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How children become (mental) fighters

If you want to try Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, you have to choke, lever, and hold others. But if you really want to be successful in “human chess”, you fight with yourself.

“Dog – flamingo – frog – elephant”, it sounds from the gym. After each command, hands are clapped on the floor, legs are stretched, arms are twisted. White kimonos wrinkle. The reason for this is a skill ritual. The aim: to recreate the named animals as quickly as possible. If you are too slow, you have to high-five and leave the training room. Until there is only one child left who wins the day. It is not at all winning that drives boys and girls between the ages of four and eight to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. “They learn to defend themselves – especially in ground fighting – without using punches and kicks,” says Antonio Stanic. Instead, it is held, tricked, levered, choked. But first and foremost: think strategically.

“BJJ is also called human chess: Fighting has nothing to do with aggressiveness, but with inner balance and foresight,” says the athlete, who is one of only 15 people in Austria to have the black belt of the discipline – its highest degree. In addition, a black kimono, also known as a gi. “I’m not allowed to do that at our headquarters in San Diego, California,” he admits. “This sport is about respect for others and being at peace with yourself, a dirty suit doesn’t fit into the picture.” That’s the philosophy.

In practice, it is quite difficult to keep it clean – especially among adults, who sometimes wedge themselves together for minutes, drag their arms and elbows over the floor and try to suffocate each other’s air and joints. Skills that many Navy Seals soldiers and mixed martial arts fighters have long used – and which more and more kindergarten and school children are now approaching.

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