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Maria Vega reviewed Gracie PAC MMA
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My wife and I were looking for a friendly, family oriented MMA classes for our son (10) and daughter (12). They love martial arts and have been doing it for years, in an after school program (TKD). Well, after looking around, we joined Gracie PAC MMA. Let me tell you, this place is perfect. Their staff and coaches are incredible; friendly, helpful, knowledgeable and experience on everything MMA. Professor Cris Rodriguez is great with kids, amazing teacher. We are extremely happy with Gracie MMA, their staff is great, they are very organize and their curriculum (bjj, muay thai, kick boxing, etc....) has everything we were looking for. Great place for the entire family.

Tiffany Teal Montague Simmons reviewed Gracie PAC MMA
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Come train with the BEST! This is NOT your normal after school karate class. We were amazed at the amount of technique even the youngest students pick up after just a few classes. Coach Cris is awesome with the kids. She expects more then just good fighting from them. She stays involved with how they are doing in school and at home, giving her students the incentive to be the best at everything they do.

Dana Fields reviewed Gracie PAC MMA
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I have been looking for a great exercise program to get involved in and finally found it here. I have learned so much in the two months I have been here and can't wait to continue to get stronger. Love This place!! Coach Cris is the best at making me not want to give up.

DorothyandMark Winter reviewed Gracie PAC MMA
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PAC MMA is fitness for the whole family. Kids programs, adult classes and even the best woman's fitness and self defense around, this is the place to go. Make your family a part of the PAC family.

Amanda Fletcher Moyer reviewed Gracie PAC MMA
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Best place ever! My daughter attends the after school program there and she loves it. I just started taking the kickboxing class & it's the best class I have ever taken. Everyone there is awesome.

Gina Lopez Fernandez reviewed Gracie PAC MMA
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I can't say enough about how much I love this place! My son is learning so much and he LOVES going to class. There's something so rewarding in watching your child learn and grow so quickly :) Coach Chris, Coach Dan and Coach Rich have all been amazing! I couldn't ask for a better environment for my son. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and so much of yourself - we truly appreciate it!

Erica Ramirez reviewed Gracie PAC MMA
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Heard thru word of mouth. Then checked it out and noticed great character in their students and the attentive staff. The coach had noticeable rapport with the kids in the class. My daughter loved it. She can't wait to get back. She even cleaned her room! Huge plus.

Dan Martinez reviewed Gracie PAC MMA
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Gracie PAC MMA has been one of, if not the best, mixed martial arts gym I have been a part of. The kids program/instruction is second to none, and offers world class BJJ instruction for adults as well as one of the most promising striking programs in the US, Bang Muay Thai. Countless kids and adults have competed at the highest level under the GPAC banner, with even more discovering what martial arts can do for them. Whether you want to compete or get in great shape, this facility has the program for you

Nicole Dunn reviewed Gracie PAC MMA
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Our family has been coming to Gracie PAC Tampa for nearly two years. We began sending our son first. Our main goals were for him to experience the physical and mental benefits derived from regular physical exercise. Instantly we realized how special this place is, and how amazing Coach Cris is with the kids, as well as adults. She is fair but firm, and as she commands respect, she encourages these kids to rise to their full potential, also providing valuable discussions on character, sportsmanship, and leadership, as part of her curriculum.

My husband takes some of the adult jiu jitsu and kickboxing classes, from which he has benefitted greatly, and I truly enjoy being a member of the ladies' bootcamp group. These ladies represent a wide range of fitness levels and ages. Each class, we all get together to kick butt, do our best, and encourage each other in a true team environment. I never leave this class disappointed.
Gracie PAC Tampa MMA - best place EVER for your anyone in your family to train at.

Lynzie Johnston reviewed Gracie PAC MMA
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Well it's about time I write a review! My boys joined Gracie PAC as little Ninjas about 4 months ago. They absolutely love it! Professor Cris is an amazing teacher! She's very enthusiastic about teaching and she is very patient. My boys love going to class. They are 4 &7 . They never want to miss a class. They have learned so much and continue to learn with each class. They love earning strips on their belt. This is a really great positive atmosphere for kids and families. I'm very satisfied with our experience.

Jesse James Maldonado reviewed Gracie PAC MMA
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I took Jiu Jitsu a few years back at another facility and decided to give this one a try. I took my first lesson last night and could not believe the content. Very structured and professional. Easy to learn and everyone was eager to assist me being the new guy. Other places teach you a couple of moves. Each involving many steps and you still won't understand it. Garcia PAC teaches you a technique and teaches you other techniques that involve some of the same steps. It made me confident that if I try something and am not able to secure the submission, then I can roll into another technique just as easy and It gives you options and makes you think. I liked that approach rather than what I was given in the past. A+ school and is 100% legit. I am confident this time around I will take it all the way with my training. When you find a place like this you take advantage of the opportunity to train there.

Meghann Thacker reviewed Gracie PAC MMA
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We love it at Gracie PAC! They focus on fitness, strength, form, and most importantly they work hard every lesson to help teach my children how to effectively defend themselves against bullies and other attacks. It's easy to see this group of educators clearly loves kids and have a passion for sharing their vast knowledge with their students! Best MMA in the Bay for kids!

Chandra Ahrendt reviewed Gracie PAC MMA
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I took my first class tonight. As soon as you enter, you are greeted by smiling faces who are just as excited to have you there as you are to be there. The coaches there were phenomenal. They were so incredibly encouraging and patient, it was a breeze picking it up because there was no pressure. Great job at creating such an inviting atmosphere.

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How to Talk to Kids about Being Self-Driven, Self-Motivated & Self-Controlled

Are we raising an anxious generation? Many would agree that we are. The causes of the uptick in anxiety among children has started to be discussed. We have started bubble-wrapping of our children and that leaves them unprepared for a life that we deliver them to at the age of 18—a life in which they don’t have the skills, yes, but also where they don’t have the resilience or the confidence to take it on. While screen time and technology certainly are part of the problem, the real issues lie with us—the parents and the teachers—who have their hearts in the right place but are nevertheless, taking the opportunities away from children that would allow them to grow stronger, more confident, more autonomous, more competent– and more themselves. 

Important Messages:

  • Stress has profound effects on the brain especially developing brains.
  • Sonya Lupien, Neuroscientist in Montreal, summarizes the 4 things that make life stressful- acronym NUTS: Novelty, Unpredictability, Perceived Threat, Low Sense of Control. Sense of Control- most stressful if “something is happening but there is nothing I can do about it.”
  • Dramatic increase of stress in recent years.
  • How do kids get self-motivated? Sense of control. Need to find the healthy medium between excessively driven and what’s the point in trying?
  • Look at research on sense of control: Live longer, healthier physically, cognitively, mental health, perform better, do better academically.
  • Research on rats: turn the wheel- the shock would end. Starting coping in all situations. Prefrontal cortex activated. Deal with fear response. If the rats didn’t have this ability, they became nervous wrecks.
  • When people have a sense of control- prefrontal cortex is activated, lower stress, dampen stress response. Optimal brain health. Neurological marker of good mental health- strong connection between prefrontal cortex (think logically, perspective) and amygdala (senses danger). Want kids to have prefrontal cortex and amygdala connection to best regulate stress.
  • When you are dealing with stress- good stuff can happen- the prefrontal cortex activates, the stress response becomes dampened, and you go into coping mode. That’s what trains you to be resilient.
  • We don’t want to protect kids from all stress.
  • Principle: This is NOT your responsibility to ensure that your child does his/her homework.
  • Script: (1) I love you too much to fight with you about doing your homework. (2) I’m willing to help you! I’ll be your homework consultant and set my hours from 6- 7:30 and help you every night. (3) I am not willing to chase you around the house, fight about it or make you do it because I don’t want to weaken you. (4) If I act like it’s my job to get your homework done, I will weaken you—because it’s really your job.
  • Treat kids respectfully. Be a consultant—you can’t make a child do anything.
  • While there is a place for rewards, they can undermine a child’s self motivation.
  • Growth mindset: “I can get better. I can do this with my own effort. The more I practice, the better I get.” Gives a sense of control. Fixed mindset: “There’s nothing I can do about it- I am born with a certain amount of ability.”
  • Self determination theory-  powerful theory around self motivation- in order to be self motivated, you have to have autonomy, relatedness and competence. “This is my life.” Respect interests.
  • Flow experience: When kids are really engaged in something they really want to do. Reed Larson: Studies adolescent development. How become self motivated? Passionate pursuit of their past times- things they love to do. Video games don’t count. Sports, music, coding, building with legos, gymnastics, dance. High effort, high focus, high determination, low stress. Respect kids’ pastimes. Have time to do it.
  • What builds motivation- sense that this is my life. This is what I love to do. Passionate engagement. Sculpt the brain with this flow state.
  • Worried about kids? Take long term perspective. Not about the present- it’s about the future- that’s where our worry lies. If a child hasn’t developed his/her passion yet, parent might worry that he’ll never have any passions and will only want to play video games. Most kids don’t stay stuck. You might not see it coming—but their passions will likely be ignited.
  • Negotiate good limits on electronic stimulation like video games. It’s hard to have anything more stimulating than that. Video games don’t have the same effect on developing intrinsic motivation as compared to art or sport or music. It’s harder to stop playing than it is to continue playing.
  • Parents need to manage their own anxiety- realize when we are catastrophizing- fortune telling (he’s not motivated now, he’ll never be motivated) take a long range view- because often, the problem rights itself. Encourage them to try different things- give them time- they’ll find something they like.
  • Stepping stones- even if not passionate about a certain task/job/sport—here’s how it will help me in the future get to the thing I do want to do.
  • Difference between “feeling like” doing something and “wanting to” do it. (Daughter woke up as infant- job to go get her and bring her to mother to feed her—didn’t feel like doing it but wanted to do it. Might not feel like going to school, but want to graduate.) “I want to do it but I don’t feel like it.”
  • Ask your kids: Is there stuff in your life that you would like to have more control over? Allow them to step up to the plate. Let them know- you have confidence in them- that they can run their lives. You want their buy in. Offer help- but don’t force it. Offer advice. Don’t tell them over and over again.
  • Script: “I’ve got some advice about that- would you like to hear it? I’ve got an angle on that- would you like to hear it?”
  • Cartoon: “Listen up boys and listen up good because I’m only going to tell you this a million times.”
  • See a lot of kids who think they are stupid. They are like stuck doors. The more you try to pull, the more they hang on to the idea.
  • Script: “I’m not going to try to take that away from you. You want to keep that point of view, I’m fine with that. But I have a different view- would you like to hear it?” When do this- wrapped attention- not fighting. Real discussion vs a debate. Listening to each other- not trying to win and counter.
  • Principle: Get buy in. Don’t tell them over and over. Send a text- then say “I’m not going to bug you about it. Can I ask you about it in two months?”
  • Kids as decision makers. Even young kids can make decisions about their own lives. Require teenagers to make decisions about their own lives. You become a good decision-maker, in part, by making decisions and learning from your mistakes. Important message to send to our tens- that you have confidence in their ability to make their own decisions about their lives.
  • Script: With younger kids- “You are the expert in you. Nobody knows you better than yourself. You know when you are hungry, you know when you’re not hungry, you know when you are hot or cold, you know what you want, you know what’s important to you.” So- go with the child’s decision unless it’s crazy. Set limits.
  • Opposite of a sense of control: Helpless, hopeless, passive, resigned, overwhelmed, anxious.
  • Make rules- making lunch- brownie, sure, but a small part of your lunch- not whole lunch.
  • Kids need to make informed decisions- know more.
  • Emotions drive good decisions. Not necessarily rational. Emotions rooted in “what do I want?”
  • “It’s going to be your call” Kids will think it through and ask opinions.
  • Dressing self- might not look great- but gaining confidence.
  • Coach vs parent- kid is choosing to have the relationship with the coach- so listen to the coach. Child who doesn’t practice- if you use force- doesn’t work.
  • Script: Communication techniques. “Obviously, I can’t make you do this.” “You are acting like I can make you do this. All you’d have to do is flop to the floor and close your eyes.” Describe all the ways they can beat you- beat the system- I personally think the best thing working with stubborn, oppositional kids is; “I am not going to try to use the force of my will to make you do this.”
  • Negotiate- Script: “I can see, if you work hard, you can have this potential. You can be really good. Would you like to be better at that than you are? Is there a way that I can help you get down to business and work harder?” Seek buy in. Offer help. See confidence and potential. As opposed to telling the kid the same thing over and over. Not force of will. Talk to them and offer help.
  • Child explains problem- and tell her/him what to do- argument. Instead- is there a way I can help? Opens door.
  • Neurologically makes sense. When force kid- humans don’t like to be forced- amydala senses threat. Activates. Starts fighting. If they go to the fight part- they won’t hear a thing.
  • Story: A 7-year-old girl vs 19-year-old boy with ADHD- 7 year old doing homework before playing. And 19- year- old flunking, not going to class. She had a sense “this is my work.” Older child- feeling like it’s someone else’s problem. Incentives are ok- but don’t work harder to sole the kids’ problems than the kids!
  • A lot of kids with ADHD want to get their work done. Don’t force. Is there something I can do to help? It’s a motivational disorder. Low dopamine levels. Medicine jacks up dopamine. “I know that your brain does not have enough dopamine to focus on this boring stuff. If you want to get this stuff done, I am willing to offer you an incentive to do it- to see if it will jack up your dopamine.” Healthy way to do rewards instead of here’s what you have to do and here’s the reward schedule. That undermines autonomy. Happy to help kids with ADHD with dopamine levels as long as it’s in service of their own goals.
  • Needs to be: This is my work, this is what I want to do, and I’ll ask for help when I need it. BUT- don’t work harder than they do. You’ll weaken them that way. I don’t want to weaken you- so, how can I help?
  • More of a sense of control means a greater likelihood of making mistakes.
  • Mess up- if we don’t react in a big way, this is helpful.
  • We are not saying that the kids are on their own.
  • “Would it help you if…” “Do you want me to bug you about…”
  • Story: Why didn’t you hand this in? “Because you didn’t remind me.” This can’t be that the parents manage their kids. Not completely independent though.
  • Kids should be able to run their own lives for at least 6 months before they go off to college. Appointments. Food. Dressed. Making decisions. Learning from mistakes. “I want you to practice running your own life. I want you to make decisions. I want you to make mistakes. I want you to learn from them.” Wisdom comes from bad decisions.
  • “I hope you find things that you suck at. Successful people are good at some things, and suck at others—and they don’t try to make a living in something that they suck at.” Channel the message that successful people DO make mistakes. I want you to make mistakes—and learn from them.
  • Non-reactive parent- start with empathy instead of our own anxiety or anger.
  • Infants: respond to warmth and responsiveness.
  • Book in 80s. How to Deal with your Acting Up Teenagers. Apply to kids with ADHD? It’s just about treating kids with respectfully. Support them. Adopt consultant role- believe in them and let them trust themselves- this is top tip.
  • Story: Is there something that your parents could have done that would have been helpful? “They could have been happy to see me sometimes.”
  • Kids- joy-producing organism. Smile at them. Builds relatedness.

Notable Quotables:

  • “We need to help kids gain a healthy sense of self-motivation in between the extremes of ‘excessively driven’ and ‘what’s 
  •  the point in trying?’”
  • “When you have a sense of control, the brain works optimally. You live longer, you are healthier physically and mentally, you perform better and do better academically.”
  • “The way kids become resilient is—something stressful happens—and they deal with it.”
  • “The way we become resilient is that when something stressful happens, your brain engages and copes, ideally with some support. But we don’t want to bubble wrap kids or take responsibility for something that is their’s.”
  • “You can’t make a kid do something against their will and it doesn’t make sense to fight with a kid about the same thing over and over again.”
  • “I love you too much to fight with you about doing your homework.”
  • “Treat kids respectfully: Kids have a brain in their heads and they want their lives to work.”
  • “When we are worried about our kids, we need to take a long-term perspective. All of our anxiety about our kids is not about the present, but about the future. Most kids don’t stay stuck. Don’t panic.”
  • “Negotiate good limits on electronic stimulation like video games because it’s hard to have anything more stimulating than that. Video games don’t have the same effect on developing intrinsic motivation as art or sport or music because it’s harder to stop playing than it is to continue playing.”
  • “Have a real discussion instead of a debate. Listen to each other instead of trying to win and counter.”
  • “Require teenagers to make decisions about their own lives. You become a good decision-maker, in part, by making decisions and learning from your mistakes.”
  • “The best message you can give to a teenager, besides ‘I’m crazy about you,’ is ‘I have confidence in your ability to make decisions about your own life and learn from your mistakes.’
  • “Go with the kid’s decision unless it’s crazy.”
  • “I don’t want to work harder to help a kid solve his problems than the kid does. I don’t want to take responsibility for something that is the kid’s responsibility.”
  • “If my kid is anxious, one of the best ways that I can help them is to manage my anxiety better.”
  • “Infants respond to warmth and responsiveness. I’m not sure if there isn’t a time in our lives that empathy doesn’t help us.”
  • “When our kids aren’t doing well, sometimes we think we can’t enjoy them because we don’t want to send the message that it’s okay to keep screwing up. From my point of view, one of the best things we can do for kids is to simply enjoy being with them.”