You may have seen Mike Hirooka at the beach behind The Edition Hotel teaching kids how to surf. The adventurous Miamian is known for his hands-on approach to sports, including kiteboarding, surfing, skateboarding, jiu-jitsu and yoga. He’s like your kid’s cool older brother, who makes being active fun and easy. Mike recently joined us at State of Kid, and his jiu-jitsu class is already one of our most popular offerings. Get to know the prolific coach and self-proclaimed ninja.
How did you become the go-to sports guy for kids in Miami Beach?
I was teaching adults surfing, kitesurfing and jiu-jitsu, and clients would ask if I taught kids, too. They were always asking if I could teach their kids—and it just evolved from there. During the pandemic, the requests just kept coming in. There were no more after-school activities and parents wanted their kids to be active. It became a family activity, too.
So many kids and parents love your classes and energy. What’s your approach?
I’m passionate about what I teach. With kids you have to warm up to them and get them to trust you. Once you create a bond, they will listen to you. I never yell. Kids don’t listen when you yell. I use a calm voice. Everything I teach has an element of danger to it, and things can go wrong if they don’t listen. I always have to be at least one step ahead of the kids.
How did you get into jiu-jitsu?
I’ve always loved martial arts, like taekwondo and karate. About ten years ago, my dad was going through cancer treatments, and I needed to do something to keep my mind off it. He’s Brazilian and Japanese, and jiu-jitsu is part of that tradition. It was the most depressing and saddest time of my life, but when practicing jiu-jitsu, you have to stay focused at the task at hand. I came out stronger and more confident.
What do kids learn in your jiu-jitsu class?
Self-discipline, self-defense and self-confidence. It involves cardio, balance and coordination. It’s no striking, which means no punching and kicking. Jiu-jitsu is like human chess. You must use your body to the fullest advantage, and each move is like a chess move. You have to be strategic, because your opponent will seize the opportunity when you make a mistake.
What values does jiu-jitsu teach kids?
Self-control, discipline, listening skills and confidence. I cover the philosophy and history of the sport, including making your body and mind flow in harmony. Jiu-jitsu is a metaphor for life, and it teaches you humility and respect. You learn how to win and lose with honor. Kids don’t know how to lose these days. I teach them that it’s okay to lose, as long as you do your best. Be respectful to elders, listen to adults and make eye contact. Be a better version of themselves. Jiu-jitsu squeezes all the potential out of them, literally.
How do kids react to your jiu-jitsu class?
Every kid is different, but they all get a confidence boost. At the end of the series, they are making eye contact, shaking hands and being respectful. It takes about a month, and if they were shy, they open up like a little flower. Plus, they are getting exercise along with it.