Category Archives: kid’s martial arts

Martial Arts and Disabilities

One of the most challenging yet rewarding aspects of being a youth instructor is coaching disabled children. From kids with autism, to a double amputee, to children with traumatic brain disorders, I have been lucky enough to coach some amazing disabled children. Dealing with unruly children or disrespectful teenagers is definitely a challenge. It is more of a challenge than it is to coach children with disabilities. I have taught several children with what people consider to be a disability.

Some athletes with disabilities have accomplished some pretty amazing things.

If you don’t know who Anthony Robles is, you should. He was so good at wrestling that he became an NCAA champion, an amazing feat. This was with the fact that he is missing a leg. Yes, he has one leg. He became such a dominant force that coaches were even saying he had an unfair advantage because his strength was that of a wrestler in a higher weight class. Amazing young man. He isn’t on the scene anymore but Matt Hamill is a deaf American mixed martial artist and wrestler who has competed in the Light Heavyweight division of the UFC. He is a three-time NCAA Division III National Champion in wrestling while attending the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York. Hamill also has a silver medal in Greco-Roman Wrestling and a gold medal in Freestyle Wrestling from the 2001 Summer Deaflympics, which is impressive also, but tells the story of how many deaf wrestlers must be out there and are very good at what they do. I’m sure these two don’t consider themselves to be disabled at all.

Another great example is Baxter Humby. Baxter Humby is a Canadian kickboxer known as “The One Armed Bandit” due to his missing right hand, which was amputated at birth just below his elbow after becoming entangled with the umbilical cord. He is the only man in the world to win world titles with only one hand. He competes against not-disabled fighters and I have seen him fight on several occasions. Baxter is the current IMTC World Super Welterweight Champion. He holds a number of different title belts including WBC Super Welterweight National Champion , IKKC USA Kickboxing Champion, IMTC World Middleweight Champion, and IKBA International Kickboxing Champion. His interest in sports led him to take up running at age 11 and martial arts at 17. He ran for the Canadian National Track Team in Barcelona in 1992 and in Berlin in 1994. So the man has accomplished many feats that people with all of their limbs will never come close to.

What an amazing person to not let something like a missing limb be an excuse for not doing the things he wants to do in life.

Coaching these types of athletes has proven to be something that I love. I find that people with disabilities in one area of their person, always make up for it with excellent strengths in other areas. A person who is blind is known to have better hearing than others. The other senses seem to be amplified when one is absent. This has been true about everyone I have had the privilege to coach that has a disability. I hope this goes to show those of us with no disabilities that if we were to have half the drive and determination of those who were told they couldn’t do something because of a disability; that we are only limited by our own minds. More power to all of those out there trying to do what they dream.

Reasons for Kids to Practice Martial Arts Continued

To catch up on the blog I started, I haven’t really discussed reasons for kids to practice martial arts lately and I feel that we need a reminder. I happened upon an article that was talking about this subject so I named the reasons they gave and am giving my opinion of those reasons.

Their fifth reason was that kids will be able to connect their mind and body. Once again, I have to agree with this notion overall. I believe they are talking about a more spiritual sense here as opposed to a more coordinated physical body. When reading their reasoning, it is apparent that they are talking about the spirituality of Martial Arts. By there reasoning, it would always depend on the individual. If your child wants to participate in Martial Arts because they want to win medals or not fear bullies (which are perfectly acceptable reasons), they will most likely not tune into the spiritual side, especially if they are in boxing or wrestling. Now, connecting your thoughts to how you perform physically is how I would say they gain an advantage. I would say this is true for sports in general.

It boosts agility, speed, power, and response when you participate in physical activities.

Hand-eye coordination is also a great benefit to connecting your mind with your body.

A great one, is learning conflict resolution is another reason according to the article. I would say that problem solving is probably a more accurate answer. I know many a child that gets into several conflicts weekly and needs an adult to intervene. These same children probably have the behavior reinforced at school and home, so Martial Arts, in my opinion wouldn’t be any more advantageous to conflict resolution than any other aspect of their life. Problem solving is also learned at home and school, so my opinion of this reason isn’t that it is wrong, just not any more beneficial than other areas.

Reason seven is that they will learn to breathe (properly at the right time). I concur fully, but again, it must be taught correctly. I have seen many instructors that don’t emphasize breathing properly. For people who don’t know what I’m talking about, the article and I are talking about proper breathing technique. Proper breathing technique would be exhaling while exerting force such as a fast twitch movement to throw someone in Judo, or deliver a knee in Muay Thai. This technique extends to inhaling correctly for recovery between techniques. This is a great reason for kids to join Martial Arts because it can prevent injuries and help them achieve optimal training for whatever sport they choose to participate in.

If you are still skeptical about making the long term commitment to a Martial Art for your child, visit a few schools but chances are you have a friend, or friend of a friend who is already enjoying the benefits and will be happy to guide you on your first steps. Many schools offer trial options, especially for younger kids, so you don’t need to make a huge financial commitment up front if you feel that it isn’t for your child. It really can’t hurt, as I discussed, there are a lot of great reasons to start and not any good reasons to keep putting it off.

Reasons for Kids to Practice Martial Arts

I have been a youth Martial Arts coach for well over 14 years. I have my B.A. in Psychology and I consider myself to be an expert in Martial Arts, even more so when it comes to kids in Martial Arts. I just read an article about kids in Martial arts. Others share my consideration because I have been around kids when interviewed about participating in Martial Arts by very well known media groups as well as producers. I could go into way more detail, but that isn’t the purpose of this blog. The purpose of my previous statements was to simply let readers know that I am qualified to express my professional and personal opinions about this subject.

Back to the business of this article I read. First I will go over all of the reasons they gave. Reason number one was that they (and you) will get more active. With this being true, it doesn’t necessarily differentiate Martial Arts from other sports or activities. Playing football, baseball, basketball, or any sport would obviously make them more active. To me, Martial Arts does encourage more activity than if your child would have otherwise been watching TV or playing video games. Is this a good reason to get your child in Martial Arts? Certainly it is if your child is not normally active.

Reason number two was that they will find focus and stillness. I can say that this may be true for most Martial Arts but I do object a little to this statement. Stillness AND focus? Focus certainly will have to be utilized if a child wants to excel at anything. Having a child focus on technique or remembering movements is a positive for sure. Stillness is the word I have a little trouble with. If you are speaking about Karate forms, you will deal with stillness, however when we are talking about martial arts like Jiu-Jitsu or Judo, stillness isn’t what your child is being taught. I guess there is context to this statement, but stillness is probably taught better in school than a Martial Arts studio. Teaching focus is a great reason, but stillness is limited to a very few Martial Arts.

Reason number three
was an interesting one to me, and I quote “They’ll learn to take hits.” When considering Martial Arts, I always include wrestling and boxing. Your child will most certainly learn to take hits in most Martial Arts, but there are several that do not concentrate on striking an opponent. There are no strikes in Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, Wrestling, or Submission Grappling. Maybe a better reason would have been that it would toughen them up in ways. Learning to take a hit or deal with pain (that isn’t an actual injury) can certainly add character as well as teach kids that not everything that happens to us will mean the end of the world. I agree with the philosophy behind the notion, but not with the practicality.

I agree fully with reason number four although it does put two concepts in the same reason. The article says that they will gain self confidence and self respect. These are two terms that are separate virtues.

Confidence and respect are not the same.

With that point aside, I agree that all Martial Arts, when taught correctly, help kids gain confidence in themselves. A child that has skills to defend themselves fears less. They fear social interaction with other kids less, they fear the potential of being bullied less, they fear authority less, and they fear impending failure less. Martial Arts is full of success and failure, so that is a lesson they learn. Self respect is a more difficult notion to sell but if you have respect for yourself, you will have more respect for the people and objects around you. Picking up after yourself, good hygiene, leadership, and sociability are taught in Martial Arts and all can help build self-respect.

This blog is getting long, so, to be continued next week…

Setting Goals

It occurred to me the other day that my son has been in Martial Arts more of his life, than he has been without it. To clarify, he started taking classes at 4 years old, and he is almost 11 now. So the first 4 years of his life, although he watched a lot of Bruce Lee and tagged along with me to coaching events, he didn’t actually participate in anything organized. The 6 years after that, he had actively taken classes and competed as a martial artist. He has done more wrestling tournaments than I can count, he has done at least 20 grappling tournaments, and he has 10 pankration fights. So his wealth of actual experience is already impressive. When I was growing up, there were some karate tournaments, scattered wrestling tournaments, and that was pretty much it as far as martial arts competitions went. The thought just reiterated that martial arts needed to be where they are today.

The ranking systems in traditional martial arts give people a goal. Karate black belts were revered by all who knew of their status. When I was a kid, getting that black belt was all I cared about. I would do whatever tasks the instructor gave me.

I would study my kata harder than I would study for school.

It was important to me. Would I be any better the day I received my black belt than the day before when I was still a brown belt? No, but my status would change to everyone around me and I could brag about my accomplishment at every opportunity. People, especially kids, need to measure their progress by accomplishing goals. How much more clear could it be than a belt ranking system. Your accomplishments are very specific in these terms. Goal setting is the first step toward successful goal achievement. It marks your first point toward success. It is what puts your life into real and measureable action.

The main reasons for setting goals can be obvious to us all. It gives us clarity on our end vision. If we believe it, we can achieve it. Goals drive us forward and keep us from looking back. We have to accomplish tiny mini goals to achieve big goals. That one move of a kata we can’t perfect takes time and effort so we must accomplish that before we can do the entire kata. This gives us laser focus. Laser focus on small tasks is what gives us the accomplished goal endgame. One of the best reasons for setting goals is that it holds us accountable. If we say we are going to do something, and we aren’t working towards it, there are consequences. If we have consequences, we are accountable. In conclusion, we should set goals in anything we do, but in Martial Arts it is almost mandatory.

Kid’s MMA

So I have made it abundantly clear that I support Kid’s in martial arts and kids competing in the different disciplines of MMA. I have also talked about Pankration which is the closest thing to kid’s MMA available. It allows striking and grappling but does away with the more dangerous aspects. The show I am involved in allows kids to get themselves into the spotlight. They walk out to their choice of songs, they participate in a cage, and they get all the aspects of a big show without the danger of being struck in the head or having a heel hook tear their knee. There are obvious reasons that kids shouldn’t fight in full blown MMA fights.

I always say that it doesn’t matter when a fighter starts, they have a shelf life.

Your body can only take so much of the abuse involved in the training and competing in MMA. If you get kids started young in full rules MMA, their bodies wouldn’t be able to take that kind of abuse for years and years. With that all said, there are countries that condone extremely violent competition for kids. Muay Thai in Thailand is one such example. Some of these kids turn pro at the tender age of 8 and accumulate hundreds of fights before they are teenagers. Craziness that is engrained in their society and is perfectly acceptable in their culture.

A recent story making the rounds comes out of Russia. Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov made news in Russia, and the world after his three sons aged between 8 and 10 fought in the ring in a brutal mixed martial arts contest. This is a breach of rules in Russia. In video footage posted by Kadyrov on Instagram, his 10-year-old son Akhmad is shown knocking his opponent out within seconds at the contest in Grozny, watched by his father in the audience. The head of the Russian Mixed Martial Arts Union, Fedor Emelianenko, condemned the holding of the children’s fights during the Grand Prix Akhmat-2016 competition in Chechen capital Grozny. Where he was quoted as saying “What happened at the tournament in Grozny is unacceptable and cannot be justified.” The children’s fights were announced, under false pretenses, as exhibition performances in order to clear the red tape, but were far from that.

Emelianenko said that children under 12 are not allowed to compete and those over 12 are supposed to wear a helmet.

I am really outraged by the fact that Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov was watching all of this.” ~ Fedor Emelianenko

Stated by Emelianenko, a famous fighter, is a member of President Vladimir Putin’s council on developing physical culture and sport. Russia’s sports ministry said it would investigate. “We will find out about this situation and we will request information on this,” deputy sports minister Pavel Kolobkov told TASS state news agency. Kadyrov was inaugurated for a third term on Wednesday after winning almost 98 percent of the vote. The muscle-bound leader regularly posts photographs of his gym sessions. Often called “fight without rules” in Russian, the combat discipline of mixed martial arts allows blows with legs and hands. Putin is apparently a fan and in 2011 climbed into the ring at a tournament in Moscow to congratulate Emelianenko on beating American Jeff Monson, who has since acquired a Russian passport.

Not mentioning the trauma involved to the body of a young child, it can certainly have mental repercussions as well. I don’t need to let you know that the benefits of martial arts far outweigh the negatives, but MMA is not a sport that kids should be exposed to at a young age. Martial Arts Styles are complex and can aid the physical, mental, and emotional development of children. The art of beating people up and being rewarded for knockouts is far from what kids should be taught. Pretty insane stuff, but at least an Icon in MMA is doing his part to make sure this type of thing doesn’t happen again.

Jessica Alba, a Child Martial Arts Expert?

The fact that any actress, who really has no idea what is involved, would make such an unfounded and idiotic comment usually wouldn’t warrant a response from me, but Jessica Alba struck a nerve. I can’t say I was ever a fan, but I never really disliked her either. She was neither here nor there. Now Jessica Alba is the latest actress to go public with her disdain of “violence,” claiming that her daughters, ages 8 and 5, aren’t allowed to watch violent movies, even the ones with her in it. The question isn’t why would anyone let their kids watch R-rated movies, but rather why would they allow them to and not explain the issues as a responsible parent, or have them cover their eyes at the seedy parts? This comment was not the problem however. This was more of a personal choice she makes when it comes to the rearing of her own children.

She didn’t leave well enough alone at that point, Alba then said that she won’t even let her kids see her train Krav Maga. It is proven that women especially benefit from this kind of training so they are less likely to be victims of assault. It also brings balance through fitness and exercise. A reasonably educated person, especially a martial artist, would think Alba would see the benefit of teaching girls self defense. It isn’t necessary, but highly encouraged for all women to have self-defense training, because it is great exercise which keeps you healthy, strong, and confident. What’s bad about modeling that to children?

My son has been in BJJ, wrestling, and Pankration since he was 4. If any kid on the playground should make the mistake of trying to beat down my ten-year-old, he could end that attack and diffuse the situation within seconds with nice takedown and reasonably applied choke. My son has been in a gym literally since he was weeks old. He has sat by my side to watch live Muay Thai fights, countless Pro and Amateur MMA fights, and every other type of competition you can think of. He has trained and competed in several styles including Pankration and wrestling since he was very young.

Guess what, he is the most non-confrontational and least violent kid you will ever meet.

He has actually been punched in the head after beating a very competitive kid in a wrestling match and laughed it off.

I don’t think someone who is as detached from the real world, like a wildly famous Hollywood actress has any idea what the benefits of martial arts training can do for children. Just because you are the type of person who emulates others for a living, doesn’t mean that children are going to make the wrong decision and become violent or traumatized. As a matter of fact, Martial Arts will teach them the opposite. Before someone makes comments like hers, they should be informed and do their research. Hopefully those children are not bullied or encounter a situation later in life in order for Jessica Alba to learn a painful lesson on why Martial Arts helps children, not hurts them. Jessica needs to get a clue.

Oops, They Did It Again.

There have been many stories done about a very controversial subject. ESPN, Fox, CNN, many others before the latest National Geographic piece it has been covered in the U.S. by production companies all over the world.. The sport of kid’s martial arts, or pankration to be exact. Now there have been honest articles that go in depth about the league, the gyms, the children, and the families of the children. For the most part, I believe that journalists come in thinking that they are going to uncover some crazy dad who is living his life through his son, but that is hardly the case. Pankration has actually been around since the early greek days and Olympics. It started out as a mix of boxing and wrestling. This is the sport that the USFL or United States Fight League has fought so vehemently to legalize. They actually succeeded.

It is very important to note the differences between pankration and MMA as these differences are major.

First of all and easiest to see when you witness a contest, there are absolutely no strikes of any kind allowed to the head.

All strikes are aimed at the body and legs of the opponent. The strikes have to be executed with proper technique and throwing haymakers is penalized. With that major difference out of the way, the other differences are more subtle and they differ between the different age groups. Knees are allowed with the older children but elbows are not allowed at all. There are not twisting locks like heel hooks or other submissions that have a high probability of injury. Submissions must be applied with controlled force, so if someone lands an armbar, they can’t just jerk it as hard as possible, they have to use applied pressure and allow the opponent the opportunity to tap before injury. Even if they opponent doesn’t tap, the referee will stop the bout and consider the fight over via submission. The entire sport is aimed at the safety of children.

Now there are some serious protestors. I feel that most of the protest is due to a lack of education about the rules. People see the pictures or hear kid’s MMA and automatically say it is wrong. The major argument for pankration is that other sports in themselves are far more dangerous for kids. They are much more likely to get injured skateboarding or football. Not only that, there are sports currently legal that are much less safe. Kid’s full contact karate, Jiujitsu, and even wrestling yield more injuries per participant than Pankration does. Meticulous safety records are actually kept by the USFL and they are available to all of the naysayers. So if those people who protest the sport actually learn the rules and see the tract record of the contests, they may not be as quick to judge. This is absolutely nothing like amateur or professional mixed martial arts. National Geographic did what many companies before did, they portrayed it as actual mixed martial arts and left out a lot of the safety protocols practiced by league and promoters.

With all of that said, the question of “why” even do it may still be asked. Why is it necessary? Well, it isn’t, but it is a sport and just like the kids of yesteryear who looked up to Reggie Jackson or Joe Namath, kids nowadays look up to UFC fighters. Those same kids may be martial artists. The problem with MMA for a long time was that there was really no way to be an amateur like the options in boxing, wrestling, and other martial arts. In most sports, you can practice in school and you can even participate in tournaments as a kid. Nothing like that is available for MMA for kids except pankration. If you want to be the best at something, you have a serious advantage if you are afforded the opportunity to learn and participate at a young age. The best wrestlers and boxers in the world participated in USA boxing and wrestling as kids and now kids who participate in Pankration can have that same chance to become professionals with a wealth of experience.