Saturday, March 29, 2008

MMA For Kids As Young As Six?

What is missing from this training?
Well it's finally happened. MMA has gone to the pre-teenbeat. It made national television yesterday, so it must be true. Kids are the new gladiators, and I wonder what is missing from this program.
How about:
-Learning about other cultures through tradition, formality and dress?
-Learning about the historical background of a chosen Martial Art
-Learning an "ART", something that you can practice alone for self satisfaction and self improvement
-Learning the structure of rank and dicipline
-Learning that it's not just about fighting...
Now, I know that this was inevitable, and this is going to train new generations of hellcat fighters, but there is something depressing and sad about it for those of us who have had the privilege to experiance the comraderie and structure of a traditional Martial "ART".
As I've said before; "Combat brings necessary pain, "Art" necessarily brings pleasure".
Here's the article:

Ultimate fighting expands to include children as young as 6; some fight with parents' blessing
By MARCUS KABEL , Associated Press
March 27, 2008
CARTHAGE, Mo. - Ultimate fighting was once the sole domain of burly men who beat each other bloody in anything-goes brawls on pay-per-view TV.
But the sport often derided as "human cockfighting" is branching out.
The bare-knuckle fights are now attracting competitors as young as 6 whose parents treat the sport as casually as wrestling, Little League or soccer.
The changes were evident on a recent evening in southwest Missouri, where a team of several young boys and one girl grappled on gym mats in a converted garage.
Two members of the group called the "Garage Boys Fight Crew" touched their thin martial-arts gloves in a flash of sportsmanship before beginning a relentless exchange of sucker punches, body blows and swift kicks.
No blood was shed. And both competitors wore protective gear. But the bout reflected the decidedly younger face of ultimate fighting. The trend alarms medical experts and sports officials who worry that young bodies can't withstand the pounding.
Tommy Bloomer, father of two of the "Garage Boys," doesn't understand the fuss.
"We're not training them for dog fighting," said Bloomer, a 34-year-old construction contractor. "As a parent, I'd much rather have my kids here learning how to defend themselves and getting positive reinforcement than out on the streets."
Bloomer said the sport has evolved since the no-holds-barred days by adding weight classes to better match opponents and banning moves such as strikes to the back of the neck and head, groin kicking and head butting.
Missouri appears to be the only state in the nation that explicitly allows the youth fights. In many states, it is a misdemeanor for children to participate. A few states have no regulations.
Supporters of the sport acknowledge that allowing fights between kids sounds brutal at first. But they insist the competitions have plenty of safety rules.
"It looks violent until you realize this teaches discipline. One of the first rules they learn is that this is not for aggressive behavior outside (the ring)," said Larry Swinehart, a Joplin police officer and father of two boys and the lone girl in the garage group.
The sport, which is also known as mixed martial arts or cage fighting, has already spread far beyond cable television. Last month, CBS became the first of the Big Four television networks to announce a deal to broadcast primetime fights. The fights have attracted such a wide audience, they are threatening to surpass boxing as the nation's most popular pugilistic sport.
Hand-to-hand combat is also popping up on the big screen. The film "Never Back Down," described as "The Karate Kid" for the YouTube generation, has taken in almost $17 million in two weeks at the box office. Another current mixed martial arts movie, "Flash Point," an import from Hong Kong, is in limited release.
Bloomer said the fights are no more dangerous or violent than youth wrestling. He watched as his sons, 11-year-old Skyler and 8-year-old Gage, locked arms and legs and wrestled to the ground with other kids in the garage in Carthage, about 135 miles south of Kansas City.
The 11 boys and one girl on the team range from 6 to 14 years old and are trained by Rudy Lindsey, a youth wrestling coach and a professional mixed martial arts heavyweight.
"The kids learn respect and how to defend themselves. It's no more dangerous than any other sport and probably less so than some," Lindsey said.
Lindsey said the children wear protective headgear, shin guards, groin protection and martial-arts gloves. They fight quick, two-minute bouts. Rules also prohibit any elbow blows and blows to the head when an opponent is on the ground.
"If they get in trouble or get bad grades, I'll hear about it and they can't come to training," he added.
In most states, mixed martial arts is overseen by boxing commissions. In Missouri, the Office of Athletics regulates the professional fights but not the amateur events, which include the youth bouts. For amateurs, the regulation is done by sanctioning bodies that have to register with the athletics office.
The rules are different in Oklahoma, where unauthorized fights are generally a misdemeanor offense. The penalty is a maximum 30 days in jail and a fine up to $1,000.Joe Miller, administrator of the Oklahoma Professional Boxing Commission, said youth fights are banned in his state, and he wants it to stay that way.
"There's too much potential for damage to growing joints," he said.
Miller said mixed martial arts uses a lot of arm and leg twisting to force opponents into submission. Those moves, he said, pressure joints in a way not found in sanctioned sports like youth boxing or wrestling.
But Nathan Orand, a martial arts trainer from Tulsa, Okla., said kids are capable of avoiding injuries, especially with watchful referees in the rings. He thinks the sport is bound to grow.
"I can see their point because when you say 'cage fighting,' that right there just sounds like kids shouldn't be doing it," Orand said.
"But you still have all the respect that regular martial arts teach you. And it's really the only true way for youth to be able to defend themselves."
Back in the Carthage garage, Bloomer said parents shouldn't worry about kids becoming aggressive from learning mixed martial arts. He said his older son was picked on by bullies at school repeatedly last year but never fought them, instead reporting the problem to his teachers.
And fighters including his 8-year-old son get along once a bout is over, Bloomer said.
"When they get out of the cage, they go back and play video games together. It doesn't matter who won and who lost. They're still little buddies."

(D.R.): "Some fight with parents blessing"?
***Also check out Pat's post over at Mokuren Dojo on Kids and armbars HERE


Patrick Parker said...

Good grief... seems kinda Spartan...

Also on the topic...

How is it that we end up synched up in the themes of our postings, DR?

Sa Bum Nim Pieschala said...

Yeah, I always thought MMA was for 6 year old kids.

I have my reasons :)

Dojo Rat said...

Thanks Pat, I read your post and included a link to your site. We are having a Vulcan mind-meld.

Piesch: you crack me up. We should have a beer sometime...

Bob Patterson said...

Yeah I saw that one too in my news feeds.

I guess we can hope that they get some sort of sportsmanship-type training in their MMA lessons?


Hand2Hand said...

Personally, I don't have a problem with it as long as safety is rule number one.

For some people, a very traditional art, like Karate-do or Aikido would be a good fit. For some people, a non-classical art like Jeet Kune Do or MMA is what they want or need.

To me, they're just two different arts and sports. It's just a matter of personal preference.

Karate wasn't always the kiddie activity it is now. When it first came to the U.S., it was very much a rough-and-tumble, blood-and-guts activity brought back from Okinawa, Japan and Korea by soldiers and Marines.

The movie, "The Karate Kid," changed that. I read once that after that movie, the average age for new students dropped from their late teens to pre-teens.

One last thing - whether involved in a classical or modern martial art, if taught properly, the student will develop some self-discipline, confidence, physical fitness and sportsmanship.

But I've always had a problem with people who look to a martial art as
a "way" or who look too hard for some great spiritual truths within their training.

As I've always said, if you're dealing with some spiritual or philosophical issue, you need to consult with your clergy - not your sensei.

Dojo Rat said...


I see where you are going, but to people who spend nine hours a week or more training in a martial "Art", and one hour a week in church, the "Art" can be their spiritul guide. That is what seperates "Art" from mere pugilism.
That is why MMA fighting is not "Art".
People who are blessed with guidence of the clergy also may have a better edge in life, but young growing males tend to gravitate to their sensei's, big brothers, tough guys (etc.) for their role models. If the role model is just a crash-and-bash MMA fighter, how do they develop that all-important sense of leadership, culture, rank and dicipline?
Your opinions are well recieved and appreciated.

Hand2Hand said...

Hey DR,

I don't think you can assume all MMA instructors are a bunch of crash-and-bash thugs or that all traditional senseis are great spiritual gurus.

Though it is a work of fiction, "The Karate Kid" demonstrated that those extremes exist even in an established art like Karate. For every calm and placid Miyagi, there's at least one militaristic thug like Kreese.

I think MMA practitioners develop those characteristics of leadership, culture and rank among themselves just like those in the traditional arts do. Just like any other subculture that exists in the world today, whether in politics, in churches, in academia or in sports, they all have their hierachies, their traditions and their ethics among their members.

Each subculture has its own norms and mores that determine conduct within that group.

For me, I've always believed that the challenge for any martial artist is to walk a line that divides traditionalism and modernism. I don't think traditionalists have all the answers, but I don't think they should be completely discounted either.

The same is true for modern arts, like JKD and MMA.

As far as spirituality and ethics, yes, I believe you can find it in martial arts. I just don't think it should be the main or primary source for anyone.

I think, at best, it would only fill a supplemental role to what a person learns, or should be learning, from their parents, their religion, their families, their culture, etc.

For example, as I tell people, if you ask me what to do if someone takes a swing at you, I'll speak to you as a martial artist.

On the other hand, if someone wants to ask me about the moral or ethical implications of your self defense response to that person taking a swing at you, I would be speaking primarily from my religious faith as a Christian.

I expect that a Jew or Buddhist or Moslem would deal with that moral issue from the aspect of their faith, not the martial art they studied.

Formosa Neijia said...

Just more proof of our race to the bottom. Now we're teaching kids to be thugs. Where will it end?

Hand2Hand said...

Hey FN,

With all due respect, I think we as martial artists should be careful about pointing fingers.

You'll find good and bad instructors whether in classical arts or modern arts.

As I said before, Karate had a reputation as a lowbrow activity when it first arrived here in the U.S. Many of the first teachers were rough-and-tumble ex-servicemen.

In his autobiography, Chuck Norris said a local policeman told Norris' wife that she should tell him to stop practicing Karate before it turned him into a killer.

My doctor is a Chinese immigrant. He told me that he wanted to learn martial arts as a kid and that the Chinese community where he grew up had a number of Kung Fu teachers.

But his parents wouldn't let him learn because they thought of Kung Fu as an activity fit only for hoodlums.

Hey, some of the best Kung Fu practitioners today are triad thugs. Even Cheng Man-Ching's first visa to the U.S. was sponsored by an NYC based Triad group who wanted him as their personal sifu. According to two of my yang sifus (who both trained with Cheng) when he was teaching a lot of gwai-lo (white people) they refused to continue to sponsor him and he had to return to Hong Kong.

It was Robert W. Smith and other Americans who sponsored his return to the U.S. from Hong Kong so he could return to teaching.

I had a Tang Soo Do classmate who investigated organized crime as an IRS agent. He's seen firsthand how many Asian martial arts instructors are affiliated with Asian gangs.

As I've said before, it depends on the teacher and how the teacher conducts himself as to whether kids are learning a wholesome activity or thuggish behavior.

Dojo Rat said...

I have witnesseed seedy activity by Asian martial arts masters, but I attribute it to the collectiveness of being a foreigner in the US and sticking together.
I will also agree that not every MMA organization is full of thugs, but my friend's comment on this subject is that there has been a "NASCAR-IZATION" of the culture of martial artists.
No offense to NASCAR fans intended.

Blackbeltmama said...

Here is what concerns me. As a parent, and as a martial artist who tore her ACL in a split second, the kinds of joint problems that these young kids could be facing are serious. ACL tears can't be fixed in children because you can't drill through a growing bone. And that's only one very common type of injury that can result.

Regarding the whole spiritual aspect of the martial arts. . . to me, if you're only going for the punching and kicking, it's a sport, not a martial art and shouldn't be classified as such.

Great post and great points you bring up here DR.

The Bear Maiden said...

Wow I just stumbled on you looking for something else entirely and I noticed two things off the bat:
1.) You do Yang-family Tai chi (as does my mom "Bigbear" / she teaches at the JCC in NYC)
and 2.) I have my Sun in a traditional Martial Arts program, for the "art", for the mind, for the discipline and lastly for the fight skillz. And a funny thing has happened... he likes to fight less and hits last, I guess since he understands the implications. The school also teaches kickboxing, but the emphasis is on tradition, first.

I watch with some interest the MMA phenom, and I respect the sport, I do... but I'm not crazy about my own kid (9) doing that just yet, let alone a 6YO.

Hand2Hand said...

Hi Bearmaiden and Black Belt Mama.

I appreciate your concern for your kids. I think any parent should be concerned about who's teaching their kid and what.

As a relatively new first-time parent of a 7-year-old boy, I share your concerns.

But I think that care should extend to any activity. There's many traditional martial artists I wouldn't want anywhere near my kid.

On the other hand, there's some MMA teachers I know that I would have no problem with them teaching my son.

I've got a couple of my former training partners from my JKD days who've competed in MMA events. One's a high school gym teacher and the other is a professional pitching and batting coach who has a lot of experience with kids.

The latter is also a Messianic Jewish Rabbi.

If my son wanted to do MMA, I'd let him train with them with no hesitation.

On a related topic - last week, my son asked me to teach him. I was overjoyed since he got bored the other times I tried to train him.

Then I found out it was because he got into a fight with his cousin and wanted to beat him up. I said I won't teach him under those circumstances.

Hand2Hand said...

Further proof of the growth of MMA for kids. Believe it or not, this arrived in my email account just today.

"Dear Masters, Sifu, Instructors, Martial Artists, and Martial Arts

Welcome to the Meng's Martial Arts Partnership Network. This is was
built out of all the people that have come into contact with Master
Benny Meng, curator of the Ving Tsun Museum, through his various
martial arts activities. If you wish to be removed, simply email back
to the list with 'unsubscribe' as the message body and you'll be

We wanted to let you know about two things happening in April:

1) The Battle of Cincinnati in Cincinnati, OH.
2) New Youth MMA League is forming now!

_The Battle of Cincinnati_

The Battle of Cincinnati is scheduled for Saturday, April 26th and
will include competition from many different martial arts traditions
including Chinese Martial Art divisions. The CMA divisions will
include competition in Wushu, Traditional Chinese Martial Arts, San
Shou, and Wing Chun. For more information and to register, please
visit: This is a great, low-key tournament
designed to educate students about sportsmanship, fair play, and
taking their skills to a higher level - all martial art backgrounds
are welcome to participate.

_New Youth MMA League forming now!_

Master Meng is at the forefront of the new MMA revolution - Youth MMA
competitions. We've been developing a youth fight team for close to a
year now and we will be exhibiting our Meng's Martial Arts Youth MMA
team at the Battle of Cincinnati. The kid's competitions consist of
kicking, striking, throwing, ground work, and submissions on a point
basis. It's amazing to see these young athletes going to work - the
sportsmanship, positive attitude, and technical skills are amazing.
Master Meng is also looking for instructors interested in getting
involved in the Youth MMA League - you can contact him directly at

Partner mailing list
Meng's Martial Arts / Ving Tsun Museum
5715 Brandt Pike
Dayton, OH 45424
937-236-6485 ph/fx"

Formosa Neijia said...

"I will also agree that not every MMA organization is full of thugs, but my friend's comment on this subject is that there has been a "NASCAR-IZATION" of the culture of martial artists.
No offense to NASCAR fans intended."

That was good. :)
And agreed.

Steve said...

Dojo Rat,

I enjoyed reading your article and the discussion that ensued.

My personal opinion is that there is much kids can learn about themselves and others, about teamwork, respect, integrity and hard work from training in boxing, wrestling, or in MMA. I would even go so far as to say that these lessons are more legitimately learned in these types of schools than at the typical TKD school where most 6 year olds find themselves training.

Hand2Hand said...

Hey Steve,

Welcome to Dojo Rat.

Glad to see someone else who appreciates MMA.

The Bear Maiden said...

Hand2hand - to's not concern for his safety or anything like that. And if I trust his learning to someone, I trust that they would take every precaution. So that's not what I'm getting at. As I said, the Sun's done some kickboxing, his dojo teaches grappling and he's done a Continuous Contact match. And it's not his age... it's the progression of steps. Whatever age he was... say he started at 15, I'd want him to learn the traditional forms first, before he moved on to MMA, rather than just start at MMA.

It's kind of like writing novels... you have to learn to read first.

Or jot down your notes with pen and paper before you go to the computer.

In this modern age, I'm aware that most of the world probably disagrees with me. My father teaches creative writing, lol, and argues with his students all the time about this (which is why I use it as an example).

But I still feel that in whatever you do, martial arts in particular should be rooted in a basic, traditional foundation.

And it's hard for 6 year olds to grasp all that. Though some do...

Hand2Hand said...

Hey Bear Maiden,

I'm all for a good base of the basics no matter what activity you're involved with, whether traditional martial arts or MMA.

But I just don't think that traditional martial arts have a monopoly on providing good basics.

I have nothing against traditional arts or modern ones. I've done both.

But neither one has all the answers for everyone or appeals to everyone. I think people need to find out what they like to do.

After all, if you're not enjoying a recreational activity, why do it?

On another topic, you said that your father teaches creative writing and you use an analogy which compares martial arts to writing.

Are you a writer, too? I have a degree in creative writing and I've got 20 years experience in journalism.

Glad to meet you. Here's a link to my myspace site.

Steve said...

@H2H: :) I've been around for a while, but have only recently discovered Google Reader (which is helping me keep up with my favorite blogs!)

@BearMaiden: I'm not sure where you went to school, but I learned to both read and write at the same time. While reading and writing are related skills, you learn to write by writing. You learn to BE a writer by writing A LOT. There is a big difference between developing good handwriting (McKwoon style TKD) and developing good writing skills. The training in the average school around me is akin to trying to learn to write a novel by endlessly writing the same sentence on a chalkboard.

@BBM: Brace yourself. We don't agree. :D Seriously, though, kids play football, baseball, and basketball. They learn to ski, snowboard, ride bikes and skate. Some get hurt doing these things, try as we might to keep that from happening. Having a strong, athletic, active child is the best way to protect her or him from injury.

Honestly, I'm not sure I'm on board with my kids learning a striking art. Personally, I think I'd rather wait until my child is 16, which is why I'm FAR more comfortable with my son and daughter (and daughter to be) to be grapplers. When they're 16 or so, they can make a decision about whether they want to get punched in the noggin. But if you've already decided for yourself that this isn't an issue, then in my mind, I can't understand the objection to learning legitimate skills in a safe environment from qualified instructors.

Sa Bum Nim Pieschala said...

Hey Steve,
I know you're going to be shocked if I say I don't completely agree with you.

Some of of your points are dead on. I love the Gracie approach to teaching. They don't teach; You punch - I execute memorized one step #4 and stop. I do enjoy the more rough and tumble approach to learning.

The first time I really got exposed to that thought was when I was a "wild serviceman" in Okinawa with Diato-Ryu. The instructor encouraged you to be sneaky when he wanted to demonstrate something. But he also as my previous instructors taught there is "no such thing as a one on one fight". So your first day of class you were surrounded by 4-6 people with rubber knives trying to cut you. The lesson was footwork and dodging.

I still teach this and sometimes will have mini-tournaments using white board washable markers.

This being said, and why I'm not a big BJJ advocate; Is that it's a myth that "all fights end on the ground". I don't want to roll in an alley or parking lot filled with glass and rocks. I used to do drills in a parking lot to toughen my feet, I can't imagine the damage you'd take even "winning" by going to the ground. Secondly, lets say you're on the ground, if there is a crowd .. you may just "get stomped".

I will say escaping from "the mounted position" is valuable knowledge for Women's Self Defense and BJJ is great there.

So like everything else there are pro's and cons.

But I'd like to point out one more thing, environment. I'm working as a consultant on a film about "Count Dante" a.k.a. John Keehan (just Google him:)). He was very fond of saying "What I teach will work in a phone booth." I think he makes a point with that.

I'm not knocking what you study, but no skill set is perfect. Using what works for you is the truest art. Or a Bruce Lee said "The way of no way." (paraphrasing). That's what I meant a few posts ago.

Here's a link to the movie I mentioned, sorry but another shameless plug for Floyd :) DR !

Steve said...

@sa bum,

I don't disagree with much of what you're saying. To be clear, self defense is way down on my priority list of "why I train." I have also not done any personal research into whether fights do or do not end up on the ground (although I am very familiar with the arguments.)

I will say this, though. I firmly believe that the only way to control whether or not a fight goes to the ground is to be a better grappler than your opponent. If I am a grappler and you are not, I will be able to take you to the ground. Period. Would it be a good idea? Maybe not. I don't look to the early UFCs as proof of much of anything. If there is anything to be learned that is useful, however, it's that a determined striker without grappling skills will most often be taken to the ground by a determined grappler. My point is this: if the grappler is the one with friends, and you have no grappling skills, you will probably be taken to the ground and you will be the one stomped. If you have trained in grappling, you will have some control, and if you are a better grappler than your opponent, you will defend the takedown. And if taken to the ground, you will be much more likely to be able to GET BACK UP from the ground. And if you cannot get up from the ground, you will be more likely to control the position on the ground.

MMA and Muay Thai said...

MMA students must display a huge amount of knowledge and concentration before even being allowed to compete, and this can only be accomplished in a place honor, respect, and high discipline. If a ten year old boy can represent these values as a result of the teachings from his Jui jitsu, wrestling, and muay thai coach, then who is anyone to say that MMA is worse than the hazing and verbal abuse that a drunken father gives to his quarterback son in youth football? What values do you learn from throw the ball to the coach's son before eleven armored savages plow you under? MMA was wrongfully misrepresented by assoc. press and many details of that article were absolute lies. The author had no knowledge of mma and attempted to fabricate a danger by using alarming words such as "bareknuckle brutality" and "human cockfighting" so as to generate hate towards the Juijitsu Teacher. Why? Self-importance? Slow news day? I'm not sure,but the damage is done and Karate folks, don't think you're immune from such an attack either, unless you elect to stop teaching strikes, balance, and blocking. What happened with that article was a tragedy for all martial arts.

senseimike said...

About darn time. I've been involved in TMA almost all my life, and not since I left taekwondo have I point sparred, Nor will I ever, nor will any of my students. I've never studied Muay Thai or Bjj, only utilized my Okinawan Kempo to the fullest extent. In doing that I've trained multiple undefeated ammy mma fighters, and can tell you that mma training requires 10 times the discipline that karate training does. Rank can still be maintained as can history and culture (my students are required to submit a 500 word report on this to get their black belt). But training for boxing, kickboxing, and mma makes them uch better athletes, martial artists, and students (in grammar school) than karate ever could.

senseimike said...

Sa Bum Nim Pieschala:

I believe my Okinawan training was much different than yours...

Takedownss are everything, slams to be specific. You want to put them down before they put you down, either way, it's going down.

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