Thursday, September 22, 2011
A video of two eight-year old British boys cage fighting has gone viral. The children were not wearing protective padding or head gear as they grappled in front of a large adult audience. Cage fighting, or mixed martial arts (MMA,) is the fastest growing adult sport in the world.
Former presidential candidate John McCain famously called such events "human cockfighting." I agree.
Wikipedia describes MMA as "a full contact combat sport that allows the use of both striking and grappling techniques, both standing and on the ground, including boxing, wrestling, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Muay Thai, Kickboxing, Karate, Judo and other styles."
Children as young as four are being encouraged to participate by parents whose credentials for parenthood should be revoked, in my opinion.
The British culture minister, Jeremy Hunt, condemned the match as "barbaric," but Nick Hartley, the father of one of the boys, insisted that his son was not in any danger. "He loves the sport. It's not one bit dangerous, it's a controlled sport. He likes to do it, he's never forced to do it, he wants to do it, so leave him to do it," Hartley told the BBC. "Until he gets a bit older and he starts doing physical contact, kicking and punching, then maybe, but at his age it's wrestling, like grappling." Lancashire police said it had "looked into this matter fully and there are no issues for us to pursue"
Chris Cloke, head of child protection awareness at children's charity NSPCC, said: "We would strongly discourage parents from letting their children take part in this kind of fighting. It's quite disturbing that some of those involved in the bouts were as young as eight, an age when they are still developing, physically and mentally. The organisers of these activities should think very carefully before allowing children to be involved when they are egged on to inflict violence."
The sport's violence has provoked controversy everywhere. It's illegal in New York and Connecticut but in Tennessee, where it is popular, boys fight boys, girls fight girls, and sometimes boys fight girls while their moms cheer them on. Christie Hawkersmith, the wife of a fighting gym's owner in Winchester, Tennessee, insists there are strict safety precautions for kids in mixed martial arts bouts.
"Under 18, they cannot punch to the face, it's not an all-out brawl. They learn skills and they try to master those skills," she said. Her husband added that the kids learn discipline and self-esteem, and that people who think mixed martial arts too violent for youngsters are ill informed."It's a proven fact that football has more injuries, and more severe injuries, than [mixed martial arts] by far," said owner Bunny Hawkersmith.
Four-year-old twins Danika and Nyomi Arellano are already seasoned competitors. When they are not in the cage at Bunny's gym, they like to take part in beauty pageants. It's a split decision on which type of event they prefer.
"Pageant," said Danika.
"MMA," said Nyomi.
And what is their mother's view of the controversial sport? Rita Arellano admits she has mixed emotions when she sees her daughters fight. "Deep inside yeah, it's like, Uhhh! It's hard to see your kid. You want them to win, but you don't want to see them get hurt."
One of the top three movies this past weekend was the mixed martial arts film Warrior, starring Tom Hardy and Nick Nolte. Is the moribund economy causing a general increase in violence, or have we devolved into a society that really doesn't care about others? We still have states endorsing and even celebrating the death penalty, and in a presidential debate last week, the audience cheered loudly for those without medical insurance to be allowed to die.
What manner of self esteem is instilled by training young children to maim other young children? Is this really the kind of world we want our children to inhabit? Really?