Getting to Know… Rose Smith of High School Jujitsu

Rose Smith is the founder of High School Jujitsu, an all-girl self-defence and martial arts program for high school students run at The Tramsheds in Harold Park. A highly experienced instructor herself, Rose has practised jujitsu for 25 years. High School Jujitsu is a sub-branch of the Modern Warriors program, which Rose established in 1993. Her classes offer a motivational, supportive and friendly environment and have received much media coverage and praise.
Tell us about yourself.
I am an Inner West mum with a daughter who is in high school. I have been doing martial arts as a hobby for 25 years. I practise traditional Japanese jujitsu, which is a versatile style that covers all the things you need – groundwork, stand-up fighting, kicking, striking and weapons. I just love teaching kids, and teenage girls in particular. My day job is in television, making props and dressing sets.
Why do you feel martial art is so important?
Martial art empowers an individual on so many different levels. I think self-defence is something that has become neglected. Parents feel that their kids are safe because they have a mobile phone or they’re at home in front of computer. I would argue that it is vitally important to study practical self-protection skills. Learning self-defence gives you mastery over your own body. It makes you feel strong. It provides confidence. And through that you become far less of a target for peer pressure, meanness and bullying.
Through martial arts, girls also develop a family with other girls – a really great support network. So often we don’t give girls the right tools to learn social and emotional intelligence, how to handle themselves in conflict with mean girls and bullies and to develop resilience in tough situations. Martial art is such a fantastic gift to give your daughter.
When did you establish High School Jujitsu and what prompted you to set it up?
I set up High School Jujitsu in 2011. Prior to this, I had observed that there were almost equal numbers of boys and girls in my classes for primary school-aged kids. But from high school onwards, I noticed that there was a shift. By the age of 14, the mix of kids studying martial
arts tends to thin out to about three quarters boys, one quarter girls. This is the age that most girls start to drop out of sports in general. By the time you get to the older high school years, there are almost no girls in the classes. I wanted to change that by offering a program focusing specifically on teenage girls.
Can you tell us about the name High School Jujitsu?
The name is one of those jokes that gets away from you. The teenage girls always jump around and dance and sing, so one day I said, ‘This is like High School Musical but with jujitsu instead!’ and it stuck.
All the girls in this program are in high school and the martial art that they are studying is jujitsu, but every term we do a different component of the Modern Warriors program in addition to the physical skills taught in class.
Where are your classes held?
My main dojo is at the Tramsheds in Harold Park on Tuesdays 3.45 pm–5.15 pm. We also have classes in Glebe, Ryde and Avalon.
What can customers expect from High School Jujitsu?
For starters, it’s not just about learning self-defence. It’s about learning communication, responsibility and personal sacrifice; these are small things that so often are overlooked, but they are the bedrock.
A parent and a child can expect very different things from our classes. A parent can expect a structured program with a lot of support. When a girl joins the dojo, she is immediately partnered with a senior girl, who has been training for a minimum of four years. That partner will look after the new girl and shepherd her through her first few weeks of classes.
A girl can expect a collegiate atmosphere of sisterhood and support. It’s a friendly group of girls of all ages. Everyone works together across the various ages. Twice a year we take the girls away camping which they all love. It helps them to form friendships outside of school. All programs focus on friendship, kindness and acceptance, which I think is important for girls to learn for if we want them to look out for other women as adults.
I offer a free trial class. I just want people to come and give it a go. If they like it, then they will begin our first program, Manners for the Modern Warrior. I do encourage parents to have a bit of involvement in the programs if they want to see lasting change.
Can you tell us about your Winning the Homework War program?
So, firstly this program is not about homework; it’s actually about chores. Most parents are in a constant battle with their kids to do their homework and help out around the house. It doesn’t have to be this way. Once we get the girls taking responsibility for themselves and
helping out around the house, everything improves. Their time at home is no longer spent fighting. Their school marks go up, relationships improve, life skills improve. Parents are happier, the kids are happier.
What inspires you about your students?
For me, it’s so inspiring to see a student turn her life around through doing our program. She might lack friends, be under-performing at school, fighting with her parents and generally feeling very unhappy with her life. Then through our classes, everything begins to change for her: she makes new friends, her school marks improve and so do her relationships with her parents and you can see how much happier she is.
Best piece of advice you can offer parents?
My main aim is to help parents, and mums in particular, to have great relationships with their children. Having done martial arts for so long has taught me to be resilient, consistent, organised and given me good communications skills. I’m not a perfect mother, I do not have all the parenting answers, but I like to think that I have an excellent relationship with my own daughter and with my senior students, who are like extra daughters.
A lot of people believe that having a good relationship with their child is a matter of luck, but actually it’s about consistency as a parent. It’s so important to carry through consequences if a child misbehaves, but the flipside of that is keeping the promises that we make our kids. If
you’ve promised your child that you’ll watch a movie with them then you’d better make sure you do it, not put it off because you are always busy. Things like that are easy to dismiss but they say a lot about your priorities. We often focus on the quality of time that we spend with our kids, but the quantity of time matters too.
Have you ever read a book that has changed your perspective or path in life?
Absolutely. Facing Codependency by Pia Mellody is one book that really changed my life. So many of us grow up in dysfunctional families and then we take that dysfunction into our relationships with our kids. I think a lot of fighting and upset in families could be lessened if more people got curious and looked at their own family history and what makes them act the way they do under pressure, those unhealthy reactions and habits. This book showed me that there was a different way and that I could be a good parent.
Favourite places in the Inner West?
I love the Glebe Foreshore Parks – it’s beautiful there. For a quiet catch-up, I pick The Timbah, a funky little bar in Glebe, and for a meal, the Glebe Point Diner is such a special place.
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