Monday, October 27, 2008

Delinquency and Martial Arts

There are no bad boys. There is only bad environment, bad training, bad example, bad thinking. - Father Edward Flanagan

The Jiu-Jitsu Sensei Blog had an interesting piece about gang members and their less-than-noble reasons for learning martial arts, particularly MMA. In the past, street kids from urban areas would take up boxing to sublimate their fighting tendencies. Indeed, many prize fighters in hindsight are grateful for boxing being their ticket out of what would have been juvenile delinquency, gangs and eventually prison.

Gangs are very different today from the ones that existed years ago. Current US gang activity more closely resembles those of organized crime than a bunch of teenagers protecting turf. Some well established gangs are nationally networked and are involved in drug trafficking, among other things. The gang leaders themselves aren't kids but hardened criminals that local youngsters admire, much like the glorified Mafiosi of the past. The attraction to gang membership in a ghetto setting is very seductive. Gangs provide a sense of security, belonging and identity that is sorely lacking in the life of a troubled youth.

In a recent study, researchers asked public middle-school teachers in an undisclosed large city to select a group of their most violent students. They were then divided into two categories; one a control group, the other the tested group that was required to attend a traditional martial arts course given at the school by an outsider. The course included self defense, kata practice and meditation. Using a number of variables to gauge the study, the treated group that attended the martial arts class made noticeable improvements in nearly all the areas that were measured, while the control group's antisocial behavior either remained the same or got worse.

Obviously this portrays the traditional martial arts in a very positive light. With its brutal matches and heavily tattooed players, it's easy to see why MMA would appeal to wannabe gang members and violent types. Adolescents are both impressionable and malleable. Could training in MMA redirect the future of a young potential criminal? The real point is whether MMA could adapt to a philosophy and similar core values found in traditional martial arts.

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Blogger Charles James said...

John Sensei,

Excellent points. I am sometimes disturbed by the form of UFC/MMA and agree with your post on its effects to the youth.

Great post! Excellent read.

11:40 AM  
Blogger Lori O'Connell said...

Thanks for the link. You make some good points on the issue. I definitely agree that the ways of teaching traditional martial arts would definitely have a positive effect on youth gang members, giving them a greater chance of turning them around. That being said, many MMA and BJJ schools teach their classes with the mentality of "We're not teaching you how to act, we're teaching you how to fight," an attitude that is encourage, even published by the Gracie family. Those types of macho schools often don't have a very disciplined atmosphere and are less likely to help convert youth gang members.

11:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In addition to checking the effect of MMA training, it would be useful to check the effect of non-combative training, e.g., basketball or football.

11:56 AM  

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