MMA madness has Gen Z aaaaaaall fired up.
Yep, thanks to the incredible popularity of UFC, Mixed Martial Arts has become the fastest-growing sport in the world and the most popular combat sport in Australia.
But should MMA – a combination of the world’s fighting styles like Brazilian jiu-jitsu, taekwondo, karate and kick-boxing – be a school sport?
To date, there’s been little research into it.
However, one principal who grew weary of dealing with playground fighting in New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty says yes.
“Everyday I was getting called out to the playground breaking up fights,” said Tāneatua School principal Marama Stewart to 1 News.
“At times there would be three staff in the playground trying to break up fights”.
Less violent than rugby?
Stewart was watching a UFC fight when she had the idea to implement MMA as a sporting elective in her school’s curriculum.
“I was watching these guys fight and they were really, really calm and it seemed the person who could stay the calmest won the match. And I thought wouldn’t it be great if our kids could stay calm,” she said.
Stewart says MMA has been popular with her students, who have developed resilience since taking up the sport at school.
“It’s actually less violent than rugby. You think about those tackles and they don’t stay calm in a scrum do they?”
“But you’ll see our kids and they have some pretty big hits and they’ll pop up with a smile.”
She’s got a point.
And negative perceptions of MMA (John McCain formerly likened it to ‘human cockfighting’) have indeed backflipped in recent years as the sport developed and implemented stringent rules and introduced weight classes.
But how safe is MMA for kids?
TMAA Tauranga says the key to keeping kids and young adults safe is to incorporate discipline, dedication and respect for others.
“If MMA is taught with the traditional values of a traditional martial art, then not only is it safe, but it should build strength of character which will eliminate bullying or other anti-social activities,” says TMAA Tauranga.
“If this approach is taken with the delivery of a kids MMA program, combined with instilling strong traditional values, then the students understand that they are there to compete on the mats and are not out there just to beat up their opponent.
“They understand that they are participating in a sport, and just like rugby, soccer, netball or any other sport, there are rules they must follow.
So what do you think, Australia? Is it time for school students to jump in the ring?