Millions of children in the United States enjoy taking martial arts classes. They offer a great way to teach discipline and self-defense as well as building confidence. If your kid wants to take it a step further and take MMA lessons, you probably are a bit concerned about safety. Mixed martial arts certainly can be dangerous; there are some ways to minimize the risks.

Keep in mind that your child won’t be thrown into a cage and begin sparring on the first day. Not only does it take a great deal of training to get to a level of competition, when your child does compete, he will be wearing a variety of pieces of protective gear, including head gear, shin guards and other pieces of equipment. Also keep in mind that most sports pose some risk to the body, including the most popular kid sports such as baseball and football.

While all sports certainly teach some level of discipline and sportsmanship, the main goal of baseball or another sport is to win a game. With youth MMA, kids aren’t going after each other in the cage, beating each other up. At the young levels, prior to age 16, especially, children are simply learning a variety of MMA skills. They do spar with one another, but at a good school this is done in such as way to minimize injury. The goal of youth MMA is to help improve the ability to defend oneself, as well as building confidence and improving a person’s overall fitness and discipline.

Whether you are worried about safety or not, before you sign your child up for MMA classes, spend some time finding the right gym. Go in and spend some time talking with the instructors and ask about their philosophy. Observe a few classes within different age groups and see for yourself what is being taught. You want to see instructors that are respected but not intimidating and focused on self improvement and not on teaching aggressive behavior. If it looks like the Cobra Kai dojo from The Karate Kid, find another place.

There are also other options to think about, allowing your child to learn some great skills that would progress into mixed martial arts. For example, instead of learning a mix of martial arts, consider working on just one skill until they are older. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is hugely popular these days and provides many skills that move seamlessly into MMA. Most Jiu-Jitsu schools focus on building confidence and skills and never on fostering aggression.

Other options to consider are taking wrestling classes, Judo, Karate or Taekwondo, rather than boxing, Muay Thai or kickboxing as the latter three often can be a bit riskier. You can certainly learn boxing and Muay Thai skills without working against an opponent, and your child can wait until he or she is older before they use these skills against an opponent.

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