LONDON, ENGLAND - In the shadow of the Olympic games there is a program to help break extremists of their radical views through time spent training mixed martial arts. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
As we head toward any major international event such as the Olympics, there is a shift of attention back toward potential terrorism. The 2012 London games are no different as the presence of "radical fundamentalism" in the area has many concerned.
In a recent CNN.com article the benefits of MMA training on breaking men formerly jailed for terror offenses of their extremist views was examined:
Raja tried a novel approach with some of the most challenging freed convicted terrorists; he coached them cage-fighting skills.
Raja says it proved a remarkably effective way of breaking them out of their pro al Qaeda mentality and opening up their minds to his counter-extremist message.
It has almost literally involved knocking sense into them in the fighting gym.
Convicted terrorist calmed by cagefighting
When the released convicts meet Raja to train in gyms in and around the capital, including one in east London within sight of the Olympic park, they are very much on his territory. Sparring in the cage, he says, has a way of focusing the mind.
"Any idea you've got of yourself will be challenged as soon as you come in here," Raja said. "Once that idea of yourself is challenged and that opening happens we are able to go in and start dismantling that perception."
He says he has used cage-fighting sessions in about one-third of his intervention cases. As well as working with released convicted terrorists he has worked with dozens of young Muslims radicalized in jail.
There are experts in the article saying that his ability to inspire the individual is leading to his having an incredible rate of success.
Obviously "just have all the extremists get into cage fighting" isn't an answer to anything at the largest level. But that it's working to help get anyone's life straightened out is a great thing.
It's not too dissimilar to the long history of boxing gyms in urban areas providing troubled youth with a way out while instilling a sense of self-worth and confidence. There was a time when boxing gyms were a haven for troubled youth looking to turn it around, and a place where parents would send their kids in hopes of them having a safe place.
The CNN piece is a very interesting story and I suggest you read it.