FanPost

First draft of my MMA research paper is now complete!



About a month ago I made a fanpost requesting BE's help to write a research paper combing Outdoor Education and MMA. Whelp, I'm already at the 12 page limit and I figured I would show you all the first draft. Be prepared for one of the largest walls of text you will ever see. I highly recommend you copy and past it into Microsoft Word and read it if your eyes have trouble with the new layout. Big shout out to anyone that gave me help on my previous fanpost, I definitely used your input!

Here's a link to the old fanpost in case anyone is playing catch up http://www.bloodyelbow.com/2012/9/10/3313764/writing-a-research-paper-involving-mma

Also, I don't mind the "LOL DIDNT READ" gifs, but at least make them funny. There's an awesome stormtrooper one out there somewhere....

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“What we now need to discover in the social realm is the moral equivalent of war; something heroic that will speak to man as universally as war does, and yet will be as compatible with their spiritual selves as war has proved to be incompatible” (James, 1906). Reaching this medium, this place of balance between the virtues of war and the baseness of life or death combat is a major psychological turning point for an adolescent. Today's youth lack adequate challenges to fulfill their needs for heroism, courage, and endurance. With no force to push them beyond their assumed limits, they begin to wallow in complacency. They doubt themselves and their potential, creating a self-loathing and loss of respect not only for themselves but for anyone whom they believe to contribute to this negative state. A lack of proper role models and challenges prevent them from ever seeing their full potential. They are left to their own child like devices and simply digress further and further into despair.

These children are what society has dubbed "at-risk youth", and are further segregated into ineffective programs that exacerbate this phenomenon. Finding a solution for this problem is simple in principle but difficult in execution. We need a new method of breaking through these barriers, "to get the childishness knocked out of them, and to come back into society with healthier sympathies and soberer ideas" (James). Primitive survival techniques are sorely lacking in today's curriculum, yet they form the basis of man's psyche in his relation to the natural world. From the caveman era through to today's violent competition for resources, combat has been a basic part of human instinct since the dawn of time. Yet this innate need has been perverted into wanton violence or outright condemnation of all things confrontational.

Our at-risk youth needs to find a balance between violence and apathy that allows for personal expression, exploration, and self-efficacy in the realm of survival. That same concept of survival is accessible through two primal forms of self-preservation: fighting and wilderness living. There is no room for mediocrity; the only option is to achieve your potential when failure means death. We need a way to develop these skills in a structured environment with a higher than normal perceived risk. Society needs a program involving where both of these fundamental needs will be addressed and used to improve the self-efficacy and quality of values at-risk youth possess. Mixed Martial Arts is the most modern form of sport hand-to-hand combat currently practiced. It is highly useful in teaching the values of war while maintaining a safe, structured environment. Outdoor Education is another experiential learning process through which one learns about their place in the natural environment as well as their relation to others. Together, I believe this paring of educational strategies serve to fulfill the unmet needs of today's at-risk youth through hard work, discipline, respect, and experiential learning.

Outdoor Education is a means of forcing participants outside of their comfort zone, into uncharted territory. "Most wilderness challenge programs are designed to encourage participants to reach beyond their present behaviors and accomplish a task they may have thought themselves incapable of handling" (Gillett, Thomas, Skok, & McLaughlin, 1991,pg #). This method has produced tangible results throughout its history because of its unique, holistic nature. At-risk youth who have never had the chance to expand their worldview have greatly limited their imagination and thoughts of their own potential, trapped by the death and poverty around them. Take this person to the woods, to see the natural beauty and serenity of the wilderness and it opens up the idea of the world’s potential. Gary Ferguson’s book centered on at risk youth in Outdoor Education called Shouting at the Sky reasons that “Given that nature has proven a powerful setting for healing across thousands of years, it stands to reason that, at the very least, it could provide teens with the chance for a much needed respite in these hectic times” (XII). Man was not born to be confined in a box. We were not meant to be crammed in with one another in a maze of metal and concrete, forced to style our lives after the insanity plastered across our televisions and computers. We cannot model our lives after a polluted, corrupt system that is completely unnatural to the rest of the world. We need to purge our systems of the toxicity that society has ingrained in us, define who we are rather than have it defined for us. Outdoor Education seeks to provide a better understanding of our relation to the natural world, and through this understanding recognize the place we own in it; “…kids get the chance to see a direct connection between their behavior and their experience. You can’t manipulate the wind or the rain or the mountain, or talk your way out of the coming of darkness.” (Ferguson, 25).

When at-risk youth don’t understand what their lives mean, their self-efficacy suffers greatly. Improving their views of themselves has a domino effect, improving their views on everything else around them. Hazelworth & Wilson found, "Overall analysis of self-concept for the four sessions of adventure camp showed significant positive changes in moral-ethical self-concept, identity, and self-satisfaction" (1990, pg #). The issue with at-risk youth is how resistant to change they are after years of negativity and a rebellious lifestyle devoid of authority. A proven method of getting someone to let their guard down is bringing them into an unfamiliar environment. (cite) Better yet, somewhere with a naturally positive backdrop and no distractions; somewhere outside the influence of technology, society, or even family and friends. Someplace where they can completely reboot their bodies, their diet, their sleep cycle, and basically shed all the negativity that surrounds them in their daily lives. The best place to do this is outdoors in a constructive, structured environment set to help them start rebuilding their world views from the ground up.

Understanding the psychology of at-risk youth is paramount in being able to create a program to help them. A majority of these youth are disenfranchised, violent, lacking role models or long term goals in their life. They are not afforded the same luxuries of things like opportunity, fairness, proper education, family structure, or other things that most people take for granted. William James describes how these men,

…by mere accidents of birth and opportunity, should have a life of nothing else but toil and pain and hardness and inferiority imposed upon them, should have no vacation, while others natively no more deserving never get any taste of this campaigning life at all, — this is capable of arousing indignation in reflective minds. It may end by seeming shameful to all of us that some of us have nothing but campaigning, and others nothing but unmanly ease.

(James) (need to format quotes longer than 40 words, look up on owl). The way they live their lives is based in on a morality dubbed “The Code of the Street”, the title of Elijah Anderson’s ethnographic study of inner city life. This code provides a set of guidelines as to how they should model their interpersonal and intrapersonal skills. “The heart of the code is the issue of respect…In the street culture, especially among the young people, respect is viewed as almost an external entity, one that is hard-won but easily lost – and so must constantly be guarded” (Anderson, 32). As Glasser explains, all humans have five psychological needs that motivate behavior: love, belonging, freedom, fun, and power. (cite) These are all critical components for a balanced, healthy lifestyle. When these needs are not met, they cause individuals to act out in attempts to achieve these missing aspects of their lives. Most at-risk youth are missing several, if not all of these needs and their behaviors are evidence as such. In attempts to regain control over their lives they often resort to violence or negative behaviors that temporarily mask the deep underlying issues at hand. They may be missing family structure, so they seek out gang involvement as a means of love and belonging. Freedom may come too easily to them, as they have no structure or rules to guide their lives; But this in and of itself may place a glass ceiling on their freedom later on in life as they limit their options for a productive future with tomfoolery and crime. Their access to fun is a similar situation, where the traditional ways of enjoying one’s time in a productive safe manner may be absent, giving way to vandalism or petty crimes as a way to pass the time. Power remains the greatest of these needs in the minds of at-risk youth. They have experienced a system that has failed them completely, and kept them trapped in a concrete jungle devoid of opportunity and happiness. The justice system, schools, and society outside of the lower class have done them no favors, and as a result pushed these adolescents to the edge of reasonability. They are also devoid of basic rituals, or rites of passage that give them a sense of progress and self-efficacy. In the absence of organized rituals, progress, and achievement they will turn to something else instead; “Look at gangs. The colors and the special clothes, the language, the initiation challenges, the rules of behavior. That’s ritual in the most basic sense: communal action, intended to empower by anchoring a sense of identity” (Ferguson, 149-150).

Power and respect are interchangeable in street oriented youth’s lives, “…especially when other various forms of capital have been denied or are unavailable… it often forms the core of the person’s self-esteem, particularly when alternative avenues of self-expression are closed” (Anderson, 66) An immense sense of power can be achieved with acts such as owning a weapon, joining a notorious gang, sexual exploits, or making absurd amounts of money through drug dealing or pimping. All the above reactions to missing power needs only serve to temporarily mask the problems at hand. In the long run they end up causing irreversible damage to the individuals and society at large. For the young men in these scenarios, the search for the moral equivalent of war is the catalyst that sparks much of the violence in the inner city through their twisted ideas of respect; "...modern man inherits all the innate pugnacity and all the love of glory of his ancestors. Showing war's irrationality and horror is of no effect on him. The horrors make the fascination. War is the strong life” (James). The prevailing idea that no one will give them what they need only makes them more inclined to take it through any means necessary.

While Outdoor Education uses a unique environment and reflective exercises to reach students, Mixed Martial Arts addresses the use of physical means to break down mental barriers. At risk youth often have rigid ideas involving their potential or worth as humans. A tragically common life view emerges, that “After experiencing the deaths of so many young friends, the hopeless conclude that life is bound to be short…The high death rate among their peers keeps many from expecting to live beyond age twenty-five” (Anderson, 135-136). The idea of MMA in this context is to break people down to their core, so they are able to deal with their problems rationally. MMA is an ideal way to test someone’s character, what they are like without all their defenses up. When describing youth geared towards a “street” life as opposed to a “decent” lifestyle there are several ways street youth stand out; “They tend to lack not only a decent education – though some are highly intelligent – but also an outlook that would allow them to see far beyond their immediate circumstances” (Anderson, 36). These youth have a cynical life view, and “they tend to approach all persons and situations as part of life’s obstacles, as things to subdue or to ‘get over’…setting themselves up in a position to prevail by being ‘slick’ and outsmarting others” (Anderson, 37).Any preconceived notions you may have about yourself, how tough or weak you think you are, how much you think everyone is against you, it all goes away once that gate locks. A fighter is truly in his most vulnerable state, and having someone to push you and guide you through that fear and panic forges a bond that only a fighter can truly understand. In exposing a person to their own true nature, they can begin to make choices uninhibited by external pressures. The sensation of pushing one’s body past what they have previously thought possible is an eye opening experience. It serves as tangible proof of their unexplored potential. This can be achieved through non-physical harm, for example conditioning drills as opposed to hard sparring. Fatigue makes cowards of men, and is quick to humble even the cockiest adolescent.

Affiliation with a group, power, physical security, activities, role models, and sparring are all needs of adolescent males that are met in gangs (Twemlow & Sacco, 508); conversely, these are also needs that training MMA is able to provide. For example, Anderson tells the story of two boys who have a dispute and agree to spar to settle it “Such fights are part of a long and honorable tradition of settling disputes between men, and this tradition has a justice that is its own results, effectively settling things for the time being” (Anderson, 89). After the fight is over, there is a profound change in the boys attitudes as “They can now smile at each other again…They have tested each other’s mettle, discerned important limits, and gained an abiding sense of what each one will ‘take’ from the other… they learn the rules of their relationship” (Anderson, 90). With youth accustomed to settling disputes through often unregulated or deadly violence, a controlled sparring session or even just hitting a bag allows them to settle things physically without diminishing their respect as men; they have also learned control, maturity, and respect for others at the same time.

Fighting is one of the most pure forms of physical self-expression we can achieve. No two person’s style of combat is the same; much like dancing, the way one's body moves in MMA is something unique and personal. Truly great fighters are able to transcend basic techniques to create ballets of violence, beauty through intensity. Being able to claim something as your own is an inspiring experience that no one can take away from you, and is tremendously rewarding for someone who is lacking self-efficacy. Shaping that personal style of combat into a controlled, positive skill set is the end goal of MMA. The inner city has long had great success with boxing in terms of helping violent youth. It helps take up their time and tire them out with hard work. It builds work ethic, self-esteem, self-confidence, character, physical fitness, the list goes on. What it also does is develop a trusting relationship with their coach, and provides them a mentor they can respect, confide in and take advice from... That same trust works great from an athletic/role model perspective, but also opens up the possibility of truly making them their friend. Respect is more easily given to a professional fighter than an Outdoor Education instructor, especially in the case of at risk or adjucated youth. "So long as antimilitarists propose no substitute for war's disciplinary function, no moral equivalent of war, analogous, as one might say, to the mechanical equivalent of heat, so long they fail to realize the full inwardness of the situation" (James). Trying to make at-risk youth less violent by means of pacifism is pointless. It is basically telling them every bit of evidence they have seen to the contrary is a lie. I can’t stress enough how important it will be to show these kids that myself and everyone else in the program can walk the walk, so to speak. Being able to talk to youth and say that you’re a legitimate “cage fighter” is something that crosses a lot of barriers for people that have been exposed to violence at a young age. It establishes a repertoire that you aren’t some yuppie working a charity case, and that you understand violence in a way similar to them. Connections like this are what I think will set this venture apart from everything else.

Teaching MMA requires an amount of discipline from the participants that prevents them from using their newfound (albeit very limited) skills for negative reasons. MMA has already been used to help de-radicalize violent Muslim extremists in England. (cite) British citizen, devout Muslim, and professional fighter Usman Raja was recently interviewed by CNN about his program of rehabilitating Muslim extremists into a healthier, more open mindset after their release from prison. He said, "Any idea you've got of yourself will be challenged as soon as you come in here. Once that idea of you is challenged and that opening happens we are able to go in and start dismantling that perception". (cite) He also believes his program is well received because of the mutual values and empathy he shares with many former jailed terrorists. The physical regimen is appealing to inmates as "both an outlet and a form of protection in prison....his coaching naturally allows him to develop a mentoring relationship". Knowing they will be able to transfer the same work ethic and confidence gained from defense training will make the participants more open to learning these skills in the first place. Raja’s work is with some of the most extreme circumstances available and yet "British officials say Raja's approach is working. The former cage fighter has worked with 10 of the dozens of convicted terrorists released from prison and sys that his approach has been successful so far in every single case". Ignorance of the subtleties involved in teaching MMA and misunderstanding of the sport due to mainstream culture are two obstacles in the way of its acceptance as a viable solution to at risk youth. So the training will go beyond a traditional sport approach, and involve teaching values that reinforce the physical curriculum as well; "Good morals stabilize one's emotions which, in turn, greatly benefit one's physical abilities and enhance one's overall martial arts learning" (Lu, 71). Mastering your emotions allows a level of clarity in action that benefits not only in combat, but also in avoiding confrontation through level headed thinking in place of panic or fear. As Eastern martial arts point out, "It is impossible to be deeply involved in martial arts and not be affected by the philosophy of nonviolence, of respect for yourself and your opponent and the emphasis of becoming all you are capable of being" (Lu, 72). Many at-risk youth exacerbate their situations because of learning disabilities or lack of customized education. It stands to reason then, that training "Martial arts...support synthetic ego functions, particularly control of aggressive impulses. It may be especially helpful in assisting verbally limited students in mastering leadership skills. Carefully supervised therapeutic interventions using martial arts as the change agent can enhance mind-body coordination, which is quite helpful to students with attention deficit disorders" (Twemlow & Sacco, 517).

Creating an alternative culture where youth can be confident in themselves through goal-setting and achieving is key to slowly building their confidence for their everyday lives. Working on their personal-social development and transferring the goals they set in this alterative culture into the outside world are both essential to transferring these improvements beyond the current program (Martinek & Hellison, 50-51). In combining two of the purest experiential learning processes in existence, Outdoor Education and MMA, the end result is a meaningful and thought provoking educational experience. The more experiential the better, as "experiential theories of learning tend to be holistic in nature, incorporating cognition and behavior with conscious perceptions and reflections on experience" (Priest & Gass, year, 15). There is absolutely no room for ego in MMA or the outdoors, which furthers the participant’s opportunities to think beyond themselves and their immediate future. Both environments are tailored to expose those who would trifle with the natural workings in play, and the instructors involved have the knowledge to use this to their advantage. “Teachers have the opportunity to provide not only a wilderness experience but also ongoing experiences that would more likely tough the day to day lives of the participants. This can occur within the various disciplines by reinforcing the wilderness experience through curricular references" (Gillett, Thomas, Skok & McLaughlin, 1991). Important factors of working with violent youths include the role of the teacher as a mentor, the teaching of ethics along with physical training, and emphasizing technique rather than conflict (Twemlow & Sacco, 509). The repetitive, curricular based structure of the program serves to provide a reinforced set of values that instill trust in the participants. Many at-risk youths are severely lacking the skills necessary to take care of themselves or properly fuel their bodies for success. Both Outdoor Education and MMA teach general self-care patterns and serve to reset the body's natural rhythms of sleep, physical activity, proper nutrition and general health. Becoming fully disciplined in martial arts includes recognizing one's connection to themselves, others, nature, and their existential existence as a whole. This idea is strengthened by enforcing a philosophical value system through martial arts in the outdoors, “The wilderness isn’t locked into a power struggle with them, judging them, trying to shove something down their throats. It just is. No matter what happens out here, it’s up to them to choose the meaning” (Ferguson, 182). These are all factors that strengthen the philosophy in play, promoting a drastic change in life views that will be deeply beneficial to at-risk youth as they progress through the program.

The five stages of group development detailed in Chapter 5 are expedited and concretely reinforced through group activities and basic survivalist interactions. Forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning are all steps that groups take to sort out the pecking order and form a cohesive group. In the gym, forming takes place as first impressions form based off what they see others exhibiting during the initial activities. Outside the gym where more conversation is available, members already have a sense of each other; training MMA exposes who people really are much faster than non-exertive activities like group communication. During the storming phase, individuals begin to assert themselves in the gym in the form of sparring, trying to establish themselves as the top dog so to speak through physical means. They may also rebel against authority as the coaches push them past their believed physical limits. But outside of the gym where their physical skills are not as important, they begin to realize that they need the help of others around them in order to succeed. Hence, they recognize how they are beginning to form a team, not an individual competition inside the gym. This allows them to help one another with their strengths and weaknesses in the norming phase, which is reinforced by the sharing of knowledge and skills in the outdoor pursuits. The group begins to run as a well-oiled machine when they realize they are only as strong as their weakest link, so they make a set of unwritten rules and etiquette in both the gym and outside. These things include common courtesy, training not to injure each other, sharing techniques, and pushing one another in positive ways when the going gets tough. After a long day it becomes fun to look back upon how they were able to push each other’s limits; what was intense hardship earlier in the day becomes the subject of comedy later that night, and deeper friendships are formed. The group has then achieved the performing stage of development. Towards the end the group begin to recognize how far they have come, and take pride in their accomplishments not only technically but interpersonally as well. The group functions based on different member’s skill sets; with so many things to master between Outdoor Education and the multiple martial arts in the gym they must rely on each other to shore up one another’s weaknesses. As they adjourn from one another they look to the future and how they can transfer all they have learned into their daily lives. MMA and Outdoor Education both provide personal and technical skills that are pertinent to at-risk youth’s lives, so they will feel like they have accomplished something worthwhile after all.

Society needs a team gym in the woods, where full time fighters will network with participants and outdoor counselors. Somewhere not immediately near any type of town or settlement, somewhere in isolation but set in a pristine nature area. The camp will consist of two main elements. The first is a fully functional MMA gym with athletes and coaches specially chosen for their ability to work with at risk youth that possess little to no MMA experience. The second element concerns having Outdoor Education counselors to facilitate the day hiking, backpacking, and camping half of the program. Both sides will work in tandem with one another to provide the proper care for the participants, and ideally there will be crossover member like myself that will be a part of both halves of the program. The first step of the process will be creating a "behavioral contract", or code of conduct, will improve the ethical attitudes of the participants. Research has shown this is an effective first step, "The authors found that the simple act of drawing up such a contract between each camper and the staff dramatically affected the atmosphere of the camp" (Hazelworth & Wilson, 1990, pg#). The ideal length of the program would be at least 7 weeks, as evidence shows it to be more effective over time, "Gillis (1981)needs to be cited differently goes on to state that experiences of longer duration provide more time for subjects to change self-concept because more activities can be offered and there is more time for interaction with the group and the environment" (Gillett, Thomas, Skok & McLaughlin, 1991). Eight weeks is the exact length of a professional grade fight camp, and since half the time will be dedicated to MMA the other half is the length of a 30 day NOLS course. The target group is at risk, male youths between the ages of 15 and 25. Younger is better, "Younger participants benefited slightly more than older participants from adventure programming" (Cason & Gillis, 1994), but since MMA is a very physical activity it would be well advised to use participants who have begun to mature slightly more physically and mentally, or around high school age. Financially, there are many potential government funds that could be available in the form of grants donations. For the equipment necessary to run both halves of the course I would seek out corporate sponsors. A large fight wear company like TapouT would love to market the idea of their brand being used to help underprivileged youth. My goal is to also be very sustainable, through gardens, renewable energy, and green economic strategies. Outdoor gear companies like Patagonia would be attracted to a business like this because of the positive image it gets out to the public about their brand. There is no doubt of the potential this venture would have.

Both Outdoor Education and MMA are able to serve as a catalyst for achieving the Power Needs as well. Being a part of a hiking group that relies on one another for survival and comfort serves the need for belonging just like teammates in the gym form close knit bonds through the toil and adversity they conquer together. There is no sense of freedom greater that being in nature, away from the strict rules and regulations of society. The only other challenger to that claim would be the freedom of physical expression, or taking any number of skills learned in the gym to mold a style of combat as unique as a thumbprint that nobody else can claim as their own. I am a steadfast believer that if you do not have fun climbing all over rocks and trees you are not a member of the same species as I am. And just like every other animal on this earth, play fighting or sparring with one another is something that comes instinctually in our genes as a classic game of life preparation. Finally, the greatest need of all is met as the participants come to the end of their journeys and realize that no matter where they are they possess power over themselves. The power that gets shown to them through intense physical and mental labor as they break through their glass ceilings and self-imposed constraints to recognize their full potential as human beings.

\The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Bloody Elbow readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloody Elbow editors or staff.

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