Enrolling your kid in any sport can be a tricky decision. There are a lot of factors you need to balance – things like time, cost, and safety. Will they enjoy it? Will they be any good? Is their interest just a passing phase? You might choose the sport for them, or they might decide for themselves.
Whether it’s your child’s idea or yours, deciding to enrol in mixed martial arts means answering all those same questions. Only you can know if MMA is right for your child.
If you have decided that you’d like your kid to try out MMA, be open and honest with them. They might be nervous and you should talk with them about any fears they have. Even very young kids will be able to understand that there are benefits and negatives to any sport. And don’t forget to be honest with yourself about why you want them to join!
It’s not boring
As the name suggests, MMA takes elements from many martial arts and combines them into a full-contact sport. As an outsider, it can look like anything is allowed, but there are actually rules, especially for younger practitioners, that are designed to protect fighters.
Unlike other more traditional martial arts, MMA doesn’t rely on drills and rote learning. It is a demanding and skilful sport that will really test your child both physically and mentally. In a nutshell, it won’t ever be boring.
Find ways to emphasize that martial arts are serious but also fun. Movies like Kung Fu Panda, Karate Kid, and Ninja Turtles are obvious choices. But the Marvel films (Batman, Captain America) can be a great way to get them excited too. “Wouldn’t it be amazing to be able to do that? I bet it takes a lot of practice, but I bet you could do it!”
Act out some of your favourite action sequences together. You can start with figurines or Lego, and then start to get more physical.
Be careful not to be too serious. Yes, martial arts are a discipline, but kids are kids and it should still be fun.
If your child is shy, MMA can be a clever choice. Classes offer a mix of group training and sparring. So if they’re introverted, or nervous in large groups, they know that they’ll soon be interacting one-on-one. Or if they find it hard to deal with other kids on an individual level, they can still feel secure within the larger group.
Even if your child isn’t shy, MMA will give them an opportunity to meet different kids.
Reassure your child that everyone in the gym is looking out for each other. They’re all working to become better, not to beat each other. A good teacher will make sure that even the most boisterous kid will be careful with their opponent. The Avengers movies are a great example of people working together. “Wouldn’t it be fun to be in a gang like that?”
Unlike swimming, there are no 5 am trips to the pool when training with MMA. Sure, this appeals to you as a parent! But most kids will like it too. “There’s a gym right next to grandma’s,” you can say. Or near their best friend’s house or on the way home from school.
Even when they’re not at the gym, they can practice at home. Create a small space that’s just for them – a few clear feet they can call their own and practice in.
Practicing MMA is not the same as fighting. When kids are training, they are in secure surroundings. They are encouraged to push their own limits, not hurt their teammate. If your child does get involved and starts participating in tournaments, there are strict rules in place that can be generalized as ‘don’t be nasty.’ You’re not allowed to go for the groin or eyes, no head butting, and you can’t try to bend fingers. Of course, we all know that head injuries can be devastating. In kids MMA, attacks to the head are completely forbidden.
You’ll have lots of reasons for wanting to get your kid into MMA. Maybe you want them to improve their confidence and overall fitness. Or you could be a practitioner yourself and want to train together. You can be strongly encouraging, but keep in mind it’s still your kid’s choice. Make it sound fun and exciting – which it is! – and that should be enough to get even the shyest kid to give it a go.