Why don’t I teach teenagers under 16 years old?

As I’ve always said, once a teen is deemed trustworthy by the state to legally drive then I will trust them with lethal techniques. “Softening” a curriculum to include children is irresponsible just as it is irresponsible to teach them hardcore street-effective fighting without knowing them personally and knowing their history.

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When I worked in juvenile detention over a 6-year span, I read numerous probable cause reports for teens under 16 years old who were detained on assault charges. If it sounded like they used martial arts techniques, I asked if they trained in MMA. Of those that said yes, 90% came from the same school, which is no longer in business in Bellingham.

One child had multiple convictions for assaults (including assaults with a deadly weapon) and hard drug-use violations. He convinced his parole officer to pay for him to enroll in lessons at that school as a “pro-social activity,” because he claimed that it would help him control himself. I later saw active warrants for parole violations and he wound up in the adult jail –so obviously he didn’t get any moral direction or self-discipline out of his MMA training.


Now, if you were a school owner, and a parole officer came to you with a youth who had served time in juvenile institutions (meaning juvenile prison not detention), wouldn’t you first ask if he was a violent offender, then ask if he had weapons charges or severe drug addiction, and then ask if he had maintained a substantial time of sobriety? This youth told me he was still training at the MMA school between his jail sentences. The impression I have is this school owner saw him as another contract to make money from.

For years the spectacle of MMA fighting has outpaced the educational aspects it needs and deserves. This is apparent when I read in the Bellingham newspaper about a drug-induced, crazed youth convicted of attempted homicide for applying neck chokes with his legs against an adult woman, rendering her unconscious and nearly killing her. Sounds like a move you might see in an MMA cage match.

Martial arts training is not meant to replace rehab or therapy. People should have their shit together before training.

Martial arts school owners who take in known violent criminals (whether teen or adult) and make no stipulations that if they re-offend they’re out, well, they’re no different than a commercial fitness center that needn’t have standards for their clientele.

If a teen training at my school got in trouble, I’d kick them out and say to come back once they’ve completed probation. If they really want to train in martial arts again it will be great incentive to keep them on the clean and narrow.



When I first decided to join UMA, it was a massive leap out of my comfort zone. I can attest that at whatever level you join UMA, whether it’s athletically gifted, or Average Joe, the course structure of UMA is undoubtedly welcoming, inviting, and fits those who want to learn or sharpen their skills. My initial goal was to lose weight and hopefully not embarrass myself. I started at UMA at 200 lbs in 2014 and now after almost 2 years I am at 165, far more lean and muscular than when I started, and on top of that I gained confidence, discipline, and a skill set that I have no doubt I could use to defend myself or others if needed. I began with the striking classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays and got comfortable, but I found myself wanting more, so I started attending the grappling class, then eventually the weapons class. I not only accomplished my weight loss goals, I found a lifelong passion. I never considered martial arts as something I would venture into, but Rob’s enthusiasm and passion for martial arts inspired me to continue. The students were just as impressive, I never felt out of place. From day one, those in attendance were willing to work with me and teach me, I did not feel as though my lack of training hindered someone else’s progress. Since my first day, I have continued the same level of respect and eagerness to work with and teach new students that I was shown in my early training.
My experience at UMA has had a massive impact on my life and I can’t even begin to put it into words, I am struggling to make this concise enough to be a window into my experience and not a novel. This testimonial is just a small attempt at helping someone else possibly find what they are looking for. If you want practical self-defense instruction from a knowledgeable instructor at a ridiculously affordable price (especially considering the cashback rebate), Unbridled Martial Arts is the place to go. Thanks Rob!

~ Michael Leach, Cook, Prepared Foods, Wholefoods

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