A Peek Into the World of Children’s MMA

Screen Shot 2013-11-08 at 12.57.34 PM

Picture: Sebastian Montalvo/Polaris (C)

CNN covers the controversial world of children’s cage fighting. What do you think, disinfonauts? Barbaric or an acceptable recreational activity for children? Compare it to children’s karate or wrestling. Compare to the fall of Rome. Consider whether you would let your own children do it, if applicable. Use the space below to comment. You must show your work. Use a number two pencil and close your test booklet when you are done.

By the way, I’ve linked to a copy of the story at MMA Share’s site in order to avoid CNN’s nightmarish slideshow maze, but if you’re interested in navigating the gallery you can click here.

Welcome to Thunderdome, where winners and losers can be as young as age 5.

It’s called kids’ MMA, or Mixed Martial Arts, and New York-based photographer Sebastian Montalvo pulls back the curtain on one of the nation’s fastest growing youth sports, which claims more than 3 million boys and girls.

Some call kids’ MMA a disturbing new facet of American culture tainted with safety and behavior issues, but supporters tout it as a tool that encourages discipline, exercise and self-confidence. Little League Baseball, this ain’t.




23 Comments on "A Peek Into the World of Children’s MMA"

  1. emperorreagan | Nov 8, 2013 at 2:08 pm |

    It’s like a kiddy pageant, except with the added potential for damaging brain function in the long term!

    • howiebledsoe | Nov 8, 2013 at 2:18 pm |

      Brilliant! Mixing pageants with MMA would kick ass!!!

    • Ted Heistman | Nov 8, 2013 at 2:22 pm |

      They actually don’t do strikes, from what I understand.

      • emperorreagan | Nov 8, 2013 at 2:55 pm |

        The article mentions punching and kicking, so I assumed it was straight-forward MMA. The pictures on the CNN site are weird – shirtless little kids fighting, crying, and one guy caught mid-scream.

        I would differentiate between letting a kid do either a non-striking art or an art that delays tournaments until much later (I think Tae Kwon Do bodies don’t typically sanction tournaments until late teens).

        • Ted Heistman | Nov 8, 2013 at 3:50 pm |

          yeah, I thing Grappling is challenging enough for young kids.

          • Matt Staggs | Nov 8, 2013 at 5:04 pm |

            It’s challenging for us adults, too! 🙂

            I have a hard enough time controlling sparring partners just rolling. I can’t imagine adding strikes to the mix right now.

          • Ted Heistman | Nov 8, 2013 at 5:21 pm |

            You are a beast Matt, rolling everyday! I kind of regret dropping out of college. High school wrestling was kind of a disaster, but I had more confidence in college after getting out of the Army. But I remember even then kind of holding back, and practicing with lower level guys. There was an all American on my team and I rolled with him a few times. I remember thinking “wow if I could put up with getting my ass kicked everyday in practice I might get really good eventually” I remember considering the kind of obsession that would require and kind of pulling back and playing it just a little bit safer. We did go at it hard a few times, I even caught him once or twice, but I just couldn’t put up with that level of intensity day after day. Then after I got married and got a full time job and dropped out of college I realized most things really don’t compare to that kind of a challenge.

          • Adam's Shadow | Nov 8, 2013 at 9:34 pm |

            I can relate to both of you gentleman: I used to roll at least three times a week, and it was a battle every day, but since I got a full-time teaching gig and with a newborn to help take care of, I haven’t been able to do shit in terms of martial arts. I’m even lucky to jog to the fucking mailbox. God, I miss it.

        • Matt Staggs | Nov 8, 2013 at 5:04 pm |

          Yeah, I think that they don’t do strikes to the face or slams to the mat. I agree that a good traditional martial art would be a safer alternative, and an excellent base from which to pursue an MMA career if the kids become interested later.

  2. Ted Heistman | Nov 8, 2013 at 2:24 pm |

    I wonder how old kids in Thailand start training for muy thai?

    • Eric_D_Read | Nov 8, 2013 at 2:31 pm |

      5 or 6 is not unusual.

      • Ted Heistman | Nov 8, 2013 at 2:37 pm |

        yeah, I think strikes should be for later. Most of the best MMA fighters have a wrestling base anyway. Thailand doesn’t value human life as much, I am afraid.

        • Eric_D_Read | Nov 8, 2013 at 4:34 pm |

          I can’t seem to find the link, but I read an article not too long ago about how a popular thing is to take promising young Thai boxers out to the border regions to have bare-knuckle fights with Khmer kids.

          I’m talking about 12-13 years old and they’re treated like pro fights, betting and all. For the most part it’s much better trained Thai kids just beating the hell out of the Khmer kids.

  3. Great_Ape | Nov 8, 2013 at 3:12 pm |

    In my estimation, it’s wrong – both physically and psychologically, it could be so bad for kids. If you want ‘discipline, exercise and confidence’ you’d be far better off sending your kids to a good traditional martial art. Save MMA for later.

  4. DeepCough | Nov 8, 2013 at 5:40 pm |

    A recent study has found that there is a positive correlation between child exploitation and making lots of cash money.

  5. InfvoCuernos | Nov 8, 2013 at 7:45 pm |

    My gut says “hey, this ain’t right” but then I remember my own childhood, and this is pretty tame. Anybody ever have “rock fights”? How about “sword battles”? I am from the pre-helmet generation. Sometimes I think my parents were actively trying to get rid of me.

  6. Monkey See Monkey Do | Nov 9, 2013 at 3:32 am |

    It’s barbaric. And a good way to indoctrinate kids into their future in the world of capitalism. It’s similar to how high school operates.

  7. Conspiracy Carrot | Nov 9, 2013 at 8:56 am |

    Speeding up the asshole-ization process of violent American youth. Good idea, mom and dad.

  8. The sport is FILA Pankration. It is sanctioned and governed by FILA, the same organization that governs Olympic Wrestling. All the folks making the negative comments need to remember what some wise adult once told you, “Don’t believe everything you read”

    No Strikes to the Head, No Slams, No Dangerous Submissions, Submissions must be applied gradually, No more than 3 scoring strikes from any position, No takedowns that drive the head into the mat, No neck cranks, furthermore attempt to injure your opponent will result in disqualification and a possible ban from further competition.

    It’s not Thunderdome for kids and shame on Sebastian Montalvo for cherry picking a handful of pictures and putting a sensational spin on them. One comment is right on though, it’s not Little League Baseball. Little League Baseball exposes it’s participants to some unique injury risks which result in the death of one or two athletes a year.

    If you are interested in some factual information about the sport of Pankration you can find it at FILA’s main website or at fightleague.org


  9. AManCalledDa-da | Nov 9, 2013 at 1:31 pm |

    Parents who allow their kids to do this should, and probably will, get a visit from CPS. Either that, or their kids will sue them in later years. Both actions will be valid.

  10. If you are interested in an honest and informed discussion on this topic I’m curious why you won’t post my comment?

  11. TyReese Hutchison | Mar 4, 2014 at 7:16 pm |

    Interested in some information from someone who has actual experience with the issue in question here? I would hope so. My daughter is a pankration fighter who, like most kids in the sport, also trains in Jiu jitsu, judo, and wrestling. I, myself, am an EMT who has served as an on site medic for many many of these shows. What you need to realize is that a lot of what you see on the internet is not a true representation of reality. The organization my daughter fights under is the one being considered for delegation to sanction youth pankration by the California State Athletic They have extensive rules. Too many to list, actually. No striking to the head, no elbows, no slamming, no wild, uncontrolled striking, many submission holds are disallowed, etc. Yes, there are takedowns, same as you’d see at any Judo or Wrestling tournament. Yes, there are strikes, same as you would see at any boxing, Tae Kwon Do or Karate competition.(However, they allow head strikes and we don’t) Yes, there are submissions, same as you would see at any Jiu Jitsu tournament. It’s a combination of the arts. It’s a competition, testing the kids’ combined skills. It’s not violence. Anyone who says so is seriously ignorant and misinformed. I know the imagery can be distrurbing to the uninitiated, but intelligent people should be able to realize that things aren’t always what they seem, especially when dealing with “journalism”. I was at one of the show where Sebastian Montalvo was INVITED to film. It quickly became obvious what his aim was and his crew had to be told that if all they were going to do was wait for a kid to cry and then go shove a camera is his face, they would be invited to leave.

    Here are the facts, from my real experience: ZERO concussions in three years. Most, if not all, of the injuries I have witnessed have been minor. Most, if not all, of the injuries have been from either takedowns or submission techniques, not from striking, which is the aspect of the sport that most viewers react strongly to. I have seen many more injuries at Jiu Jitsu tournaments, precisely because all they can do is takedowns and submissions. So the striking actually takes away from the most injurious aspect of the sport, making it safer. Injury rate over last three years? 4.5% Concussion rate, ALONE, for youth football? 4%. Most of the kids who fight in our organization have GPA’s above 3.0. There is no money made here. Most of the competitions are free for competitors and promoters usually barely break even on spectator fees.

    If you want to avoid risk for your children, don’t ever let them out of the house. If you want them to experience anything rewarding or fulfilling, there is going to be some risk. There is no way you can gain an accurate perspective on this or anything by watching a short video clip, especially a seriously doctored one, or reading a story about a story that somebody else wrote about a video that another somebody else filmed. You can’t even gain an accurate perpective by going to an actual show, though that would help, especially after you see how normal and well adjusted these kids actually are. An accurate perspective starts the day you enroll your kid in a class and continues as you see them work hard, have fun, perfect their skills AND learn values such as respect, self control, obedience and carry those values into competition. This whole thing is mostly about self defense. All self defense systems have competitive outlets. That’s all this is, really. The value in it, in my opinion, is that it ACTUALLY prepares kids to EFFECTIVELY defend themselves and those who can’t do so against someone who is ACTUALLY bent on hurting them, unlike many systems where sparring is like playing pattycakes and dancing(kata) is equated with fighting skill. So many people see kids doing this sport and ASSUME, not only without any evidence but CONTRARY to what the vast amount of the evidence suggests, that these kids are violent and maladjusted or heading in that direction. And that just is not the truth. I say stop being the pawns of the sensationalist media and do a little work. Actually talk to someone who is involved.

Comments are closed.