As a middle-aged adult and social worker, I should not be surprised by some of incredibly stupid, irresponsible things some parents do. I know there is a very real cultural divide in this country and sometimes primitive values related to gender roles and self-defense are going to be foisted on suspecting children by parents who are just a step or two away from getting a visit from their county’s office of child protective services. That said, I found this story frightening and shocking. This is right up there with finding out that white slavery is taking place in almost every urban center in America.
Two things in particular scare me the most this story:
- The emotional trauma these boys are being exposed to and what it is doing to their psycho-social development. If you think that any child required to attack and fight another child in front of crowd of onlookers that includes their parents, think again. Without qualification, I am quite sure that this deranged idea of a sport is creating a population of emotionally scared men who will either be violent in their dealing with others or will have such low self-esteem as to be unable to navigate life as functioning adults.
- The article makes mentions of “3 million kids involved” in this brutal activity. How many tens of millions of adults probably believe that subjecting little boys to such training and public confrontation is healthy, character building and gives them a HEALTHY sense of competitiveness?
Ah yest, America’s two, very distinct cultures. Ever wonder wonder why there are some politicians in Washington who want to discuss how our country can invest in research to map the human brain while others are tell us that woman who are raped can’t get pregnant? How is it we have state legislatures that genuinely believe they can improve their state’s economy by investing in pre-school programs and college subsidy programs and some state law-makers who believe that prosperity is tied to having no environmental controls; no regulation of worker safety conditions; no fire codes in the private sector to follow?
(REPRINTED FROM THE 11/4/2013 MAIL ONLINE)
Inside the outrageous world of child cage fighting: Tiny boys who are trained to attack each other in America’s baby MMA arenas
- Children’s MMA or Pankration is one of the fastest growing sports in the United States with an estimated 3 million kids involved
By James Nye
It is the heat of battle between two MMA fighters hemmed inside an industrial metal cage. One kicks, punches and strangles his way to brutal victory. His opponent breaks down and cries tears for his mother.
But this is not an unusual end to another televised brawl between two fully grown brutes, this is kids’s MMA, or Mixed Martial Arts, which is rapidly becoming one of the nation’s fastest growing sports among children.
It is estimated that three million boys and girls, some as young as five-years-old launch themselves at each other weekly across the nation engaged in Pankration – some wearing no head protection and throwing punches boasting gloves little more than one-inch thick.
Effort: Kristofer “The Arm Collector” Arrey, 7, chokes Mason Bramlette, 7, during 2013 California State Pankration Championships Youth Division. Pankration is a version of the popular Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)-style fighting that is adapted for children
Critics call it barbaric and fear for the children’s safety and the effect on their behavior.
Supporters compare it’s benefits to boxing and traditional martial arts and claim that it encourages self-discipline, fair play and exercise.
A New-York based photographer, Sebastian Montalvo, traveled across the country and compiled a photographic essay in which he attempts to shine a light onto the ferocious sport, giving names and faces to the little children whose parents are encouraging their fighting spirit.
One such child, is Kristopher Arrey. He is seven years old and his success in the MMA ring is so fearsome that he has earned the nickname ‘The Arm Collector’.
Tears: Mason “The Beast” Bramlette, 7, cries after receiving a punch during 2013 California State Pankration Championships Youth Division
Parker, Arizona, United States: Kristofer “The Arm Collector” Arrey, 7, and Cross Betzhold, 6, prepare for their bout at a United States Fight League Pankration All-Star tournament held at the BlueWater Resort and Casino
Parker, Arizona, United States: Kristofer “The Arm Collector” Arrey, 7, pins Cross Betzhold, 6, against the cage during a United States Fight League Pankration All-Star tournament held at the BlueWater Resort and Casino
In one striking and arguably disturbing image from Montalvo, Arrey is on his back, inflicting a painful choke-hold on another boy.
Once this fight ends in victory for Arrey, his defeated opponent, Mason Bramlette, who is also seven, is seen crying – an illuminating image which reminds the viewer exactly how old the fighter’s are.
Montalvo told CNN that parental encouragement is key to the growth of MMA.
‘Are you OK?’ Montalvo heard the referee asking Mason as tears streamed down his face. ‘Do you want to stop fighting?’.
His father urged his son to stay in the ring.
Indeed, Montalvo said that the key aspect of kid’s MMA was how competitive the parents are.
‘They’re mega-competitive,’ Montalvo said. They ‘love their kids 100%’ and ‘they just want them to win.’
San Bernardino, California, United States: Mason “The Beast” Bramlette, 7, is choked by his opponent during a Pankration tournament held at Adrenaline Combat Sports and Fitness
Sacramento, California, United States: Mason “The Beast” Bramlette, 7, trains at the Ultimate Fitness Gym before the 2013 California State Pankration Championships Youth Division
San Bernardino, California, United States: Mason “The Beast” Bramlette, 7, is weighed in before a tournament at Adrenaline Combat Sports and Fitness in San Bernardino
Training: Mason “The Beast” Bramlette, 7, and Justin Ramirez, 7, train before a fight in a Pankration tournament held at Adrenaline Combat Sports and Fitness
Parker, Arizona, United States: A Pankration fighters enters the cage during a United States Fight League Pankration All-Star tournament held at the BlueWater Resort and Casino
Chula Vista, California, United States: A participant in a Pankration tournament in Chula Vista (left) and (right) Parker, Arizona, United States: Cross Betzhold, 6, is inspected before his fight in a USFL
Riverside, California, United States: Kriss Arrey, 7, and Justin Ramirez, 7, receive trophies after winning a Pankration tournament organized by the United States Fight League in Riverside
And while critics may reel at the sight of children placed in a ring and asked to fight like adults, supporters say it encourages a culture of losing fair and winning well.
‘After every match, the kids are supposed to shake hands,’ said Montalvo. ‘One father started screaming at his son because he didn’t want to shake hands after he lost.’
As MMA classes pop up around the country, some catering for children as young as five, there are concerns about the safety risks of young children taking part in such a violent contact sport.
A quick search of YouTube throws up countless videos showing boys and girls competing in MMA. Some of the videos are more violent than others, boys and girls in cages punching, kicking and choking each other.
More tears: Sacramento, California, United States: Daniel Arrellano, 6, cries after being defeated in the 2013 California State Pankration Championships Youth Division. Arrellano finished second in the age 5-7 under 55lbs category
Chris Conolley is an MMA teacher, who owns Spartan Fitness in Hoover, Alabama, he is quick to point out that what the kids get taught is very different from the adult version.
Rather than fighting each other, his pupils are taught the techniques to get in shape and have fun.
‘It’s an outstanding way for them to get in shape, exercise. Childhood obesity now is a big issue [this can] get them on the right path conducive to fitness,’ Conolley said in an interview with Fox6 earlier this year.
Nevertheless injuries, especially concussions, are a constant risk and doctors recommend that children should always wear headgear even when training.
The kids of MMA are taking their cues from the ‘Ultimate Fighting Championship’ or ‘UFC’ where moves like the ‘Ground Pound’ and the ‘Cobra Strangle’ have millions tuning in every week.
Prominent critics of MMA for adults including Senator John McCain, who called it ‘human cockfighting’ and in 2008 wrote a letter to the governors of every state asking them to ban it.
‘I think it’s dangerous from a physical standpoint,’ pediatrician Lisa Thornton told Good Morning America.
‘It can lead to significant injuries to the neck and bones and ligaments.’