I’m inheriting a kid. Until now, I have intentionally been child-free, although I was not opposed to marrying someone who had a kid. That’s exactly what’s happening. My soon-to-be kid is 9-years old, and I shall call him Jo.

Mr. Jiu-Jiu has his son during summers. Jo arrived a few weeks ago, and summer camp started 2 weeks later, so there was a question about what he should do in the interim. I suggested BJJ because I think it’s a sort-of okay sport. Plus, super convenient since I work at Jiu-Jitsu Institute. I brought Jo to work with me and let him see what BJJ was.

He thought it was weird at first, especially when his soon-to-be “bonus mom” was wearing all spandex and said “Hey, come over here” while on the mats. He took off his shoes,  wary, and I said “Just try to get on my stomach.” After 10 minutes of getting swept, rolled around, tossed around, and trapped in my legs, he was very interested in BJJ. I introduced him to one of our kids’ coaches, Coach Kenny, who showed him a few moves, and at the end of it, Jo was super excited about jiu jitsu, so we enrolled him in our 6-week program. Plus, he made a cool friend – my teammate-neighbor’s kid also does BJJ!

What struck me was the easiness Jo had around me afterward. He was very excited to play with me physically, wrestle around, and engage with me. That time on the mat really broke the ice, and it created a very cool bonding experience. When his grandparents came to visit, he was still engaging with me physically – trying to wrestle me in front of them, while I half-ignored him, sweeping him and pushing him down with my legs. It was really funny and very sweet. We have also used it as a great way to communicate – tapping means stopping, so it’s been a great way to talk about important ideas, like respecting boundaries.

See that sweet figure four? It's awesome.

See that sweet figure four? It’s awesome.

As far as labels – Jo has told me he does NOT want me to call him my step kid because “it sounds evil!” He said it is okay for me to call him just about anything else – my kid, my husband’s kid, or Mr. Jiu-Jiu’s kid. While on some level it feels disingenuous to call him my kid, that’s my issue, not his, and his comfort in this arena trumps mine. Heh – I could call him my “son-in-law” but I suppose that already has its own meaning.

Until this point, I’ve used BJJ as a way to get touch in my life, as a way to make friends, as a way to help keep myself healthy, and to stop myself from becoming the crazy cat lady. Yet, I’ve never used it as a bonding tool – a way of helping bridge a relationship, breaking the ice, and physically connecting with someone. Before this, I only saw children on the mats as a hindrance to my training – meaning, if I was paired with a child as a teammate, I got very little out of it. When a random child is paired with you, it’s not about the connection, it’s about the BJJ, so it feels VERY different. When it’s with a kid who is meaningful to you, it’s about the connection. I see a lot of parents who come into the gym and watch their kids do jiu jitsu but never step foot on the mats, and I wonder if they’re playing jiu jitsu at home, or if BJJ is simply something their children do. I wonder if they realize what an awesome bonding experience they are missing out on.

Jo and I have 15 total days together before he goes back to his full-time mom. Friday he is going to wait around until the adult classes are over, and we are going to play jiu jitsu together during open mat. I think it’s cool that he’s going back with an interest in jiu jitsu, and I can only hope that in the future we can have more BJJ-bonding time together!

Jiu Jiu’s Question: Have you used BJJ to bond with a child who is important to you?  What was that experience like for you? What have you learned from it? Any advice you would give?