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Little Tiger’s Dad

A personal account of fatherhood in martial arts by Easton Training Center’s President, Mike Tousignant

I’ve been waiting for this day since before I even knew I was going to be a dad: the day my child starts Jiu Jitsu and the life long journey he will begin.

I think back to being a child and constantly feeling lost looking for sports that would scratch the itch of my wild side but also help me learn about focus and discipline. I played all of the normal events — soccer in the early years and even gymnastics. I finally settled on football as my staple that carried me into college.

Discovering wrestling along the way drastically helped with my aggression, but looking back, I always felt something was missing. As long as I could remember, I always wanted to fight, but martial arts weren’t part of my family’s culture so we never explored that option.

As I grew up and fell in love with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, I knew it would always be there for me; I wished it had been there for me when I was struggling with bullies as a child. I vowed that I would get my children into it and do my best to encourage them to stay in it through their 18th birthday.

Image: Mike Tousignant with Toby Brunson, one of Longmont’s First Impressions Specialists

What we want for our kids

I believe in everyone finding their own path — trying out everything they can; seeing what fits them best. Yet, as a dad who wants to do best for his kids, I do have items that I know will help them out through childhood and life. 

I want my children to be kind and morally driven, resilient and confident, creative and growth-oriented, in love with reading and learning. I want them to look at problems as a challenge to overcome, not something to back away from. I want them to walk into situations, observe them and see how they can make them better. I want them to shine as a positive light when it gets dark for most.

I am sure this is what every parent wants. My wife and I tackle this task by doing things that push our kids beyond their comfort zone in all areas: music, swimming, and Jiu Jitsu, to name a few. Angela Duckworth writes in her book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, that she has a rule in her household that everyone always has to be doing one hard thing and they aren’t allowed to quit in the middle of a season. I love the simplicity of this idea. Do hard things and don’t quit because it’s hard. 

Jiu Jitsu and my son

Calvin, Mike’s son

I begin with an idea that resonates with my own inner child — an idea that screams at me to identify my needs then, and ask myself: can I, now, help my son meet his?

Can I help facilitate a process that will open his eyes and help him realize he can build confidence, strength and camaraderie on the mats? 

My son, Calvin, is four years old, and his first day in Jiu Jitsu class was brilliant. He was scared, timid, lost, confused — all the things. But once Dad was out of sight, he quickly adapted to the class and fell for the teaching, the instructor, the whole experience.

As the president of Easton, it can be challenging to simply watch a class. I’m constantly looking for problems or improvement where I should just enjoy the beauty of the process — the students growing, the teachers improving, and the parent’s reactions. On Calvin’s first day, I actually hid in the office and peaked through the blinds to watch class. 

After that first class, we realized he needed a few more months before he was ready to start and went back to consistent classes six months later, when he was a bit older.

Now Calvin goes to Little Tigers with other four- to six-year-olds two times a week and couldn’t be happier. As I write this blog, he just received his first stripe on his white belt and I didn’t realize how proud I would be to experience the joy of Jiu Jitsu in my own son’s eyes.

I myself have a black belt in Jiu Jitsu and have now been training for 15 years. Jiu Jitsu has changed my life completely, and I’m unbelievably ecstatic that both my sons will get the chance to walk their own paths on the mats. I can’t wait to see who they become regardless of where they go in life, but I can guarantee that having martial arts as part of their life throughout childhood will benefit them massively. 

Easton’s Kids Program

Easton has a brilliant staff of instructors that live and breathe Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai. The academy doesn’t hire instructors from outside, but rather discovers them through their love of training in their programs. Kids Program staff often show a natural aptitude for teaching children and an intrinsic understanding of their needs, as well as those of the parents.

My son goes to Easton Longmont, where Jordan Shipman holds down the fort as its highly experienced General Manager and Jen Mills runs the Kids Program. Even though the school itself is relatively young, having just opened up in January 2020 before the pandemic hit, the team they’ve put together comes second to none.

Their passion for the kids on the mat is infectious, and their Jiu Jitsu knowledge far exceeds their belt levels. Both Jordan and Jen also spend more time on the mats than many seasoned competitors, which shows me as a parent that I’m making the right choice for my child.

If you are reading this as a member of our community who has children that haven’t tried a class yet, I implore you to set up an orientation at one of our seven locations in Colorado. See what your kid thinks; see what you think. And ask all the questions — our staff is more than ready to help. 

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