Sunday, 14 August 2011

Who really cares about child abuse in martial arts?

I have written several articles showing my concern about children under 5 doing kicking and punching arts but nobody would listen except SportEngland. SO, WHO REALLY CARES ABOUT CHILD ABUSE?

Here is what SportEngland had to say:

Dear Martin

Thank you for your recent email about ‘Kiddie Cage Fighting’.

We have shared your concerns with the Child Protection in Sport Unit (part of the NSPCC) who are one of our National Partners who support National Governing Bodies of Sport. We fund recognised sports with matters relating to safeguarding and child protection.

The NSPCC have expressed their concerns about this type of activity happening (they refer to is as ‘mixed martial arts’) and following a documentary which was shown on Channel 4 a couple of years ago entitled ‘Strictly Baby Fighting’ issued the below statement to all press and media / LAs which is still relevant and one which we in Sport England endorse:

Mixed martial arts is not recognised as a sport by any of the UK Sports Councils or the Department of Culture Media and Sport. It has no single governing body that the Sports Councils can intervene with or that the NSPCC Child Protection in Sport Unit (CPSU) can engage in dialogue with to raise the serious issues highlighted by this programme.

There are a number of sports and recreation activities that children and young people are involved in that fall outside of the regulated Governing Body structure. This can often mean that standards fall short of that which we would expect to see in place, and may encourage practice that can compromise the welfare and safety of young people. In the absence of regulation by a Governing Body local interventions are the only means of raising the standards of operation of these activities. All Sport England County Sports Partnerships and many Governing Bodies of sport operate club accreditation programmes that promote and recognise best practice in providing sport for children and young people. Information on this can be found at and on the CPSU’s website at .

Specific concerns in relation to safeguarding should be referred to local Children's Social Care services. There may also be the opportunity for local interventions by Local Safeguarding Children Boards.

Local Education Welfare Services have a responsibility under the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 and 1963 and the Children (Performances) Regulations 1968, to investigate and monitor employment undertaken by young people of compulsory school age. The purpose of this legislation is to ensure that it is safe and legal, and that it does not damage or interrupt their education. This would apply to children taking part in a “professional” fight (i.e. where spectators have paid to watch).

The Licensing Act 2003 requires authorisation for regulated entertainment or of entertainment facilities to be obtained, and this would include an indoor sporting event or boxing or wrestling entertainment. Before granting the license the applicant will be required to demonstrate how they are promoting the four objectives of the Act, which includes the protection of children from harm.

Local letting policies have been established in a small number of local authority leisure services to promote best practice in the provision of sporting activities for children and young people. Within the safeguarding policies of these leisure services departments, provision can be made for clubs and associations seeking to use facilities to demonstrate minimum standards in relation to safeguarding. Where non-affiliated or unregulated sports clubs seek to hire facilities this approach to letting can be an effective means of introducing minimum operating standards, raising standards of practice, and addressing some of the worst aspects of youth sport highlighted in the programme.

Should you have any further questions / concerns about this please contact Jayne Molyneux, our Strategic Lead Children at or Young People or the CPSU (via the website address above).

We are still looking into your previous email regarding children in martial arts and will respond as soon as possible.

Best wishes


Richard Clarkson

Senior Grants Manager

Creating sporting opportunities in every community

Sport England, 3rd Floor Victoria House, Bloomsbury Square, London WC1B 4SE

For more information on Sambo visit: 
Contact Martin Clarke at

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Kiddie Cage Fighting - disgusting!

Some weeks ago I wrote an article about a 4 year old getting his Black Belt; I went on to write how dangerous it was for children under 5 to any Martial Art especially those that involved Punching and Kicking. 
Teaching this to the very young, I felt, was a form of child abuse my article got the response: "That it is down to the Governing Body to decide was is a fit age to start martial arts." 
That is a cop out what if the Governing Body does not have the expertise and what if the martial art has no overall governing body? Interesting enough much is being done and said about "CLUB MARK" being the way forward for sports, they make a great deal about Health & Safety, Child protection, Codes of Conduct but they give Club Mark to club who have under five (pre-school) doing Martial Arts?
In last week’s Sunday Mirror the middle pages were given over to "Kiddie Cage Fighters" where Children as young as four are taught to beat the living daylights out of each other. 
You can find my own article here.  I even found an organisation who would teach 1 year oldsBelow is an article from the international pages of, The Telegraph:  
Parents of young cage fighters insist the sport is not dangerous and that it teaches children to respect their peers
By Tom Leonard in New York
4:54PM GMT 28 Mar 2008
Children as young as six are taking up the controversial sport of "cage fighting", alarming medical experts and sports officials.
·       The violent sport, also known as "ultimate fighting”, combines martial arts, wrestling and boxing but with few rules often looks like little more than a brawl.
The Republican presidential nominee, John McCain, has described it as "human cockfighting" but the popularity of the sport, which usually takes place in a cage, has spread to young American children.
Egged on by parents who regard it as character-building, the children fight two minute bouts in small cages. They are required to wear head gear and padding.
They can kick, punch and grapple with each other but are not allowed to use elbow blows or hit to the head when the opponent is on the ground.
Experts say the child version of the sport is growing along with the popularity of the adult equivalent, now showing on cable television and even in a new film, Never Back Down.
Last month, CBS became the first of the big television networks to announce a deal to broadcast prime-time fights. Regardless of any psychological harm, medical experts believe young bodies cannot withstand the pounding.
"It's dangerous from a physical standpoint," said Dr Lisa Thorton, a paediatrician with the University of Chicago Hospitals.
"It can cause significant injuries to the neck and bones, and if they're being taught that fighting is a way to solve problems that is obviously very negative for any child."
Joe Miller, administrator of the Oklahoma Professional Boxing Commission, said cage fighting used a lot of arm and leg twists to force opponents into submission. "There's too much potential for damage to growing joints," he said.
However, parents of young cage fighters insist the sport is not dangerous and – like conventional martial arts – teaches children to respect their peers.
Jennifer Swinehart, whose sons – aged 10 and 14 – are members of the Garage Boys Fight Crew in Joplin, Missouri, said: "It's wonderful. They build such good character and good friendships, and that's what you need to further yourself in life."
Tommy Bloomer, father of two more of the Garage Boys, said the sport was no more dangerous than youth wrestling.
He said: "We're not training them for dog fighting. As a parent, I'd much rather have my kids here learning how to defend themselves and getting positive reinforcement than out on the streets."

For more information on Sambo visit: Contact Martin Clarke at

Four Year Old Black Belt - disgusting!

Yes, it was reported in a national newspaper that a four-year-old was graded to Black Belt at age four after starting Taekwondo at the age of two-and-a-half.
Now a Black belt is a level of competence issued by an organisation and yes different organisations have different criteria, so you can have black belts of different standards.
But this Black Belt is taking it a step to far, over the last 20 years we have seen a major increase in children being awarded black belts much to the dismay of sensible martial arts practitioners. 
Some organisations offer their junior members a junior black belt, a practice started 40-years ago by an organisation called the Kent Junior Judo Association who could grade a 15-year-old to junior black belt. The recipient wore a Black belt with a green stripe through the middle on reaching 16-years of age they would automatically become a senior green.
This in its self was quite a good idea but note the age. Judo, out of all the martial arts, seems to have a more uniform approach to Dan grades status. Even though there are several different organisations, most will not grade to Dan Grade below 15-years of age and most combine competition and traditional theoretical knowledge to obtain the grade.
So why grade babies and children to black belt? Money and power is the answer...
Instructors can make a considerable amount of money from kids' gradings and Kids’ classes. How many more students will this baby’s instructor get because of this grading and at 24-years-old is a black belt examiner? 
But above of all it is about power, a large majority on becoming black belts suddenly become aware that they stand out from the crowd because they have achieved what the public think is the ultimate martial arts accolade, suddenly people look up to them and what is worse most believe their own hype. 
Now they start to have power either within their own organisation or they create one of their own. If they are with a reputable organisation they will have constraints and controls placed upon them. Yet many believe they have the answer to everything and create a new association and a new style. 
How many times have you read of someone creating the Ultimate Martial Art! 
Suddenly someone who was a 1st Dan a few years ago suddenly becomes an 8th Dan Master and of course they go on some well known names' courses have their photo taken with them, sometime later they publish the photo saying they have trained with so and so to give kudos to their style. 
Now if they say they are 8th Dan PingBangdo Karate a style they invented that is what they are but if they say they are graded in a traditional style like Shotokan then they can be checked. 
My own style of CombatSombo which I introduced nearly 30 years ago was just a different approach to a Martial Arts Self Defence System.  
I wanted a system which suited my jacket wrestling background i.e. Judo, Free-Style Wrestling and Sambo, although I created a grading system I never gave myself a grade, how could I who would award it so if asked what grade CombatSombo am I the answer would be the FOUNDER.
Sometimes these new styles group together to form a co-op, large numbers again give them KUDOS and they think respectability. Yet the way to respectability is high technical ability and high moral standards.
So back to this four-year-old baby doing Taekwondo, my own feeling taking children this young is a form of child abuse, at the age of two-and-a-half the child can barely walk let alone do hard physical exercise and what of the damage the parents and instructor are doing to the child? The child body is far from developed its bones are still soft as is the rest of the body, so things like excessive stretching can be dangerous and lead to early arthritis (this has been a problem with young gymnasts), striking and kicking pads can be dangerous to hands and joints and competition against other children can be dangerous beyond belief.
To teach any child to Kick and punch someone is morally indefensible when a child is young they do not understand wrong from right, who can say this four-year-old doesn't start school and in an argument with another child knocks them out and may kills them with a kick and do not say that cannot happen! 
Those of us who taught in schools knew the playground can be a dangerous place at the best of time. In law the Criminal Age of Responsibility is 10 so should anyone be teaching children to Kick and Punch? 
To make some excuse that it is self-defence is not realistic, the only way to subdue your attacker by kicking and punching is to inflict a mass of pain and damage to their body that is why grappling is a far better introduction for children who want to learn Combat and how can a child or a baby defend themselves against an adult. I have copied a letter sent to me by the late Great Geoff Gleeson some 25 years ago, please read it and tell me the Martial Arts have advanced?
A Lot of Karate, Taekwondo styles etc are far more sensible concentrating on Kata where the student is taught the discipline of self control and perfection of techniques rather than learning how knock someone’s teeth out. The most experienced Striking art in the world is boxing and the Amateur Boxing Association has a minimum age of 11 before they can box so why is this baby being taught Taekwondo?
So you think what we need is Government intervention and we a Governing Body for Martial Arts which will be a legal requirement for all those that teach. 
NO, as these have been tried in the past and just become dictatorships. The martial arts needs room to move, invent and adjust, because martial arts continual change just imagine if there had been a Government body 30 years ago with absolute power there would be no Kickboxing, no Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, no Vale Tudo, no Cage Fighting etc. 
New Martial Arts will come to the fore that is the nature of the beast what we need is more information. Do not just attack a rival because they have moved onto your patch and make it personal, tell your local paper, Council, MP, Church Hall, Schools etc and ask does this new club have:
1) Pi, PA, and PL Insurance?
2) Who taught them and where can they be checked out?
3) How long have they been practising?
4) Have they a Coaching Award?
5) Have they got a CRB check?
6) Have they got the right equipment?
Other things to watch out for, grading very young kids to black belt, is the instructor there all the time or does he get a student to teach, are they trying the hard sell like knocking at doors and wanting people to sign up before they have even seen a class in action, after a few months do they appoint a student to instructor level and the present instructor moves on...

For more information on Sambo visit: Contact Martin Clarke at

Chris Dolman - the World's Greatest Grappler

Whilst at the Dutch Open this year I had the pleasure and privilege to meet up with an old adversary Chris Dolman. 

Chris had travelled down from Amsterdam to Dalfsen to visit me; we have seen each other for 19 years. I fought Chris in the final of the World Games Sambo in 1985 and lost to him on a leg lock, I was 35 and he was already 40.

Chris was already a famous Judoka, Olympic Free Style and Greco Roman Wrestler, and Samboist, and he had won World Medal in all disciplines. 
So he had made his mark by the time he was 40 but he was not going to stop there. After the World Games the new Sport of Bushido was capturing the World of Martial Arts and promoters were soon on to Chris to take on all comers. 
Bushido was the fore runner of cage fighting but done in a ring and people from all over were pitted in this limited rules matches.

Chris first fights were against people like Geoff Capes the famous GB Shot Putter and World Strongest man Bill Kazmaier. 

He beat Capes on a leg lock (I know how painful they are) and Kazmaier threw in the towel after having his legs kicked to pieces.

Both of his opponents dwarfed him and were far stronger than him, but he proved that technique will beat just brute strength.

His critics said he would never beat a good striker. Well once again he proved them wrong when he took on a striker from Holland.

Chris proved he could take a punch and a kick defeating his opponent in the last round with that famous leg lock.

The Japanese got to hear about him and became a star attraction in Japan for over five years taking on all comers and beating them.

So, can I justify the claim World's Greatest Grappler? YES because I do not know anyone else who has reach World Standard in so many different Grappling Skills.

Here's some video's to give you an idea of his skill:

Point of interest for those who have read my book "Martin For Moscow" you will see I mention an altercation with Peter Adelaar, well Peter can be seen at the end of the Geoff Capes fight he is the very very tall Gentleman who pushes Geoff Capes.

Chris if you are reading this it has been an honour to have known and fought against you.

For more information on Sambo visit:
Contact Martin Clarke at

Martial Arts are not what they used to be...

MARTIAL Arts are no longer what they used to be; I mean in terms of numbers. I hear of many clubs closing through lack of membership. Some forms of Grappling are kicking the trends not the traditional style like Judo and Sambo but the relative new ones like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and MMA.
Some tell me Brazilian Jiu Jitsu BJJ will soon take over Judo in the UK in being the most popular Jacket Wrestling Sport. I much prefer Judo and Sambo to BJJ but then I would say that I have spent the last 55 years doing Judo and 35 years doing Sambo. 
Sometimes you have to move with the flow and BJJ is very well organised with rules, syllabus and uniform and has a large Worldwide following. My main criticism is that there is no National Body representing the whole of the UK (to my knowledge any rate) I have for several years tried to get a BJJ section established at my DOJO in Sittingbourne, I have emailed several people but get no reply! 
I am not interested in running a BJJ club but want to offer my Dojo for rent as I know that my Sambo, Kurash, Judo clubs will benefit by having a BJJ section. So let hope sooner than later we get a National Body here is name for you BJJ UK or GB BJJ.
After complimenting BJJ I cannot say the same for MMA, this lot of rag a muffins start clubs up with no qualifications no experience. OK maybe I am being too hard; some have credibility but not many. 
I have a name for it STREET WRESTLING, this where a group of youngster just chuck a couple of mats down and start rolling around the floor and all of sudden they are doing MMA whatever that means. 
I recently saw a MMA competition on YouTube what a mess, they were on some inferior mats the competitors looked like they had just come from the beach with those ridiculous shorts; the referee looked like some hippy from the 1960's and the audience were all standing on the mat which had no demarcation area. 
I very much doubt if they had any insurance and totally ignored any health and safety issues but what was most frustrating was that the Wrestling itself was pretty good and enjoyable to watch There is light at the end of the tunnel FILA the International recognised Wrestling organisation has taken on board a lot of the more of the out landish grappling style such as Grappling- Pankration- Combat Wrestling – Beach Wrestling – Belt Wrestling. The British section of FILA is the British Wrestling Association and they have formed FILA GRAPPLING which run by Paul Ivaenus and Oliver Ellif while FILA COMBAT which covers the rest of the Grappling Styles this is run by Andrew Brownbridge who is also President British Grappling Association with these guys in charge Grappling can be become main stream with some credibility but lets get away from the name MMA.
Many years ago my club used to practise Freestyle Wrestling as I did myself, I also once organised a British Junior Wrestling Championships at Herne Bay, with the interest in Grappling I have decided to get the club to rejoin the BWA and get my members to learn how to do wrestling properly

For more information on Sambo visit:
Contact Martin Clarke at