When we first enter the Liangmaqiao location of Black Tiger Fight Club, we are curious about the effectiveness of a kids’ Mixed Martial Arts Summer Camp. How do teachers focus teaching fight techniques to children? Are the young students capable? Perhaps most importantly, what do they take away from it all? Our initial reservations vanished however within an hour spent at the facility, a small open space covered in gym mats. The place distinctly smells of chlorine as it is located on the floor above the pool in the Sino-Japanese Youth Exchange Center Gymnasium. UFC pictures hang on the wall and boxing gear is off to the side, evidence of the gyms specialization in training the up and coming boxers of the city.
On the day of our visit, Vincent Soberano, owner of Black Tiger Fight Club, leads the small class of three students. He informs the kids that today’s focus will be on jiu jitsu, which specializes in ground techniques. “The ground isn’t always a good place to be but the good thing about jiu jitsu is you can be really tiny and your opponent can be heavy and you can still get away from an attack,” he tells them.
I observe as Soberano breaks down some jiu jitsu basics in his simplified, fun teaching style. He starts with a somewhat awkward motion called shrimping, a technique that starts on your back and allows you to get out of an undesirable ground position. Other moves included a basic arm bar, escapes, and a well-known jui jitsu move called an umpa that starts from on one’s back and involves pushing your opponent at a 45 degree angle. Soberano uses one student as an example to demonstrate each move. With the small class size, there is lots of one-on-one attention.
During regular water breaks, I have the chance to chat with Soberano about teaching children versus adults. “Teaching kids is more challenging because they don’t have the same weight [as adults]. You have to give them moves they can use and instructors have to understand their purpose,” he says.
Soberano tells me the purpose of the MMA camp is to teach self-confidence, discipline, and team work. He explains if you hit one of those components, the other two will follow suit. “We’re teaching technique which involves depending on each other, but if they like it, they will find the discipline to keep practicing which builds self-confidence.”
In addition to practicing MMA skills, it’s obvious the kids are having a good time. During another water break, Soberano plays the song “Happy,” by Pharrell, and the kids dance around the gym together before I take a picture to commemorate the day’s hard work and fun.
Kids ages 8-11 are invited to join Black Tiger Fight Club’s MMA summer camp.To find out more about Black Tiger Fight Club’s Mixed Martial Arts Summer Camp, Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos courtesy of Black Tiger Fight Club