Fight videos conflict with values of mixed marital arts
Last Sunday's Star-Bulletin article, "FIGHT! Student brawls posted online stir safety concerns,"
clearly raises serious concerns about a new online method by which teenagers are trying to gain attention and self-esteem among their peers.
We found it encouraging that, as the story says, some public schools are turning to the mixed martial arts (MMA) community in addressing this emerging social problem. Obviously, the YouTube phenomenon has exploded in the past few years and provided teens with an avenue to quickly express themselves. At the same time that YouTube has become so popular in our society, so has MMA, and unfortunately, there have been some unintended consequences.
Clearly, some of the teens engaging in these fights and posting them on YouTube are emulating the structured competitions seen at live MMA events and on television. It does not help that Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson, infamous for his underground street fights seen so frequently on YouTube, is headlining the first MMA event that will be aired live on network television at the end of this month. However, we would like to clarify that these fights posted by some of Hawaii's teens on YouTube do not by any means represent MMA. Moreover, responsible MMA coaches, promoters, fighters, and fans will all agree that such actions go against everything the MMA community stands for.
Responsible MMA coaches and gym members teach minors and young adults attending their classes that engaging in fights outside of the gym is irresponsible and illegal, and those who continue to engage in such actions will be asked to leave the gym permanently. We also would like to stress that MMA skills should be taught by qualified instructors in a safe, supervised setting with rules enforced that prevent injury or animosity. The hallmarks of all martial arts are discipline and self-respect and these actions show a complete lack of regard of those character traits.
Conversely, the fights posted on YouTube clearly lack any kind of structure or respect between opponents and the many safety factors that are provided by legitimate promoters such as doctors at ringside, a qualified referee and ambulances that would otherwise prevent a horrible tragedy.
Finally, we encourage youth and parents to look to responsible MMA gyms as examples. While Kimbo Slice is known more for his underground street fights than his MMA skills, it is the MMA community that helped to stop his street fighting ways, as he now is training with reputable coaches who ardently discourage street violence. Likewise, we feel highly confident in saying that most, if not all of those local youth posting fight videos on YouTube are not students learning various combat sport skills at responsible MMA gyms.
If you know your child is engaging in these behaviors, get him or her to start attending classes at one of Hawaii's conscientious MMA gyms. There are many of them out there and they are eager to help.
David Mayeda received his Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Hawaii at Manoa in 2005 and is author of the book "Fighting for Acceptance: Mixed Martial Artists and Violence in American Society." Chris and Mike Onzuka, are the owners and head instructors of the O2 Martial Arts Academy in Aiea. The Onzukas are also MMA referees and judges and write frequently about mixed martial arts.