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.