Eastern Green primary school, the current home of my regular classes in Coventry, is always a joy to run workshops with. The children are always keen, enthusiastic and eager to learn. Over time I have learnt to start sessions I hold at schools with a strict “riot act” and it’s not uncommon for me to stop everything in order to bring some order to the teaching. However, I didn’t have to do this once, meaning that despite the very limited time I had with each class we were able to get through a lot.
Typical classes included some shadow-boxing and specific movement exercises, followed by some ground grappling games – “crazy baby” for butterfly guard and “touch the head” for a long range guard. They also did some clinch/stand-up transitioning exercises on the focus mitts.
MMA is a sport that has courted extreme controversy since the Ultimate Fighting Championship began. Since then it has evolved into a huge commercial spectacle. It’s developed tremendous athletes who are on the cutting edge of physical training, and merged different fighting disciplines in a way that Bruce Lee could have only dreamed. The involvement of children in MMA is still relatively new and comes with its own controversy. Despite MMA media vying only with western boxing as the most watched combat sport in the world, there are many who still think of it as the bloodsport spectacle that went with its original promotion. The early days of the UFC saw it being banned in many states. Therefore when the first bouts involving children started being seen in the USA, it was not surprising it would garner premature criticism. The truth is MMA is very highly regulated. Even when it had far fewer rules than it does have today, the sport was not as dangerous other full contact activities. Children’s MMA is an exciting and rewarding sport, which can be done safely if it is carefully monitored by good coaches and officials. In the UK today more and more clubs are holding inter-club sparring matches between youngsters, and the future is looking very promising.