Should Children Fight in Cages, or Outside Cages?

Kiddy cage-fighting might not look pretty, but I don’t think it’s wrong.

You may have seen this footage of children cage-fighting.  Yes, children cage-fighting.

In the same way I try and relax when I annoyingly forget something, safe in the knowledge that my still-whirring brain will hopefully remember whatever it is I’ve forgotten when I’m not even trying, my initial reaction when I saw this was immediately to form a conclusion – children fighting in cages is wrong – confident in my brain’s ability to establish the reasons later.  It seemed so obviously wrong; the child equivalent of those grainy pictures you occasionally see of dogs fighting in basements or pub car parks.

I saw the footage early in the morning (well, early for me) when my mouth was still an unholy combination of bad breath, toothpaste, mouthwash, bran flakes and milk, but as the large organ inside my head violently jolted into second gear I couldn’t really see much difference, in principle, between kids cage-fighting and kids boxing or doing karate, which I have no problem with.

The key legitimate differentiator between the cage-fighting and the boxing/karate might be one of safety: the latter would or should involve some form of protective equipment or clothing, be it headgear, gloves, pads or gum shields.  I didn’t see any protective equipment or clothing for the cage-fighting but even if there should have been and wasn’t, it still doesn’t follow that it’s wrong for children to fight in cages.

Sky News had wheeled in Alex Reid (yes, husband no. 2 of Jordan/Katie Price) for his opinion on this, in his capacity as a cage-fighter rather than as someone who screwed and married someone with oversized artificial tits.

Reid didn’t have a problem with the cage-fighting and made one or two worthwhile points.  For example, there was a competent referee making sure things weren’t getting out of hand and there was also medical support.  I didn’t see the medical support but there was a referee and the event seemed to be reasonably well-organised; not an out-of-control bloodbath by any means.  Reid let himself down a bit when he said that he cage-fights and that there’s nothing wrong with consenting adults doing this.  I agree, Mr. Reid, but kids by definition are not consenting adults.

The key issue, then, is one of consent, and this is tricky because some kids will be mature enough to make a decision to fight and others won’t.  Ultimately it’s hard to be 100% sure whether the kids were doing this of their own free will or whether there was some parental or other external pressure, but that lingering doubt would apply just as much to the juvenile boxing ring/karate dojo.

So if:

  1. you don’t have a problem with kids boxing or doing karate, and
  2. there is the appropriate protective equipment or clothing, and
  3. there is the appropriate medical supervision, and
  4. the kids are mature enough to make up their own mind and genuinely want to do it and can stop if and when they don’t,

is there a problem?  I don’t think there is.  So why all the fuss on Sky News and the radio this morning?

Having eliminated all other possibilities or at least the main ones, I arrive at the disappointing conclusion that it might well be the C-word: class.  This took place in a working-class social club in northern England (or “Lancashire”, for those of you who like to be geographically precise; yes, they make cheese there) and it involved “cage-fighting”, which might be synonymous in some quarters with “chavs”.

Many people would have perceived these images as bearing all the crucial hallmarks of the North and/or of the British underclass – fat men, even fatter women, violence, tattoos, unruly kids, a social club, alcohol served in pints rather than wine glasses, and shouting – and would have formed their conclusion on that basis alone.  And when I say “many people” I probably have to include myself.

Would I have come to the same hasty conclusion if these kids answered to the names Tarquin and Olly and were cage-fighting on the playing fields of a prestigious public school in Berkshire, cheered on by surgeons, barristers and colonels?  I doubt it.

What a snob.