The New Zealand Mixed Martial Arts Federation (NZMMAF) is using the power of mixed martial arts (MMA) to help fight bullying and depression, taking the sport into schools to improve fitness and well-being of students.
This is part of the governing body's aim to make MMA part of the high school physical education programme, with NZMMAF vice-president Matt Toa and NZMMAF President Terry Hill leading the way in organising training for students to cope with the social pressures they are encountering as teenagers.
Their training sessions start by breaking down different components of the sport such as stance, posture and footwork as well as basic stand-up techniques and defence.
Other skills learned include clinching, holding, throwing and takedowns' before moving onto ground skills such as positioning, submissions and escapes.
4️⃣ athletes have claimed 5️⃣ IMMAF world gold medals for New Zealand since 2016.— IMMAF (@IMMAFed) February 5, 2021
Now, the New Zealand MMA Federation is focusing on developing its next generation of champions through the IMMAF youth grading pathway.
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"The self-esteem growth and physical improvements the students are subjected to, speak volumes for the positivity that MMA can have for our youth today," said Hill.
"One parent just recently came and spoke to one of the instructors, thanking them for the training and laughing about the fact their child loves MMA so much his enthusiasm is contagious.
"Unlike the experience of other sports, not only can you see them sweat but they are fully absorbed by what they were doing.
"Our experience shows how MMA boosts health and well-being but also offers useful skills in self-defence, which should be mandatory for all school children, just as much as learning to read and write."
When components are covered, individual instructors are then free to develop training formats best suited for the students and those teaching it.
These sessions are structured in ways to alleviate boredom among students by preventing prolonged repetition.