Which martial arts are best for children?
Does violent behaviour in a gym, reinforce violent behaviour outside of the gym?
To a certain extent – yes.
To summarise what all the research says – aggressive behaviour, reinforces more aggressive behaviour. This is true of any “power” “strength” or combat sport.
If you are applauded for shoulder barging, punching, tackling etc. then it reinforces the traditional ‘macho’ mind set, and in some instances, specific aggressive actions (like punching).
Children can also get a bit of a “Messiah complex”, if they are the best participant within their social group or team.
According to one study, even Judo makes children aggressive, whilst other martial arts have a neutral effect on aggressive behaviour.
However, a specific Martial Arts programme with an emphasis on empathy actually reduced aggressive behaviour and increased incidents of ‘helpful bystanding’ (stopping fights).
The key appears to be in promoting empathy, respect, and not enhancing the involvement of ego and self-awareness.
Traditional martial arts tend to either have a neutral, or positive influence on children’s behaviour. There are some exceptions to this, for example the judo study cited previously demonstrates greater aggression in children who participate.
Martial arts that place emphasis on sparring, and have no emphasis on social interaction, empathy or discipline; tend to make children act a lot more aggressively outside of the gym or dojo.
For more information, this is quite a conclusive article/study on the matter.
So where does MMA fit into this?
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu certainly has some philosophy to it, and an emphasis on being humble and training for the mutual benefit of your class-mates/training partners.
I have no evidence to back this up – but I think it all comes down to the individual instructor. If he/she places an emphasis on respect, discipline and empathy, then it will have a positive influence on social interaction.
For example, here is a sign that is up on the wall of the gym I go to – IPC Gym in Wrexham:
So, I think you need to take each club/class on its individual merits. Speak to the instructor, and/or stay and watch the classes to make sure you approve of what is being taught.