The 2nd annual 2011 Pan Kids Americans did not disappoint as over 400 competitors from around North America traveled to California State University Dominguez Hills in Carson, CA to compete at this prestigious event. The IBJJF event was considered a smashing success as participation increased about 20% over last year. Executive Director, Andres Fernandes was thrilled with the results and says, “The Pan Kids is officially here to stay. We will do this every year from now on.”
When asked why he thought it was so important for kids to compete, Fernandes replied, “This generation is going to represent us in a few years. For us to create a good generation of black belt competitors at 21 years of age, we need to provide competition experience for them.” The Pan Kids does just that with a variety of belt and experience levels competing against each other in the usual fun and friendly, yet competitive fashion – the same as the IBJJF adult competitions.
The Pan Kids provides the same rules, referees, and experience that the adults receive during their IBJJF tournament experience, so Fernandes thinks kids who compete at the Pan are receiving all the tools necessart to be the best competitors possible.
Fernandes says the technical level of the kids this year was outstanding. “It’s way better than what we expected,” he says, “It reflects back on the good work all of the coaches are doing at all of the academies.” Fernandes says the event is a great way for schools to showcase their hard work and effort through the years. “They can show everyone what they can do on the mats.”
Fernandes goes on to say, “When kids bring their parents and friends, they show the benefits of the sport.” Some of the benefits Fernandes is speaking of are confidence, discipline, and respect. “There are too many to mention,” he says, “But we really advertise a healthy life style. When a child spends time doing Jiu-Jitsu, he will become a better person.”
One kid who became a better person competing at the Pan Kids was six-year-old Roscoe Garcia from Yuma BJJ. With his cool, purple Mohawk and his infectious smile, he lit up the crowd with his enthusiasm on the mats. Roscoe had two matches. He won the first with an armbar and lost the second.
As he came off the mats in tears after his loss, his father, Michael, took the opportunity to teach Roscoe the most important lesson of all: Jiu-Jitsu, above all else, is supposed to be fun. “I’m proud of you, son,” Michael said, “I love you. It’s not always about a gold medal. You’re a champion.”
Michael thinks the benefits of Jiu-Jitsu and competing have taught Roscoe how to take care of himself at an early age. “When he’s on the mats, whatever happens is only in his control. He has to make his own decisions. It’s a really good life lesson and he’s really grown as a person because of it.”
Will Brooks of Ralph Gracie in Berkeley, CA, couldn’t agree more. His seven-year-old son, Zion and 10-year-old daughter, Nadia, took gold at the Pan, but that’s not what the emphasis was on that day. “Jiu-Jitsu has changed their lives,” he says, “It’s taught them discipline, good manners, and dedication. We’ve found it’s a great activity to do as a family. It’s made us a stronger family, but the most important thing has been keeping it fun for them. I would tell any parent interested in putting their kids in Jiu-Jitsu to make sure they’re having fun. You don’t want to pressure them or they won’t want to do it.”
World Champion Romulo Barral made an appearance at the Kids Pan with a few of his students and coach Mik Milman, and he concurs. “We won gold and bronze today,” he says, “It’s been a great experience for the kids, their parents, and coaches. The kids are here to have a good time. I’ve seen a couple of parents upset with their kids and they need to realize they can’t push so hard. It has to be about the experience the kids have at the event and not about the win or loss if they want them to keep doing Jiu-Jitsu. If the kids don’t enjoy it, they’re going to quit.”
One boy who loves Jiu-Jitsu and is definitely not going to quit is 9-year-old Xavier Silva from Paul Silva Jiu-Jitsu. Xavier took gold at the tournament by winning two matches, one by a back choke and the other by a falling arm bar. Xavier was promoted to orange belt on the podium by his dad, Paul, who is a 3rd degree brown belt and owner of the school. Paul says Jiu-Jitsu helps build true self-esteem and good family values in his students. The motto of his school is: The family that trains together, stays together. “Jiu-Jitsu brings good discipline. It keeps people humble and gives them confidence.”
A-Team Jiu-Jitsu was one school that came to represent with a lot of kids competing and they really showed some extraordinary Jiu-Jitsu skills. Alyssa Wilson, and Kade and Tye Ruotolo were just a few of the kids who won gold at the tournament. Coach Ali Saleh coached all of his kids on the mats that day and was very proud of their accomplishments. “A-Team is happy to be here at the Pan Kids and we look forward to being here every year,” he says, “We have the biggest girls team here today. We call them the A-Team Angels. We really like seeing more girls in our program.” Saleh goes on to say that he thinks Jiu-Jitsu has really changed his kids’ lives for the better. “It’s given them a sense of teamwork, accomplishment, and confidence.”
Vicente Jordan Vanderlipe, an eight-year-old yellow belt from Kugtar MMA, was another gold medal winner whose dad, Vince, is a black belt under Claudio Franca. Vince loves Jiu-Jitsu because of the discipline it provides his son. “It teaches respect,” he says, “It also teaches children to take responsibility for themselves, which is important.” Vicente loves Jiu-Jitsu for different reasons, “I love to compete and win medals,” he says, “I get butterflies in my stomach. It’s very exciting!” When asked what the best part of his day would be, Vicente Vanderlipe wrapped it up the only way a child can, “Going back to the hotel so I can go to the swimming pool!”
The message at the 2011 Pan Kids is clear: This event is the best place for children to get some really good competition experience, a great way for schools to showcase their students’ Jiu-Jitsu talents and technical skills, and a way for everyone to have a lot of fun.