Integrated Fighting and Kettlebell Academy

Kids and MMA

Lets talk MMA and kids just for a little bit.

I can’t count the number of discussions I have had with parents about “why would I ever teach something so savage to kids?”

Its a hard conversation because parents immediately associate MMA with a cage and a bloody fight usually ended by a KO or TKO (referee stoppage). Parents who haven’t been involved in MMA don’t understand the degree of athleticism and discipline that an MMA athlete requires.

Maybe I should just save myself the trouble and call it Ju-Jitsu, Wrestling or Karate? But lets not kid, its time for MMA to come unto itself as a legitimate form of training for kids…..

Let’s break this down in simple terms.

Let me firstly say that a good coach and a good training environment is non-negotiable! Let me say that belts (instructor rank) don’t impress when it gets to training kids; a black belt is evidence of technical and/or sporting achievement and not the ability to teach. A black belt, or similar technically trained person, with a 2-3 year teaching apprenticeship under a good instructor, and then a few years of teaching alone is usually a good indicator of someone I’d be happy leaving my kids with (after watching a few classes).

Then the training environment must be good, relaxed, friendly, encouraging yet disciplined; time and circumstance dictate where the instructor’s emphasis should fall.

As an aside, please ensure you don’t walk into one of those schools who try extract as much money from you as they can for monthly fees, extra “black-belt” clubs, multi-stripe belt gradings every few weeks and then clothing, belts, gloves and accessories that you could get at half the price from NZ Boxer or Akl Martial Arts. Try out a few places, find one that lets you try it free or at a reasonable casual rate for 2-3 weeks, they are usually the ones confident that they are good enough to retain you and your kids.

Discipline & Self-Control
What MMA 4 Kids teaches is discipline and self-control. To turn up every week and go through the physical regimen of building up their general physical strength, physical fitness, kicking, punching, throwing and grappling technique takes a lot. If they were just learning to punch like a boxer, if they were just learning to grapple like a wrestler/judoka, kick like a kareteka; parents immediately identify these sports as requiring discipline (there are no bloody cages or bad reps of urban “fight club” legend); but now the MMA kid has to do all of this, and more.

In addition the MMA kid needs to apply even more self control and discipline during training because (if he/she has a good coach) they need to understand to take care and not injure their opponents while training in all fighting ranges. This is where its up to the coach and the rest of the training squad to ensure that, as with most other contact sports, egos are left at the door when training begins. A good coach will quickly discipline or remove a kid who hurts the rest of the team. A good team will quickly refuse to train with someone who is hell-bent on injuring them. And when a bully individual has nobody who wants to train with them, going hard ain’t no fun anymore.

General Physical Preparation
Now that we have put that one to bed - lets now look at what MMA actually gives back to kids physically. I have always said that, outside of ball skills, gymnastics and martial arts are the best foundation for any kids. My own kids have been doing kids gymnastics since they were just over two years old. My 7-year old daughter is still training rhythmic gymnastics while training in MMA.
MMA training gives kids complete core strength training, significant upper body and leg strength, as well as aerobic fitness. Couple with all of these general traits the rudimentary tumbling ability, the ability to breakfall (a la Judo) and then sport specific skills of kicking, boxing, throwing and grappling technique. There is no other sport type that works on the all-round functional movement and functional strength that MMA does while providing additional sport-specific skills.

Psychology of Physical Contact
Now add to this the physical and emotional preparation of the physicality of contact sports, which should never be underestimated.
Please don’t take this aspect lightly, I have seen many teens reduced to social outcasts because of their reaction to harsh physical contact or threat of physical contact. I remember one parent’s reaction to a new kid in the class who came from a “rougher” neighbourhood; her immediate reaction was to withdraw her kid from the class as a pre-emptive avoidance measure; my rebuttal was simply “wouldn’t you like your child to rather meet him in class, in a controlled environment, and understand that level of physicality, or would you prefer their first meeting to be as teens in a camp ground, bar or club?”.
Both kids are still training; although I don’t think a play-date is in the near future.

Almost Forgot...
So, could you get a better all-round athlete? Are there many other sports that could provide a kid with a general physical and mental preparation equal to MMA?
Oh - sorry, I forgot, as a by-product the kid may even be able to defend him/herself.

A Springboard
And one more thing... please don’t get me wrong - I’m not saying that these kids should make a career of MMA. It needs to be regarded as a sport, a safe sport to train and a springboard to other more specific sports including track & field, rugby, soccer, tennis and even golf!

My son trains MMA but also plays soccer, basketball and tennis; he has also played miniball & rugby, he’s done gymnastics and judo too, runs track and cross country and has now found an affinity for shot-put; but at age ten I’m hoping he continues to play as much sport as he can (so long as his schoolwork stays on track) so that his general all-round physical skills continue to increase until he’s a teenager and he gravitates towards a specific sport.
(Note that I am a firm proponent of the many studies that have shown that very early immersion into a single sport specific training will result in early gains but also an early plateau, and those with exceptional general athletic skills gained early will eventually become the champion athletes in that specific sport).

Teams & Winning
There are no MMA competitions for kids and I hope there never will be!!!!
Yes there are Sport Ju-Jitsu and Submission Wrestling events for kids aimed at their level - there’s even a girls-only league (my daughter at age 6 was the youngest registered competitor, and she had a blast). I do recommend competition because the kids have to train hard for them, they are the classical “go as a team but compete as an individual” event where there are winners and losers, both of which then need to train harder; winners to keep their rank and losers to take it from them.

So - in a nutshell, MMA provides:
  • Discipline & Self-Control
  • General Physical Preparation - speed, strength, fitness, co-ordination
  • A physical and emotional understanding of contact sports
  • Sport specific skills - kicking, punching, throwing, grappling
  • An option to get involved in a friendly competitive environment
  • Self-Defense

Anyone still think its not a good idea???