Mixed martial arts popularity growing among Birmingham youth

Mixed martial arts popularity growing among Birmingham youth

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Kids participating in a Spartan Fitness kids MMA class. Source: WBRC video Kids participating in a Spartan Fitness kids MMA class. Source: WBRC video
HOOVER, AL (WBRC) -

Mixed martial arts fighting, also known as MMA, is catching on with some of the youngest citizens of Birmingham.

As classes pop up, teaching youth various fighting techniques, some are calling it violent and others say it's about staying fit and self-defense.

Adult MMA usually pits two men against each other in an intense, violent match up. Now, there are kids taking MMA classes at Spartan Fitness in Hoover. But owner Chris Conolley says it's very different from what you might see on TV.

"Kids MMA covers all bases: kickboxing, wrestling and jujitsu," Conolley said.

The kids don't fight each other, he says. Instead, they're learning the techniques and Conolley says his classes are about kids having fun and getting shape.

"It's an outstanding way for them to get in shape, exercise. Childhood obesity now is a big issue [this can] get them on the right path conducive to fitness," he said.

Conolley says it can also help kids carry themselves with confidence and teaches them self-defense, which he says can help against bullies.

"Bullies tend to pick on people who are victims. These kids are carry themselves different, they have the confidence to deal with someone messing with them," he said.

Jodi Spivey has four children in the class. She says it's mainly about having fun but also teaches her kids self-defense.

"I don't want them to fight, but if they're ever in a situation where they have to they are more than prepared," she said.

Not every parent says they'd sign they're kids up.

"I teach my child what to do with bullying, not necessarily violence. Find an adult, walk away to get out of the situation," Danella Stapley said.

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