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MMA KidsLast week, we discussed a typical Sean Hannity overreaction in regards to kids participating in MMA.

Because he personifies the term “helicopter parent” that wants every precious snowflake protected — unless you are a child from New Orleans, apparently — and because he apparently toes the McCain party line (MMA is equivalent to cock-fighting), he seems to think all things MMA are bad for society and when kids are involved, it’s only for exploitation purposes, with the organizers being the only beneficiaries.

In my previous post, I mainly ripped on Hannity for typical mouthpiece overreacting but after that, I thought I could add some more substance to the argument and so I picked a random martial arts dojo that taught children who participated in various tournaments (you know, these existed LONG before the MMA craze took over the fighting world) to get a better perspective.

The sensei I decided on was Pat Betterton of Tristar Martial Arts (found through a random Google search) and we discussed the topic in some depth. It just so happens Pat was a great choice for this particular subject because he teaches children combat skills and he sees the benefit of their participation on a daily basis. He’s also a McCain supporter, meaning he’s not being disagreeable just because he’s not a Hannity fan.

Here are some of the things I learned from speaking with Pat in regards to kids participating in MMA:

Pat feels participating in Martial Arts training and the tournaments and competitions involved gives children a great sense of self-worth. It also provides a good set of moral values because you realize there are things bigger than your own minor existence. The confidence children get from this type of training is undeniable as well. Pat has directly observed trained children become more confident, more obedient towards their parents, and teaches them discipline and the benefits of hard work.

Most of which are foreign concepts when dealing with children and the youth of today.

Betterton also believes kids with a strong knowledge of self defense have a great sense of confidence and that there’s no greater test than pitting yourself against an opponent’s abilities. No teams. No one to block a shot if the man you are guarding blows by you with a clear path to the basket. The increase of self-reliance is also a noticeable benefit.

Based on these two simple paragraphs, you’d think parents would be signing their kids up for Martial training by the boatload but I suppose their MySpace appointments would interfere.

Of course, this really doesn’t address Hannity’s exploitation argument, but Pat and I discussed that as well. You see, the “MMA” acronym is a powerful marketing tool that instills images of Kimbo Slice and busted up faces in the eyes of most of the soccer mom crowd. So when people see the words “kids” and “MMA” in a sentence, they tend to think the kids are in there beating the crap out each other for a bloodthirsty crowd, while the organizers are making Don King-like money.

This is not the case.

Whether it’s MMA or just a standard, run-of-the-mill Martial Arts tournament, most instructors don’t make a “living large” salary from their efforts. In fact, Pat made a point to tell me most of money for the tournaments his kids participate in comes directly out of his pocket. He’s paying for the travel and perhaps even the entry fees.

Tickets to these events are not astronomical either. Most tickets costs $2-3 and these arenas are not usually filled to capacity as it is. I’m not sure who is going to be making a killing off of these kids, but it won’t be their trainers… In fact, Pat was discussing an event in Madison Square Garden and the entrance fee to it was only $10. So no, there’s not a goldmine of money waiting for people willing to have children compete in an octagon.

Betterton also feels the spectators are there to support the children, not for the exploitation factor and that kids are participating for the love of the competition, not for some potential shot at fame. If that’s what you want for your kids, put them on VH1 with Danny Bonaduce. As it stands, it seems like the area for exploitation is minimal, as well as the idea these kids are getting beaten half to death.

Maybe Hannity was afraid these kids would be going up against the likes of Kimbo Slice or Anderson Silva.

I would like to send a hearty thanks to Pat Betterton for helping me with this topic.