Submissions For Kids: Should They Be Allowed?

I’ve read a few articles lately about a campaign trying to ban submission from kids’ competition.  The rationale is that there are world champs out there who started later in life and are doing just fine therefore it’s okay to learn jiu jitsu without submissions up until a certain age.  The logic follows that because submissions are dangerous, they shouldn’t be practiced by kids.  I personally think that it should be up to a child’s parent whether or not they want them to learn jiu jitsu with “training wheels”.

At this point, BJJ competitions allow submissions for kids deemed “advanced” enough, and the less advanced kids are limited to submissions that are easily seen and are slow enough in their effect for the referee to end the match before anyone gets hurt.

We are learning a style and rule set of submission grappling.  That is to say, if we leave submissions out of the training curriculum it WILL cause more harm than good.  The campaign points out that there are many world champs who started in their late teens into their 20s, and that they turned out fine.  However, none of those world champs started without submissions.  And none of the wunderkind children who are now coming of age and tearing up the competition scene (think the Miyaos amongst others) started without submissions available to them.

Personally, I learned my very first submission (wrist lock) when I was 8.  I learned how to hit certain chokes at about 9 and I started learning arm locks at around 13 as part of a self defense curriculum.  I never got any good at them until I really started studying BJJ but those initial formative experiences gave me a certain killer instinct without which I may not be where I am today in my jiu jitsu development.

They say that to master a move, one must do it ten thousand times.  Kids have a whole lot more time and energy than adults, so why not let them master the moves they’ll need later down the line earlier on?  More importantly, kids heal faster than adults so if they do wind up getting injured it’s less of a catastrophe (not that it should be something welcomed because the reality is that injuries suck no matter how old you are.)

Another aspect is that of natural movements.  Children have a better knack for learning movement than adults.  There’s a reason that most high level gymnasts started when they were little kids, and for that same reason, when little kids start BJJ there is no reason they shouldn’t learn the full range of what they’ll eventually be doing in tournaments as teens and adults.

Do you have kids?  And if so how do you feel about kids learning submissions at an early age?  Is there any real justification in the push to ban submissions from children’s programs and tournaments?


  1. Submissions are fine if used to tap our your opponent. Unfortunately there are those parents and instructors who teach their kids to attack the other in a fight for life and limb at friendly grappling tournaments without any notice to the kid on the receiving end of the assault. While I support using subs…I think there needs to be some regulation to keep the sport safe and friendly. Perhaps applying the same rules as the pros…the pros get suspended or banned for less. I also thought a database of kids that have a history of injuring their opponent might be a good idea so you can see what you are up against in the match and weed out the chronic injurers.

  2. The Gracies analyzed several videos of a child strangling another child to death during a playfight or a physical altercation.

    Teaching a child moves that can kill or cripple when they are so young is a disaster waiting to happen.

    Learn them takedowns, pins, passes etc and once they have matured a bit and shown some moral responsibility introduce the subs.


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