Originally published April 11 2008
Should Kids Compete in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) Bouts?
by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, NaturalNews Editor
(NaturalNews) Following the atrociously-inaccurate story published by the Associated Press about children being involved in MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) fights, there has been a lot of talk about MMA and children's health in the mainstream media. But like the mainstream news coverage on many topics (including nutrition and vitamins), virtually every single story about Mixed Martial Arts (or "Ultimate Fighting") in the mainstream media has been written by people who are absolutely clueless about what MMA really is, what the rules are, and what the impact of participation might be upon children. Note: This article has been updated, as noted below, to address some of the feedback I originally received on this story. Please also read my updated views on this issue in more detail at: http://www.naturalnews.com/023000.html
First off, let me air some of the factually incorrect statements and labels that have been used by the mainstream media in describing MMA competitions. The Associated Press and other news organizations have called the sport human cockfighting, cage fighting, no-holds-barred fighting, bare-knuckle brawls and televised street fights. Not a single one of these descriptions is accurate. (Then again, since when did the Associated Press give a darn about being accurate anyway?)
I do not personally participate in MMA fighting competitions, but I'm at least informed enough to be familiar with the rules: All fighters wear padded gloves, all are extremely well trained in various arts such as wrestling or kickboxing, all MMA bouts are managed by an on-the-floor referee whose primary job is to protect the competitors, an on-site doctor can also stop the fight for a medical reason (to protect the athletes), competitors may "tap out" and stop the fight at any moment by either physically or verbally "tapping out," all participants wear mouth pieces and protective cups, the floor of such events are padded, and so on. Top MMA competitors are elite athletes, displaying the coordination, endurance and dexterity of top gymnasts. Don't believe me? Watch George St. Pierre compete, and you'll see for yourself.
I find it curious that none of these facts about MMA -- and the UFC in particular -- are ever mentioned in the mainstream media. Instead, the MSM has already pre-judged the sport, deciding in advance that it's "too violent" and therefore must be dangerous for children.
Too violent? Who are they kidding? Professional football is far more dangerous than mixed martial arts. Even pro basketball produces at least as many injuries per participant as mixed martial arts. And hockey, of course, is far more violent. Hockey players are issued sticks! On a pure statistical basis, kids engaged in gymnastics received far more injuries (and far worse injuries) than kids involved in MMA.
Is Mixed Martial Arts dangerous for children?The idea that mixed martial arts training is "dangerous for children" does not have merit, in my opinion. You know what the real danger to children's health is these days? Sitting on the couch playing violent video games on a game console, drinking soda, gaining weight and getting diabetes. It is the inactive kids who are at the highest risk of obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, low self esteem, low bone density, poor cardiovascular health, behavioral disorders and so on.
You want to know who the healthy kids are? They're the kids that actively participate in sports. It hardly matters what sport, actually: Track and field, football, baseball, soccer, wrestling, and yes, MMA. Kids that train in MMA are engaging in a health-enhancing, confidence-boosting activity that burns calories, builds physical strength, teaches personal responsibility and demands rigorous training discipline. It's like learning a formal martial art (like Tai Kwon Do), except that MMA has more practical applications. A kid that learns MMA is not only healthy; he's also more capable of taking care of himself at school, on the street and when traveling.
In fact, a lot of studios around the country that teach MMA to kids also teach self-defense classes for kids based on Krav Maga, the Israeli-developed combat system. Kids are taught how to escape an attacker, freeing themselves from wrist holds and strangleholds, and then flee while attracting attention. These skills can save kids' lives.
The mainstream media (MSM), of course, isn't interested in the factual benefits of teaching such skills to children; they're more interested in the tabloid sensationalism invoked through the use of terms like "human cockfighting" and "bare-knuckle brawls!"
Personally, I'm very impressed with the athleticism, professionalism and humility of many top UFC fighters. Randy Couture, one of the most highly-regarded athletes in the sport, even pursues a nutritionally-dense diet, consuming green superfoods on a regular basis to keep him in top physical shape. George St. Pierre is a true professional, acting with great humility and professionalism no matter what challenges he faces. Former light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell is practically a superhero in the eyes of many MMA fans today. I recently interviewed Chuck in person about his new line of nutritional supplements (www.IceManRx.com) and will be posting that interview on this website shortly.
What about the violence?Is MMA violent? [Editor's note: This is the primary area where I've updated this article to better explain my answer to this question.]
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.
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).
Personally, I'm a very non-violent individual. I've never started a fight, and I've never had to try to end one. I'm a huge believer in natural health and in protecting the health of the human body. Even so, I openly support the participation of children and teens in any sport where safety standards exist, including MMA. If Mixed Martial Arts is an activity that a child will enjoy while training their mind and body, then the very small risk of bodily injury is inconsequential compared to the risk of getting obese, diabetic and overmedicated from sitting in the couch, playing with your Wii or otherwise avoiding physical activity altogether.
The bottom line in all this? Children experience tremendous benefits from participation in any sport, including MMA. Kids who train in martial arts, wrestling, kickboxing or other so-called "violent" sports are actually learning valuable skills, discipline and self-esteem. They're staying healthy and active, and they greatly reduce their risk for typical couch-potato diseases like diabetes, depression, osteoporosis and obesity. The real risk to kids' health today is the risk of diseases caused by a LACK of exercise!
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