I posted a long time ago about young kids and MMA, and I was surprised to see the video above, where 13-year-old Reshat Mati is already a world champion kickboxer, North American grappling champion, and boxer. He trains five days a week, with his father driving him from gym to gym. More info on him here. He already has a nickname: The Albanian Bear. Grantland just wrote an article about him too.
He’s obviously a little older than the kids in the previous post, but man–I just can’t stop thinking that that kid is really young for what he’s doing. Some of the fights, even in the footage, are brutal, with kids getting pummeled against the ropes–although I’m guessing that Mike Tyson started sometime around the same age. It looks like Pacquiao did too.
My thoughts on martial arts and kids have changed lots over the years. I used to think that five was a good age to start judo, but now I’m thinking that eight or nine or even ten might be better–you just can’t generate the torque without a little bit of mass. Tae Kwon Do is probably not a bad art for younger kids, and I think it’s better to keep it non-contact. Boxing…well, I can’t imagine a kid taking what the kids are taking in the video above without sustaining some kind of brain damage. As we’ve seen in MMA, you’re never the same after you’ve taken that kind of beating. I might suggest that it’s best to put off hard head contact until much later…or even never. It’s arguable that kids can’t generate as much force, and therefore actual knockouts might be rare at the younger ages. Still, that’s a lot of punishment. As much as he loves fighting, he may be over the hill by the time he’s old enough to be in the UFC.