On the surface, children doing Mixed Martial Arts reap plenty of benefits. They develop hand-eye coordination, focus, self-discipline and socialization where respect is paramount.
But on the flipside, kids are just starting to learn empathy, understand morality and are, ideally, moving away from using a tantrum as a tool.
If this early stage development is also combined with emotional instability or anti-social tendencies then teaching an infant how to fight is ‘weaponizing’ a future problem.
While martial arts purists can rightly defend their craft as celebrating meditation, strength and discipline – modern MMA appears to deviate from those traditional, more peaceful philosophies.
Sure, there’s valuable self-confidence in knowing that if under attack you can defend yourself. But in our aggressive, warrior culture where all kinds of fighting are reported in media every moment, teaching toddlers to fight makes them part of the problem not part of the solution.
With the violence required to ‘win’ an MMA bout often resulting in injuries far worse than those comical cauliflower ears and tattoos that turn another revered artform into a mockery of mutilation - it’s obvious this is s sport for adults, not kids.
Add to that fan discussions about the phenomenon of MMA fighters hooking up with adult film stars and it’s hard to find a role model for kids under 15 in the headlines.
'Teaching toddlers to fight makes them part of the problem not part of the solution'
In recent news, MMA fighter Jonathon Paul Koppenhaver who changed his name through deed poll to War Machine, used his martial arts to critically mutilate ex-girlfriend Christie Mack and her male friend before going on the run from police.
He then tweeted about how sorry he felt for himself and blamed her for his attack.
There has been a fair bit of victim-blaming because Mack is a famous porn star.
Regardless of how she earns a buck, an MMA fighter of some professional standing should know self-control and understand that his ‘guns’ aka muscles are lethal weapons and that fighting is done in the Octagon with an agreed and worthy opponent.
A blog detailing 10 ‘good’ reasons to do MMA training had this as the clincher:
"Chicks dig fighters. Women love violence. They will say things like 'I hate violence. I hate those meathead guys that fight all the time.' The women who say things like this have one thing in common: they’re lying."
Guys want to be gladiators. Girls want to be goddesses. These fantasies persist but in the real world, they manifest with just as much barbarism as in ancient times.
The modern twist is that goddesses are less likely to be worshipped on pedestals and more likely to paid on poles. Gladiators are more about gore than glory.
While humanity continues to celebrate ‘beating’ the competition and excessively ‘tooling up’ to force another human being into submission, we’ll be stuck on a violent merry-go-round and indoctrinated that fighting is a fun sport.
The lyrics of the 1991 Public Enemy classic track Television The Drug Of A Nation are still relevant today:
"A child watches 1500 murders before he's twelve years old and … learns to laugh rather than to abhor the horror."
Self defense, discipline, focus and socialization – all are great aspects of martial arts but the world will not be a better place with people treating it as an Octagon since they were toddlers.
'MMA for toddlers is about as appropriate as a pole dancing class for kids.'
Childhood is a time where hugs produce more happiness than hits.
Instead of a first option, combat can be taught as a last resort.
There’s plenty of time for children to learn about adult harsh realities.
On the other hand, Nanny State molly-coddled kids are not the way of the future either. So in terms of the positives – fitness, focus and fairness – there’s a lot to be said for the benefits of martial arts such as Aikido as opposed to modern MMA.
Sure, the MMA kids look cute in their little uniforms as they try and conquer another tot while glancing up to see if they’re pleasing mummy and daddy. They’re learning what kind of behavior gets approval.
MMA for toddlers is about as appropriate as a pole dancing class for kids.
In this current era, where nations, groups and individuals attract media attention due to some form of bullying, it’s time to teach kids not only the 3 Rs – but the 3 Hs – Humility, Humanity and Humour.
It’s more fun socializing with people sharing a punchline than a punch any day.