When teacher Art Glauser hatched the idea of offering jiu-jitsu classes to students at Aldergrove Community Secondary School for the first time in the school’s 60-year history, he wasn’t sure what to expect.
Glauser, a jiu-jitsu student himself, simply wanted to give kids who wouldn’t normally get involved in school sports an an outlet, and a chance to learn discipline and respect for themselves and others.
So far, so good.
The classes have attracted roughly 20 students, a split between boys and girls, who gather at ACSS’s small gym every Thursday after school to learn the basics of the martial art while getting some exercise.
The program runs until the end of June and ultimately, Glauser would like to see a black belt instructor visit the school and certify some of the students as second degree white belts.
“We try to do a lot of repetition, with basic techniques and warm-up drills, and doing the same thing every class so it ingrains in them both the muscle memory and also the memory of the different moves,” Glauser said, as students trickled into the gymnasium to start a class on April 5.
Glauser has lots of help in co-instructor (and fellow ACSS teacher) Ryk Piche.
“I do mostly pure jiu-jitsu techniques where (Piche) would more of a submission/wrestling kind of technique,” Glauser said.
Piche was surprised at the popularity of the program and the accountability it’s creating in some of the students who will go out of their way to let him know whether they’ll be able to attend a certain class, or not.
“It’s going amazingly,” Piche said. “Art and I didn’t think we would have this kind of turnout. We thought we’d have six to eight kids and we’ve had classes in the mid-to-high 20s. The consistency of the kids… it’s awesome. These are all familiar faces. The really neat thing about this is, it’s teaching a lot of kids who don’t do other sports. I mean, I work with a lot of kids in trouble and a lot of high-risk kids and there’s several who participate in this. It’s a really neat thing to see.”
The classes teach four essential characteristics: confidence, a good work ethic, perseverance, and self-discipline.
And the program’s philosophy has remained the same. “We sit in a circle at the beginning of the class and remind the students why we’re here: to create a positive atmosphere in the school and to promote positivity here and outside of class. In the class, we always remind students and new students that there is nothing more important than respecting each other and finding that balance between learning and trying to implement the techniques we are teaching.”
The essence of the class is not hurting others, but learning how to be confident in yourself to avoid conflict, Glauser said.
Grade 11 Rylee Steidle, who led the warm-ups April 5, said gaining self confidence and learning self defence is what drew her to jiu-jitsu.
“Sometimes I don’t really feel safe in town so I like to have a little bit of skills under my wing, to be able to protect myself if something ever does happen,” Steidle said. “But also it’s a good form of exercise. It’s fun and I’m learning something.”
Steidle said learning the basics of jiu-jitsu has given her a boost of confidence. “If a situation arises where I was grabbed, I could theoretically get out of it because I know some techniques to overpower someone.”
The international students in the class have no connections in the school and are trying to adapt to a new language and culture.
“We’ve had students in our international community, who have had to be sent home because they’ve fallen in with the wrong crowd and started drinking and doing drugs,” Glauser said. “That’s something we’ve dealt with in the international department. It’s so difficult to adapt and to find your own path, and I’m always about supporting those kids.”