The popularity of mixed martial arts competitions, or MMA has naturally spawned an interest in children who want to pursue the sport. This has created a rising demand for MMA instruction and most parents turn to martial art schools as their first source.
Despite its popularity, there is a lot of controversy surrounding MMA for kids. The goal in an MMA match is a knockout or submission through a choke hold or limb lock, where kids have to “tap out” to signal to their partners that it’s enough. Many find the practice of teaching children how to fight so aggressively barbaric and are calling for a ban of the sport. Many parents and martial artists are horrified at sight of young children being cheered on for attacking each other and the message that this is sending to young impressionable minds.
Unfortunately, kids have taped themselves fighting MMA style and have posted it on You Tube, just like kids have done with backyard wrestling. Some of the kids who post their fights are beating the daylights out of each other in their living rooms or garages. In some of these videos, there is no safety gear, no adult in sight supervising their actions nor have they had adequate training. This is a disaster waiting to happen.
My other concern is the MMA tournaments for children. While training in a well-structured class with a competent, safety conscious instructor is fine with me, you lose a lot of that control when your children participate in tournament competition. You don’t know who your child is fighting against and how this child has been trained. The reality is that there are many instructors and parents training their own kids, who teach them how to fight dirty and don’t both fostering good sportsmanlike behavior.
While some of these tournaments are well organized and pay close attention to safety regulations, others are not and you are putting your child at risk. It will be tournaments like this that create an environment for serious injuries and may eventually force the government to step in. There is also a lot of concern, especially from the medical community that children who participate in MMA are prone to elbow, knee, wrist, ankle, neck and shoulder injuries.
The reality however is that children who participate in sports are always at risk for injuries whether they play football, baseball, basketball, ice hockey, gymnastics or even cheerleading. Many kids also end up getting injured just by riding their bikes. Injuries are a part of an active child’s life. The bottom line is that if your son or daughter wants to learn MMA, you have to choose a school and an instructor who puts safety first. So as a parent, don’t just sign up your kid at the first school that offers MMA classes. Pay close attention to the instructor’s attitude, teaching style and attention to safety.
ESPN and ABC’s 20/20 have both aired mainstream media investigative reports on the topic. The ABC 20/20 segment showcased Gillett’s Mixed Martial Arts Gym in Fall River, Massachusetts. If all children who wanted to learn mixed martial arts had access to a school like this one, I would say “go for it.” From what I observed in this segment and others featuring the same school, I found it to be a very responsible martial arts establishment.
The first thing I liked about the school is that the boys and girls in the segments wore headgear and the gloves with substantial padding. The instructors were adequately supervising the kids and actively coaching during the course of the matches. Several parents were interviewed and were very pleased with the results of the instruction. They found their children were more disciplined, respectful and also improved in school. They also said that their kids don’t use MMA outside of the school. This is a sign of good instruction. Interestingly, the mayor of Fall River, Robert Correia, who blasted the school, never even visited the place nor did he take the time out to talk to those involved.
Bottom line is that when any martial art, traditional or mixed, is taught by a competent instructor, a child is reaps the benefits. Boys and girls who participate in any martial art tend to be less violent and more responsible than their counterparts. This just doesn’t happen by accident. Training with a qualified instructor minimizes injuries and does not teach violence. So if your child wants to train in MMA, take the time to find a good school.
Calasanz Martial Arts and Fitness
507 Westport Ave, Norwalk CT 06851