NORFOLK -- Throughout Hampton Roads, children are working out and learning basic styles that could one day catapult them into the cage to fight in mixed martial arts tournaments.
More kids take to the mat to learn MMA
“This is not about martial arts, this is about creating a good kid: a self-aware, thoughtful child. That's why I do this," said one parent.
11-year-old Travis is a fan of the sport known as MMA. He says his love for the sport is what drew him into the ring. The young martial artist trains four days a week and competes in tournaments against kids his age.
'I've gotten hit a million times. I'm really not scared anymore,' Travis noted.
Muay thai, an aggressive style that involves kicking and punching, is a popular style used in MMA . Brazilian jiujitsu, which involves grappling on the ground, is also taught.
'Some people still want to call it a type of cockfighting, human cockfighting, it's not. It's just like boxing. If somebody says boxing isn't brutal, it's a lot more brutal than muay thai, I believe,' contends instructor Harvey Grasse.
10-year-old Summer Bronco works out at the Hybrid Training Center in Virginia Beach. Instructors say Summer is such a strong fighter that she works out with adults and competes against older kids in tournaments.
'I like all the moves in jiujitsu and muay thai. I like fighting, I like getting in the ring, I like competing with other people,' she said.
Jeff Bronco, Summer's dad, says he supports his daughter wholeheartedly. He's even transformed the family's garage into a workout space equipped with an MMA-style fight cage.
'I think a lot of people have the wrong impression of parents like me and parents who push their kids this far,' Jeff noted. 'Summer still gets milkshakes, we still go to the movies, we still do a lot of stuff. It's just that when some kids are playing Xbox, we're in the gym training.'
He said if his daughter wanted to stop martial arts altogether, he would be fine with that decision.
'This is not about martial arts. This is about creating a good kid, a self-aware, thoughtful child. That's why I do this,' Jeff added.
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