Kids martial arts has gotten pretty popular in the past few years with the rise of the UFC and mixed martial arts gyms popping up all over the place. More and more schools are taking the time to teach the younger generations in hope of developing the sport and producing future champions.
However, kids martial arts still has to face some of the same issues it has in the past. There are some who feel that children participating in martial arts or MMA will make them bullies, when in reality that is not true.
Kids who train in MMA, BJJ, wrestling, Muay Thai or any other martial art are taught discipline, dedication, hard work, respect and how to help others around them.
Just like adults, they have a strong desire to win both in the cage or on the mat and are not out there just to beat up their opponent. They understand that they are participating in a sport, and just like football, soccer or any other sport, there are rules they must follow.
The young athletes who participate in martial arts don't always have it as easy as the adults do. They are not getting paid to compete and still have to go to school. Expenses for tournaments, training, travel and lodging all come out of the parents' pocket, and sometimes that can get financially tough.
Kids don't have the same opportunities for exposure and sponsors to offset these expenses like the adults do. There is one organization out there that is dedicated to the youth, and it is called The Kids of MMA.
The Kids of MMA was established to help network the kids, parents, sponsors and gyms through their Facebook page and blog. They offer all kids under the age of 16 a place to communicate with others and share their accomplishments.
This organization is extremely unique and very important to the kids who participate in martial arts. These kids now have opportunities to find sponsors, get exposure and share with their fellow athletes all the hard work that they have put into their training.
There are many kids training in martial arts today, and hopefully every one of them will find their way to The Kids of MMA because this group is helping to develop and promote all of the athletes who are making the future of MMA a bright one.
The following slides contain some of participants in The Kids of MMA who are dedicating their life to the sport they love.
Anthony Mark is a nine-year-old who trains in both BJJ and Judo and was nominated as The Kids of MMA's second MMA Kid of the Week. He likes to go to the park and hang out with friends and family (just like every other nine-year-old kid), but his favorite thing to do is train BJJ. Talk about dedication!
Nickname: Little Ninja
Gyms: Team Brasa Naperville, IL (BJJ) / Combat-Do in Cicero, IL (Judo)
Started Training: 19 months ago
Rank: Yellow belt
Sponsors: Seventh Day Media Productions
Tournaments: First place in 28 of 34 tournaments (second place six times) and an eight-time NAGA champion
Courtney Cardoza isn't your average eight-year-old going to school and just hanging out. She is a kid martial artist who has been participating in BJJ, MMA and wrestling five days a week all while still earning top grades.
She is very passionate about the sport and an inspiration for all young girls looking to get into MMA and BJJ.
"The Dragon" has competed in over 45 tournaments and gone to 12 seminars with some of the top fighters and instructors of the sport such as Lana Stefanac, Michele Gutierrez, Tony Fryklund, Stephanie Guimares, Jessica Martinez, Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos, Kim Couture, Julie Kedzie, Greg Jackson, Carla Esparza and Shaya Baszler.
Nicknames: The Dragon, DrewJitsu
Gym: A-Team Jiu-Jitsu in Westminster, Ca with Master Ali and Chris Ruotolo
Started Training: Feb. 2010
Trademark: Crazy knee-high socks and Indian Braids to every tourney for good luck
Sponsors: Hakai Kimonos & Fight Co., Inc/Matrat Kimonos, Tussle Fight Gear, Grit Mouthguards, Fight Soap, Revgear and Fightergirls
Tournaments: Competed in over 45 and placed in all but one
At just 13 years old, Zach Ostergren has already spent half of his life training in wrestling, jiu-jitsu, boxing, MMA, submission wrestling and taekwondo. He has competed in numerous gi and no gi tournaments and was recently accepted to be on the Cage Hero’s kid’s team.
Nickname: The Gladiator
Gym: Team Quest in Redding
Started Training: six years ago
Rank: Orange belt in BJJ
Sponsors: Seventh Day Media, Team Quest, Sara Zapata Photography, Leatherby’s and Revgear
Tournaments: Nine gold medals, five silver medals (four of the five were out of weight class and three were more than 20-plus pounds over), 2011 4th American Cup gold medalist
When you think of the future of MMA, then you need to include Dakota Baker in that vision because this kid is one tough martial artist who trains in both MMA and grappling. This kid is an inspiration to all and is a shining example of what hard work and dedication look like.
Gym: RawTown Mixed Martial Arts in Rawlins, Wyoming
2009 Fight To Win "Colorado Open" 49.9 lbs. First place
2010 Fight To Win "Tournament of Champions" 49.9 lbs. First place
2010 RMBJJ "Colorado State Championships" 49.9 lbs. First place
2010 NAGA "Colorado" 49.9 lbs. First place
2010 Fight To Win "Nationals" 49.9 lbs. First place
2011 Fight To Win "Tournament of Champions 8" 54.9 lbs. First place
2011 NAGA "Vegas" 59.9 lbs. Second place
2011 Fight To Win "Colorado State Championships" 59.9 lbs. First place
2011 NAGA "Texas" 59.9 lbs. Second place
At only nine years old, Gabby is already kicking butt and taking names. She trains boxing and BJJ and is the only girl in her class.
When she gets older, she plans on training in wrestling and says that it is one of her goals to fight like Cris "Cyborg" Santos. She also hopes that one day the UFC has a women's division, but says if it doesn't, then she will fight with the boys.
Gabby also helps train the younger kids and her five-year-old brother, Nate.
Nickname: Little Cyborg
Gym: Fight Club Club Canada & BJJ at Gracie Barra Niagara
Started Training: Two years ago
Ranks: Yellow and white arm band in Muay Thai, yellow belt in BJJ
Achievements: Canadian NAGA - silver medal in gi and nogi, Ontario Provincial Championship - silver medal
Ruben Huron has only been training martial arts for just a few short months, but he is already starting to make a name for himself and set his sights high.
This nine-year-old is very passionate about the sport and hopes that one day he will be a UFC champion.
Nickname: Lil Phenom
Gym: Alan "The Talent" Belchers' MMA Club in D'Iberville, Mississippi
Started Training: Four months ago
Rank: Three-stripe white belt in BJJ and green belt in MMA
Tournaments: One first place and one second-place finish
Sean Furze Jr. is another nine-year-old martial artist who is extremely passionate about what he does. He is so dedicated to the sport that he attends classes Monday through Friday and has private lessons on the weekend.
Sean was recently accepted to be on Cage Hero’s kid’s team.
Gym: Lauzon MMA and BestWay BJJ/American Top Team Boston
Started Training: No gi three years ago and gi five months ago
Rank: Two-stripe white belt in BJJ
Sponsors: Out For Blood Fight Gear and Prime Corp
Tournaments: Over 19 tournaments (seven second-place finishes, two first-place finishes)
Zane Brown is an 11-year-old martial artist who has big dreams of becoming a Kentucky state wrestling champion and an Olympic wrestler.
He has already made a name for himself in the wrestling scene and continues to work hard at both his wrestling and MMA training to keep advancing in both sports.
Gym: Brent Weedman, Helio Soneca, Shamrock Wrestling Club, Ironman Training
Started Training: BJJ/sub grappling four years ago and wrestling three years ago
Achievements: Two-time Kentucky State Youth Folkstyle Champion, Time-time Kentucky Middle School State Qualifier, 14 NAGA first-place finishes and 12 Extreme Grappling Open first-place finishes
After only three weeks of training at the Tapout Gym, David competed in his first tournament and took gold in his nogi division. From that point on, he fell in love with the sport and has been training hard at Muay Thai, wrestling and BJJ.
Gym: Tapout Research & Development Training Center and member of True Born Warriors, Kids Competitive MMA Team
Started Training: 16 months ago
Rank: Yellow belt in BJJ
Achievements: 30 tournaments with first place in half and second or third in the rest
At Team Quest in Redding, you won't find just one Ostergren training, but two, as both Zach and younger brother Jojo are both athletes at the gym.
For being only nine years old, Jojo is a pretty dedicated martial artist, training in wrestling, jiu-jitsu, boxing, MMA, submission wrestling and TKD.
Nickname: The Viking
Gym: Team Quest in Redding
Started Training: Four years ago
Rank: Yellow belt in BJJ and orange belt in TKD
Achievements: Placed in the top three at every tournament he competed in
Lorenzo Lopez is a seven-year-old French martial artist who began training in boxing and BJJ at a very young age.
In only a few short years, he has developed his skills to rival those of numerous kids his own age. Only with loads of hard work, dedication and the support and training from his coaches has he progressed so well in the sport.
Started Training: BJJ at four-and-a-half years old and boxing at four years old
Achievements: Second place at French Championship and finalist at French Championship (9-10-year-old division)