In a radical new strategy to tackle the bullying problems seen in many schools these days, the province is considering implementing a revamped physical education curriculum which includes mixed martial arts—more commonly known as MMA.
Ken Severin, a retired Canadian MMA fighter, first proposed the idea to the province and has since been retained to give input on the revised curriculum.
“There's no question that bullying is a serious issue for today's youth,” remarked Severin.
“School boards have tried everything from whole school approaches, classroom strategies, and 'circle time' to playground strategies, school assemblies, and staff training that involves developing a restorative ethos and culture that supports the development of social and emotional skills,” he added.
“The problem is there's no perfect solution—or at least there wasn't until now,” noted Severin.
Severin has convinced the provincial government that the key to school children sorting out their differences is the most direct form of conflict resolution—hand-to-hand combat.
“Many people might hear this and think, 'Whoa there, Ken! That sounds dangerous.' And they're right, it would be—without the proper training,” explained Severin.
“That's why it's important the kids learn how to fight properly. Striking, clinching, takedowns, grappling, submission holds—it's vital that they learn the fundamentals right from the start,” he added.
“By the time they reach Grade 3, these kids should really be able to defend themselves. A rear-leg push kick, a pummel clinch, a triangle choke, a 'Muy Thai Plum'—these terms will become as well-known to these kids as the names of their Pokémon,” stressed Severin.
Severin noted that MMA once had a bad reputation as a bloodsport in the wild 'n woolly '90s, but has since been recognized as a legitimate combat sport sanctioned in most countries around the world.
Make no mistake, there are rules to MMA fighting and these will be drilled into students just as much as offensive and defensive techniques.
“For example, a young girl or boy will learn that knee strikes and kicks to the head of a grounded opponent are prohibited, but fighters are allowed to strike their opponent's body when they're down,” said Severin.
“Same goes for head butts, striking the spine or back of an opponent's head or striking downward using the point of the elbow—we call that the '12-6 elbow,'" he added. "Hurts like you know what.”
The province is expected to announce grant funding for school boards so that they can purchase MMA rings for their gymnasiums. The eight-sided fighting cages, commonly referred to “octagons,” cost $20,000-$25,000.
There's speculation this funding will be diverted from arts programming.
When asked whether he thought training children and teens in a combat sport might be sending them the wrong message about conflict resolution and lead to even more extreme bullying, Severin declined comment and put this reporter into a “Juji Gatame”—a painful armbar.