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Kids find confidence in mixed martial arts

Next Edge Academy BJJ
Haley Lenard practicing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at Next Edge Academy Sioux Falls

Most people think of activities like baseball and soccer when it comes to youth sports. But a growing number of kids are getting active and growing their confidence with martial arts.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a ground-based martial art that teaches students principles of self-defense by properly using leverage, angles, pressure and timing.

Known primarily as a self-defensive martial art, it emphasizes taking your opponent to the ground and controlling their movement.

Bruce Hoyer is owner and an instructor at Sioux Falls-based mixed martial arts gym Next Edge Academy of Martial Arts.

He said Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a great way to get younger kids trained on how to effectively deal with physical threats.

“With Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, say they were to get into a bullying situation at school, rather than going for punches and kicks and things like that our main goal is for them to be able to hold that person down. First and foremost, if they can run and get away, get away, if they feel like they are cornered and cannot get away to be able to hold that person down and wait for an adult to show up,” said Hoyer.

Learning self-defense is not the only benefit.

Joe Lenard is a parent whose daughter attends Brazilian Jui Jitsu training at Next Edge Academy. He said the largest benefit he has seen from the sport is his daughter’s newfound social ability.

“It’s great for the mental exercises of learning each move, and the physical, just rolling around. Socially, she’s just, her personality has grown so much you can see she is not so scared to talk to other kids. She is more open and willing to talk to other people in general and she just really has a happier outlook on most things,” said Lenard.

Due to Brazilian Jui Jitsu’s self-defensive nature, students range from as young as five years old and range through adulthood.

Many students who begin at a younger age transition to contact sports such as boxing and other mixed martial arts around the age of twelve.

Evan Walton is an SDPB reporter based in Sioux Falls. Evan holds a Master’s in English Literature from Southern New Hampshire University and was honorably discharged from the United States Army in 2015, where he served for five years as an infantryman.