By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) for youth kicks off Wednesday night at the Rooke School of Karate in Morinville. The town-run program is being taught by Morinville’s Community Program Facilitator, Tyler Edworthy, who has been actively involved in the sport for the past three years.
The program, running for 10 weeks on Wednesday evenings at 6 p.m., offers students an opportunity to learn proper self-defence, grappling and striking techniques. The program focuses on kickboxing, grappling, jujitsu and judo, wrestling and boxing.
“This is definitely a program that we’re trying to grow,” Edworthy said. “We ran it in the fall and we had 12 kids registered in the program [aged] anywhere from 10 to 14. We will be a little lenient on the age. They can be eight or nine up to 15 or 16. I actually have a youth helping me teach the class.”
But parents need not be concerned their children will come home battered and bloodied like the fighters they see on Ultimate Fighting Challenge (UFC). Edworthy explained the program is heavy on skill, light on contact. “We really stay away from a lot of the submissions,” he said. “We don’t work a submission game. That can get very dangerous if you are not doing it all the time. We’ll do a lot of the position work for jujitsu. The stand up work that we do for boxing, kickboxing and Muay Thai is all non-contact. We’ll do pad work where they are holding pads, and we’ll do heavy bag work – stuff like that. They’re never actually hitting or contacting each other.”
For Edworthy, who has been taking his training in St. Albert with some heavy hitters in the sport, the appeal of mixed martial arts is the diversity. “You have to know everything,” he said. “You can’t be just good at just one thing or they [opponents] will take advantage of what you’re weak at. You have to be very diverse, and it’s a thinking sport.”
While youth taking the program will learn many of the skills Edworthy has been learning, the real focus of the program is overall health. In addition to being challenging and fun, organizers believe the program will improve the participant’s skill set though cardiovascular health, physical well- being, coordination, strength and balance. Additionally, it is believed self-confidence will be gained through learning new skills and taking on new challenges, mental and physical exercises that will equip youth with some of the tools needed to be successful in all areas of life.
Edworthy explained the program is a great opportunity for youth to have an outlet. “I use it to relieve stress,” he said. “I think it is an excellent discipline, and it’s the best work out I’ve ever had in my life. I’m probably in the best shape I’ve ever been in. That’s kind of why I wanted to incorporate it into the youth; not just show them what they see on TV with people punching each other and kicking each other, but just to show them the discipline it takes to get to that level, and that these people are athletes.”
The MMA instructor believes the variety of skills learned in his program will be of great benefit to youth, particularly those involved in other sports. Edworthy said the diversity of disciplines adds to the functionality of practitioner’s bodies and helps them move effectively in their other sports activities. “Other than be able to throw and catch a ball, your body is being trained to be able to do things it wouldn’t normally do,” he said. “Mixed martial arts actually trains a lot of different muscle groups, and a lot of different motions. Footwork and stuff like that is very important. Your body gets used to doing certain motions. If you just do hockey your whole life, you’ll be a good hockey player, but you won’t be good at everything else. Whereas with mixed martial arts you’re doing a diverse set of exercises that’s going to exercise not only your body but also your mind. Your mind will eventually know that your body is able to do this stuff.”
Cost to participate is $40 for the 10-week program. Students are welcomed to join after the program has commenced. For more information call the Town of Morinville’s Community Services Department at 780-939-7839.