And yet every day, parents are encouraging their kids to try it. It's Mixed Martial Arts -- MMA to us fans -- and it's becoming a worldwide phenomenon. To the untrained eye, it looks like two people are beating each other to a pulp without regard or remorse. But that's just not true. Yes, a professional bout can get a little bloody, but MMA fighters generally have the utmost respect for themselves and each other. That's part of the reason parents shouldn't be afraid to let their kids kick, punch and grapple.
Nobody seems to have a problem with Karate or Tae Kwon Do classes for youths, but throw in some actual bodily contact and folks get nervous. (Even though football and hockey players routinely get smashed around.) I'm not saying I want my little girl fighting, but if you talk to any MMA fighter, he (or she) will tell you that it's a way for them to challenge and discover themselves physically and mentally. It's also an incredible confidence-booster, especially for smaller kids: The ground fighting technique called Jiu-Jitsu is all about using leverage against an opponent, not brute muscular strength -- so quite often, the little guys win. How refreshing!
Before having a son, my friend thought she was against letting kids fight. Now with a four-year-old ball of energy who instinctively wants to wrestle and punch, she figures, "why not let him learn the proper way?" I add to that what I've witnessed first-hand: the self-awareness that comes with knowing how to fight tends to make people turn the other cheek when provoked outside of the gym. I don't know if that's true for chickens Mr. McCain, but it is for humans.