Saturday night’s fights opened with an unusual Muay Thai match:
We thought it was a joke at first, but when the bell rang, these little dudes went to town on one another. They punched, they kicked, they threw knees to the ribs.
And the crowd went nuts.
I felt almost guilty encouraging two little kids to beat the snot out of one another. This wasn’t a simple point sparring match, it was a full-on fight between a couple of what, first graders? Second?
I got to wondering, though: should I really have felt guilty about it? A short time after the fight, these kids came walking through the crowd right in front of our table. Together, like buddies. And despite all that punching and kicking, neither had a mark on him. I’m guessing they’re still too small to do any real damage to one another, especially with protective gear in place.
Then I got to thinking, why not have the kids in a match? Most of the students at the Academy of Okinawan Karate are children, and they spar at least once a week (after reaching a higher rank). When we hit Judo in the curriculum cycle, the kids have full Judo matches. If we encourage throws and joint locks, why not (padded) punches and kicks?
Finally, it’s a controlled environment. There’s a ref and paramedics at hand for starters. One would also presume the kids have gone through quite a bit of training before being put out in front of a crowd. If they hadn’t, it wouldn’t be much use as a martial arts exhibition, and the kids would probably have just circled one another in fear (or one would have dominated the other).
I don’t know that it’s something I’d encourage my kids to do, but at the same time, the few minutes of fighting in this match probably amounted to the same amount of contact we’d see in junior hockey, soccer, or football games. I’ve seen kids go home bloodied from soccer cleats before, and again, these two guys didn’t have a mark on ‘em. Heck, when I was a kid we played keepaway games out in our school’s field that were rougher than this fight.
So what’s the big deal, then? Why feel guilty when they started throwing punches?
I think it’s all a matter of perspective. Violence between children is frowned upon, especially for those of us working for schools. But now that I’ve been involved with the martial arts, I have a much better idea of what’s happening in the ring and how training works than I did three years ago. It looks violent from the outside, but there really is more sport and competition involved than actual violence.
In short, these two kids had the guts to get out in front of a huge crowd and put on a show, and that’s not an experience most kids are going to have. If they had fun and they learned something, then more power to ‘em.