Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) has quickly become one of the most talked-about styles of martial arts, due to its rise in mainstream popularity. Many MMA fighters have reached international celebrity and some have become recognized as beloved modern athletes. With this growing popularity, more and more kids have become interested in MMA.
Given the full-contact, combative nature of MMA that entails striking and grapping, an important question comes to light: is MMA safe for children?
Safety and Benefits for Kids
Martial arts of any kind can increase a child’s self-esteem and self-discipline and MMA is no different. A common misconception is that practicing MMA is equivalent to a deadly octagon ring, whereas MMA simply means combining two or more styles of martial arts. It is also worth noting that strikes in MMA are spread across all parts of the body, as opposed to hits aimed primarily at the head, like in boxing.
The first step in ensuring that any martial arts style is safe for your child is to find a reputable school. The instructor should not only have a strong grasp of the techniques being taught, but should also strongly enforce rules that promote safety, inside and outside of the studio. A suitable instructor will teach students to respect each other, prevent unnecessary fights, and teach students that violence is a last resort.
Referees, who also require training, watch a match closely and immediately interrupt once a fighter is unable to defend himself or herself. Additional safety considerations are pertinent in most MMA classes for kids, with both additional padding and rules that focus on safety more than your average adult class.
Partaking in MMA may lead your child to join citywide, national, or international tournaments. These events help children gain exposure to other countries and cultures, make friends, and broaden their horizons.
Ultimately, MMA can be an excellent form of exercise for your child, while emphasizing personal responsibility and fostering athletic prowess.
Risks of Mixed Martial Arts for Kids
Opposing the above argument for the benefits of MMA, others contend that MMA has the potential to become a hazardous sport and certain practices carry a higher risk of concussion, suffocation, spine damage, and other related injuries. In addition, there has been little support for protective equipment, such as soft helmets and other guards, as preventative measures against concussions at adult-aged or older-youth classes. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, this could potentially promote a false sense of safety.
Because of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and other popular MMA organizations, some have misconstrued the definition of MMA. Instead of “two or more martial arts styles”, MMA may be misunderstood as “anything goes”. Since MMA fighters have reached nearly the same level of fame as athletes in other popular sports, children may attempt to mimic some of the techniques without proper training, resulting in injury.
After considering both positive and negative standpoints on MMA for children, the most important thing is to acknowledge that every child is different. What’s right for your child will depend on a number of factors, including his or her interests and how often he or she can practice. It should be instilled within your child that MMA, as well as any martial arts style, is centered around respect and should only ever be used outside of the dojo in the case of self-defense.
The quality of your chosen MMA school will also play a central role in the development of your child’s skill level. A school that emphasizes correct form and technique, and aptly enforces rules will lessen the chance of injury.
Conduct thorough research to locate a reputable MMA school that has earned the trust of your community. Verify proper certification, read the school’s reviews, and ask other parents about their experiences. You can also learn how to prepare your child for his or her first martial arts class here.