autism are the least involved in physical activities.
BJJ is a physically and mentally stimulating and active sport. The sweeps and submissions involved in it demand the fighter to be physically active and mentally agile. When an autistic child starts to learn BJJ techniques, his body movements and flexibility increase. It makes him physically active. It also builds muscular strength and endurance in children.
As confidence builds in children, they are more likely to become better at learning new habits, and skills and making new friends. Autistic children do not have efficient motor coordination because they mostly tend to stay in one place and are less active physically and mentally. BJJ not only makes them active but also enhances their motor coordination.
Improvement in Physical Health and Fitness
When autistic children focus on BJJ and develop an interest in it, they spend more time on training sessions. It builds their physical health and fitness. It helps them to make new friends.
2.3. A Nutritious Diet
Autistic children are mostly picky eaters. It is tough to get them to eat healthy foods. But that is not the case for all children. In the Autism Spectrum, there are children with different needs and preferences. Those children who do not have a good diet and get into BJJ, start to take care of their diet. Their intake of protein and carbs increases which makes them healthy and fit. Physical fitness is very crucial generally for all children and especially for autistic children.
The bones of some autistic children are not strong. It is because of incomplete bone development. This leads to decreased bone density. It can then result in osteoporosis or fracturing of bone in any unfortunate case of injury.
When an autistic child starts to learn BJJ techniques, he develops a nutritious diet. It makes him stronger and easier to become better at BJJ.
2.4. Social Interaction
Autistic children do not have good social interaction. They are not like other children who love to play outdoor games and make new friends. Autistic children do not get socialized with children of their age rather they stay isolated and alone. It is because they like to do so.
But there are many children who have autism but still they interact with people. Being on the autism spectrum there are a variety of preferences of every autistic child.
Being BJJ practitioners, these children go to gyms almost daily. They interact with their coaches and instructors. They train with their fellow children. Autistic children speak in order to understand the techniques and start to ask questions. They also communicate with their fellow practitioners and develop friendships because BJJ is community support.
A new environment can be a little odd for children as they prefer familiar environments. But going to the gym daily to train in BJJ makes it a familiar environment. Training with the fellows daily also develops a sense of recognition for these children. It creates a comfortable space for these children.
BJJ is a very gentle art and teaches gentle techniques.
2.5. Communication Skills
Most autistic children face difficulty in verbal and non-verbal communication. As they like to keep isolated, their communication skills are not much developed. It becomes a little challenging for these children. However, BJJ enhances the communication skills of autistic children.
As the children communicate with their practitioners and coaches. Speaking more brings fluency to their speech and decreases their hesitation. Their non-verbal communication also increases as BJJ is physically engaging.
BJJ practitioners can communicate with their gym fellows in order to get the maximum out of their training.
2.6. Development in Growth
Children have higher levels of growth hormones. These higher levels of growth development become very advantageous in BJJ as it helps these children to build their muscles and achieve athletic fitness. With proper diet and consistent training, these children can acquire a great body and a great healthy mind.
Implementation of BJJ techniques keeps the children’s bodies in continuous motion. It keeps their blood circulation in continuous motion. When the muscles of the children are elastic and the body moves with great flexibility, growth development increases.
BJJ techniques are very versatile. It involves the movement of every muscle in the fighter’s body. When oxygen reaches every muscle, it boosts the production of myoglobin which eventually leads to the growth of muscles, and hence, growth development increases in the children’s physical and mental capabilities.
2.7. Reduces Anxiety
Autistic children have social anxiety. That is why they are reserved in their communication skills. Anxiety in autism is neurodevelopmental and different from normal occasional anxiety. Being neurodevelopmental, it makes the children prefer certain things in a certain way.
When autistic children adopt the BJJ environment, its norms, community, and training sessions, they start to learn and socialize easily. It gives them a sense of achievement. Getting familiar with BJJ reduces anxiety. Some autistic children suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
BJJ techniques are a symbol of perfection. To become better at BJJ children need to excel at those techniques. Focusing on a sport that is helpful from all aspects builds confidence in children.
2.8. Improves Balance
Autistic children are not very strong and their movements are not the coordinated way. BJJ brings their body in perfect alignment. They perform workouts that strengthen their bodies and engage them mentally.
Improved balance results in a lower risk of injury. It also makes it easier for the children to apply BJJ techniques which in turn builds their confidence. It not only improves the balance of autistic children but also improves stamina, body posture, stability, and endurance and helps in anger management.
2.9. Strengthening of Neurons
Autism is a neural development disorder. Autistic children have a larger number of neurons in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) than normal children. PFC is a region in the brain important for thinking and social behavior. That means that they are very fast learners. It is not very difficult for them to become good at BJJ.
As autistic children do BJJ drills, their heart rate increases. It results in the pumping of more oxygen to the brain. The brain releases hormones that help in producing more brain cells. It leads to the strengthening of neurons which increases the mental power of autistic children.
2.10. Deals With Aggression
Autistic children can be more aggressive than other children. It is because they are reserved and like things in a certain way. They do not like changes in their routines. BJJ helps them control this aggression and channel it in the best way possible.
Some autistic children who are aggressive can deal with their aggression by joining BJJ sessions.
3. John Howard - An Accomplished BJJ Brown Belt With Autism
John Howard is a BJJ Brown Belt. He was diagnosed with Autism at the age of 33 in 2016. He had been fighting since 2004. His neurological tests showed that he was autistic his whole life. Still, he is a very good BJJ fighter. Being autistic did not stop him from becoming who he is today.
It proves that autism is not a disorder that stops individuals from having a normal life. Children with autism are special in the sense that they have certain rules and they are reluctant to cross their self-made comfort castles.
4.1. Can an Individual with Autism become a BJJ fighter?
An autistic individual can surely become a BJJ fighter. BJJ is all about mastery of BJJ techniques and skills. The size of the fighter does not matter in it. John Howard is the perfect example of a BJJ fighter having autism.
4.2. Which Martial Arts is Best for Autistic Children?
BJJ is the best martial art for autistic children. It is because they involve and stimulate the child both physically and mentally in the most passive way possible.
4.3. Is Autism a Disorder?
Autism is not a disorder. It is a developmental condition in individuals.
Having autism does not mean that the individual can not become good at BJJ. Autism is only a developmental condition. Rather it increases the focus of autistic children on certain habits of their choice. BJJ builds their ability to perform physical activities, reduces social anxiety, helps them become a part of a BJJ community, makes them physically fit, and increases focus and attention span.