Caged, Underaged

September 23, 2011

At a young age, said the judge, they should be put in a pit with wild dogs. They should be set to puzzle out from their proper clues the one of three doors that does not harbor wild lions. They should be made to run naked in the desert.  – Judge Holden, on the raising of children (Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy)

The kids are alright.

A recent sensationalized media non-story making the rounds in the UK was a report that a social club in Preston, Lancashire (in the north of England) had hosted a mixed martial arts event that at one point featured two 8-year-old boys “cage fighting”. Howls of indignation have since ensued.

Eight-year-old cage fighters on bill at Lancashire fight night

A social club in the north-west of England has been hosting cage fights with children as young as eight.

The Greenlands Labour Club in Preston, Lancashire, hosted a ticket-only fight night that included the eight-year-olds’ bout which lasted 10 minutes.

In video footage, one of the boys who is bare-chested, stands over another child who is on the floor of the cage. A man in the front row can be seen urging one of the children to keep his chin up, as another man raises his arms in the air.

The first thing to mention here is that there is no such thing as “cage fighting”, what’s happening here is MMA (mixed martial arts). “Cage fighting” is simply a hyperbolic term used predominantly in the British media, usually as a way of conveying the message, “I know fuck-all about MMA but allow me to express my disapproval thus”. The same sport can take place in a traditional boxing ring, and does so, although the cage structure with its fence is more useful for preventing competitors from spilling out of the ring, as can be quite common with the grappling and ground-fighting dynamic. Admittedly the word “cage” was first used by MMA promoters for its violent, animalistic connotations as a means of reaching and tantalizing their target demographic but it is a largely meaningless term when properly applied to mixed martial arts as a sport.

Most significantly, the two boys featured in this report were not even fighting in a proper mixed martial arts sense as they were expressly forbidden from striking one another, they were not allowed to throw punches or kicks. As such, what they were doing was taking part in a no-gi grappling contest. It would be mixed martial arts in the sense that the techniques they used could be a hybrid of wrestling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, judo, etc. (predominantly BJJ) but they were not vying for a chance to jump on and punch the living shit out of each other (as is the common understanding of the term “cage-fighting”). So the British Medical Association was consulted for this report and promptly responded with its long-standing line on the dangers of boxing, now recycled for an MMA context, and applied in an instance where two children weren’t actually boxing one another. The only story here is that well-known one whereby a knee jerk reaction arises from pure ignorance. If these boys were wrestling on a mat at a social club, nobody would bat an eyelid. Similarly if they were wearing gis and engaging in a BJJ or judo competition, not a single shit would be given. The main factors at play are a blatant misunderstanding of what these kids were actually doing and a silly overreaction to the mere surroundings in which they were doing it.



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