(NaturalNews) I received quite a bit of feedback to my recent article that asked whether children should train and compete in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). Most of the feedback was critical of my advocacy of children's involvement in this sport, and while I greatly honor the comments and criticisms I receive from readers, some of the responses were based on the same common myths about MMA that are repeated by the mainstream media. So to clarify my position about what's really going on with MMA and children, I decided to write this follow-up piece.
First, let me clarify the main point of that article (http://www.naturalnews.com/022995.html), which is simply that I am a strong advocate of children's involvement in sports of all kinds, including martial arts, wrestling, football, baseball, kickboxing, gymastics and many others. I also argued that the most dangerous thing for a child is not involvement in a sport where injuries occur, but rather the obesity, diabetes and other diseases that come from a child sitting on the couch, engaged in no real exercise at all. It is the LACK of exercise that harms children, not participation in exercise!
In other words, involvement in sports makes children healthy -- even when injuries occur! But a lack of exercise is extremely harmful to children, and I believe that children who are denied opportunities to engage in sports are in fact suffering harm to their health as a result.
Mixed Martial Arts is far safer than Gymnastics
My second point in the previous article was that Mixed Martial Arts is no more dangerous than other sports where injuries occur. In fact, gymnastics is far more dangerous than any type of martial arts. In gymnastics, children are often paralyzed from severe injuries sustained while training in various floor exercises. In fact, not far from where I live, a teenager was paralyzed just two years ago at a gym where I trained for years. It happens all over the country.
In contrast, I don't know of a single child in the country who has been paralyzed by training in martial arts (I'm sure there may have been some, but I'm confident they are nowhere near as frequent as serious injuries sustained in gymnastics). Sure, there have been injuries to elbows, knees, wrists, ankles and shoulders. But these heal. Active children will always suffer injuries from time to time, regardless of what sport they play: Football, basketball, baseball and even track and field (just ask some former pole vaulters about that...). You want to keep your child completely safe? Teach 'em ping pong, and hope they don't get smacked in the eye by that little plastic ball.
So far, then, what I'm saying is: 1) The health benefits of being involved in sports greatly outweigh the risk of harm from injury, and 2) Mixed Martial Arts is no more dangerous than many other sports, and is in fact less dangerous than gymnastics.
Mixed Martial Arts is not "Violent" (even though it may appear to be)
Now to the third point: The "violence" of Mixed Martial Arts. This was one of the areas where readers were critical of my original article on this topic, and I admit I did misstate my views in the original article (or I failed to explained them completely). One reader said I was "promoting violence" by supporting children's involvement in MMA. This is where that reader's inexperience becomes relevant to the discussion.
I've trained alongside many children in a Mixed Martial Arts studio. The truth is, children who train in martial arts are less violent than those who don't. Do you know which kids start the fights these days? It's the kids who have no discpline, no training, and no self esteem. But kids who train in martial arts -- any form of martial arts -- tend to become more responsible, more mature and far less likely to engage in any sort of violence. The very process of going through a program of intense exercise, stretching, hand-eye coordination and paying attention to an adult instructor makes kids more intelligent and more responsible. Sure, there are a few exceptions to this, but by and large, martial arts training makes children less violent, not more violent.
For example, if you take a future gang-banger off the street in L.A. and put him in a MMA class, teach him some sparring skills, and give him a chance to compete against other young boys his same age, then he learns to have confidence in himself, and he learns how to engage others in a physical competition without having to resort to harmful violence. He learns the boundaries of MMA competition, and he earns the respect of his fellow students who are learning the same skills. Now, suddenly you've transformed a kid from a potential gang-banger who might be competing on the strets with a 9mm handgun into someone who, instead, competes on the mats, with adult supervision and rules designed to protect all the participants.
Giving young kids a chance to compete in mixed martial arts takes them off the streets, out of the gangs, and away from bad influences. Instead, they learn real-world skills, they learn self respect, and they become better kids all around. Just the exercise benefits alone help keep kids off antidepressant meds which, as NaturalNews readers have learned, make kids extremely violent due to the brain-altering side effects.
There are still some readers of this web site (a small number, thank goodness) who have no personal experience in MMA, and they believe the mainstream media myth that somehow training in MMA makes people violent. I will argue this all day long with anybody who cares to take me up on the matter, because I can tell you from plenty of personal experience that training in martial arts makes kids LESS violent, not more violent. Martial arts do not teach violence, folks. They teach discipline, self-esteem, physical fitness and mental acquity.
Remember: It's all adult supervised, and the kids are fully padded. They compete on cushy mats, and the risk of any real injury is remarkably low (and far lower than gymnastics, which I already mentioned).
Television and video games are far more violent
Of course, I support all kinds of sports training for children, and most importantly, I support the parents' right to choose what kind of sports they want their children participating in. If you, as a parent, feel that MMA is too risky for your child, then I fully support your right to encourage them to check out something else. The important part is to keep your children active, and make sure they're not training to be a future couch potato.
But when I see MMA being singled out as a sport that's being attacked by the mainstream media (and some parents who just don't know what MMA really is), I have to go on the record with accurate information about the sport. Is it "violent?" Sure, kids punch and kick each other (with pads and training, of course), but I can tell you this: I guarantee you that many of the parents who are too "afraid" to allow their kids to practice MMA are, at the same time, allowing their kids to play horrifically violent video games called first-person shooters (FPS), where players pick up sniper rifles, shotguns, assault rifles and other weapons, then move through on-screen maps, shooting, stabbing and killing other human characters in order to complete "levels" and win awards. These games are, in my opinion, far more dangerous to the (mental) health of a child than any risk of injury from martial arts training.
It's just amazing to me that some parents get freaked out about MMA for kids, but their kid is sitting on the couch right now, playing a gory, blood-filled first-person shooter game on their Wii for eight hours straight, not getting a single minute of real exercise. Those are the kids who are being harmed, in my opinion. And look at the stuff that's on TV! Parents don't seem to blink an eye at the extreme violence being shown to kids on TV these days.
I say that the stronger cause of violence in our society today is found in violent TV programming and violent video games. Those powerful, violent images (shootings, murders, war footage, etc.) are dangerous to the psyche of children, and in most countries, parents wouldn't dare subject their children to the level of violence we now consider routine on television and in video games these days.
Martial arts takes children away from the TV
But guess what? Training children in martial arts gets them AWAY from the television and video games! Thus, the simple act of distancing children from the TV and the video game console is positive all by itself. Add in the fact that they're getting exercise, learning self esteem, building coordination and gaining the respect of their peers, and the positive impact on a child's life is incalculable. The benefits of martial arts training on children's lives are, in my opinion, priceless.
I understand that some will forever disagree with me on this point. Some will say that children should never be taught to strike another human being, or to punch a punching bag, or to kick someone in training. I honor that kind of non-violent advocacy. I really do. I've never condoned the use of violence to achieve any outcome, and I've argued strongly against the threat of violence now being used by doctors and drug companies to try to force parents into mandatory vaccinations, for example. My personal philosophy is based entirely on non-violent action.
But I've spent plenty of hours sparring with fellow martial arts students, being punched and kicked while kicking and striking back. Is it violent? Not at all. It's just exercise that's a whole lot more exciting than sweating off the miles on a boring treadmill. The simple act of kicking and punching is not violent unless there is the INTENTION of violent harm behind it. And when kids are training in Mixed Martial Arts, they are doing so as a way to stay active, to learn something new and to have fun. They have absolutely no intention of causing real harm to each other. MMA bouts are not street fights any more than a football game is a gang war.
Or, to ask this another way, is swinging a hammer a violent act? Only if the guy swinging it intends to harm someone, right? Otherwise, it's just a carpenter building something. Swinging a fist, all by itself, is not violent in and of itself.
And for those purists who still disagree, go look up the history of Tai Chi and other "gentle" Chinese arts. If you look through the history of these arts, you'll find that nearly all of them were based on fighting moves! Does that mean practicing Tai Chi is violent? Of course not. It's the opposite of violence. It is the building of internal strength and energy, the expression of the human body in sync with the human mind. It is the cultivation of chi in a way that enhances health and stamina. Of course, a critic could look at a Tai Chi master and say, "Oh, but you swung your arm around like this, and that could be a violent pose!" But that's nonsense.
Violence is defined by the intention, not merely the movement, and teaching MMA to children does not teach violence in any way: It teaches the opposite of violence. I guarantee you that one of the very first lessons taught to kids in ANY mixed martial arts class is this one: "If someone approaches you and wants to fight, walk away." All kids in martial arts classes are taught to walk away from conflict. And thankfully, through MMA training, they are given the confidence and the skills to be able to walk away, because one of the first MMA skills taught to kids consists of various "escapes" -- escaping wrist holds, choke holds, arm locks, etc. Are those handy skills for disengaging from violent attackers and escaping with your life? You bet they are. Personally, I'm glad more and more kids today are learning these skills. Are children are safer as a result. If I had a young child, I'd be signing him up right now for MMA classes just for the self defense aspect, not to mention all the exercise benefits.
So again, to summarize this update, while I appreciate the feedback of readers who felt strongly enough about this issue to write me, I openly disagree with anyone who says that children should not be allowed to train in MMA because it's "too violent." MMA only looks violent to those who don't understand it, but underneath it all, MMA teaches the opposite of violence.
In addition to his lab work, Adams is also the (non-paid) executive director of the non-profit Consumer Wellness Center (CWC), an organization that redirects 100% of its donations receipts to grant programs that teach children and women how to grow their own food or vastly improve their nutrition. Click here to see some of the CWC success stories.
With a background in science and software technology, Adams is the original founder of the email newsletter technology company known as Arial Software. Using his technical experience combined with his love for natural health, Adams developed and deployed the content management system currently driving NaturalNews.com. He also engineered the high-level statistical algorithms that power SCIENCE.naturalnews.com, a massive research resource now featuring over 10 million scientific studies.