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Mixed Martial Arts teaches focus, discipline, cooperation

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As summer rolls along and traditional team sports wind down, folks from preschool age to adult are taking advantage of the growing sport of Mixed Martial Arts or the more popular short name, MMA.

MMA is a combined fighting style of multiple disciplines ranging from Karate to Tae Kwon Do, from Kung Fu to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and many more, adding elements from each. While most might be familiar with the many competitions shown on TV and cropping up in random gyms across the United States, bringing superstardom to the like of Royce Gracie, Ken Shamrock, and most recently female champion Ronda Rousey, some would be intrigued by the level of commitment and dedication these athletes put into their sport, going above and beyond just going into an octagon and throwing punches.

Erika Haydon, Sensei at the Odori Kumo Combat Martial Arts School in Ronan, has seen a vast range of students in her nine years of teaching. Students have ranged from as young as four years old all the way up through the “older” adult and has even included children with special needs such as autism. Haydon has also helped in the training of law enforcement and military, teaching critical defense in subduing without injury — although she believes that discipline in the sport brings so much more than just learning to defend or fight.

“It’s provides a really good focus,” Haydon said. “It helps the kids and the adults to be able to focus and think things through clearly and to work with other people.”

Haydon said for some people team sports such as baseball or football may not be in their comfort zone and Martial Arts “offers you a little bit more of individuality along with working with other people.”

Parents of young MMA athletes have seen discipline and focus increase in their kids as well. Haethar Hovet said her son, Colton, has been involved in combat fighting style for five years and agrees the sport has advanced him in many situations.

“They learn to rely on themselves,” she said. “It really builds their confidence.”

For MMA mom, Pam Rodeghiero, her 8-year-old son Jack has not only gained independence but has also enjoyed meeting new kids and finding friends from different towns. Rodeghiero also believes Jack has gained a role of leadership, finding pride in being able to share what he has learned with the younger kids.

Young athletes have taken what they learn in MMA training and use it every day in their own lives.

“What I’ve been told is for the kids, it really helps them in school. It helps them to handle situations with bullying, and it helps them with their academics because they are able to focus more and be able to compartmentalize things and put them into order,” Haydon said. She gave an example of a child with autism that was afraid of the water and of boats, the child enjoyed a deep sea fishing trip for the first time after using Martial Arts as sort of a therapy, helping the child to face fears.

Adults taking up the sport have found success in their overall health and fitness as they use MMA to strengthen their bodies and minds while finding enjoyment in the exercise. They also gain overall general focus in their lives. whether it be at the office or managing a household, according to Haydon.

While respect is the number-one element in Sensei Haydon’s Dojo, some of what you see on TV in modern MMA style fighting tends to be a bit more on the “brawling” side. More traditional MMA, like what is taught at the Odori Kumo, takes what they learn from the different fighting styles while infusing respect for each style’s master and inventor.

Though MMA may be newer in the popular professional world of sports, the many disciplines of Martial Arts date back thousands of years with some forms of wrestling and grappling dating to the ancient Greeks in some of the first Greek Olympics. For fans and athletes alike, MMA is a growing sport evolving and gaining steam in popularity in its quest for respect.

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