The Organization and Regulation of Full Contact Martial Arts: A Case Study of Flanders
2. Purpose of the Study
4.1. An International Survey Regarding the Organization and Regulation of Full Contact Martial Arts
4.2. The Flemish Case
4.2.1. Concerns Regarding Full Contact Martial Arts in Flanders
220.127.116.11. Organizational Perspective
- As a consequence of the wide variety of federations involved in the organization of full contact martial arts in Flanders, the full contact martial arts sector is fragmented. Despite the fact it is difficult to gain insight into which federations are involved with the organization of full contact martial arts, we made an attempt to provide a brief overview of the Flemish federations which have been identified until now (see Table 1):
- Four martial arts federations are recognized but not subsidized in Flanders. One of them offers only full contact martial arts (i.e., Flemish Boxing League). Two federations offer next to full contact martial arts, also other (styles of) martial arts (i.e., Flemish wushu federation and ABC Flanders). Finally, one of the four recognized federations is a multi-martial arts federation, which offers different martial arts, of which full contact martial arts are one.
- Three multi-sports federations offer, among other sports, full contact martial arts. Those sports federations are recognized and subsidized by the Flemish government. In Flanders, however, the regulations which multi-sports federations are required to meet in order to be recognized and subsidized are less comprehensive than those imposed on uni-sports federations, because they are not involved in multiple tasks, such as the organization of competition on a local, national and international level, talent development and elite sport development, etc. The focus of those multi-sports federations is particularly on the organization of recreational sports participation.
- Four martial arts federations, offering full contact martial arts are not directly recognized, but are affiliated with a recognized multi-sports or multi-martial arts federation.
- Finally also not recognized full contact martial arts federations exist in Flanders. Today, we could only identify one federation. Probably more full contact martial arts federations exist, but because they do not wish to be known, it is hard to obtain an overview of them.
- Some sports clubs do not have any affiliation with a sports federation. Even more so than full contact martial arts clubs that are a member of a sports federation, clubs without any affiliation are hard to control and regulate, because they are difficult to reach and less information is available about them. Particularly, in such clubs the ethically and medically sound sports participation is highly questionable.
- A profound distrust exists between the different full contact martial arts federations, which makes it difficult to set up any form of collaboration. This distrust has been historically grown. Often it is a slight disagreement (such as conflicts regarding competition results, financial disputes, etc.) which results in the impossibility of any kind of collaboration.
“… He is a renowned person in our martial arts style. But we, as a federation, could not continue to pay his personal expenses such as the wheels of his car. That is why he is split off from our federation.” (A representative of a martial arts federation).
- Full contact martial arts participants and clubs can be a member of different federations. Because the federations do not have any information about each other, this leads to some critical issues. For instance, when a participant of a full contact martial art is suspended in one federation, he or she can participate at competitions organized by other federations. If the participant was suspended because of medical reasons (e.g., after a knock out) this can have consequences for the health of the participant. Moreover, each federation has its own competition rules and system to classify competitors according to their level of experience (e.g., elite-amateur, A-B-C-D). The phenomenon of “federation shopping” can raise several questions: How can the level of experience of a competitor be determined when each federation uses its own classification system? How can a competitor prepare him/herself thoroughly if he/she has to adapt him/herself to the rules that are applied?
|Recognized Martial Arts Federations (Offering Full Contact Martial Arts)||Flemish Multi-Sports Federations (Recognized and Subsidized) (Offering among Other Sports, Full Contact Martial Arts)||Martial Arts Federations Not Directly Recognized, but Affiliated with a Recognized Multi-Sports or Multi-Martial Arts Federation||Not Recognized Martial Arts Federations|
|1. ABC Flanders** (Kickboxing…)||1. Federation for Recreational and Omnisports (FROS)** (Kick-/Thai boxing, MMA, shoot boxing, K1, Full contact American Kickboxing …)||1. Federation for Recreational and Omnisports (FROS)** (Kick-/Thai boxing, MMA, shoot boxing, K1, Full contact American Kickboxing …)||1. International Martial Arts Federation Belgium…|
|2. Flemish Boxing league (Boxing)||2. SPORTA** (Muaythai, Boxing…)||2. Belgian Karate Organisation Shinkyokushin (full contact karate)|
|3. Flemish wushu federation** (Sanda)||3. Federation Dance and Sport** (Kyokushinkai karate)|
|3. Belgian Kyokushin Organisation (full contact karate)|
4. Belgian Mixed Martial Arts Federation (Kick-/Thai boxing, MMA, full contact karate…)
|4. Flemish martial arts federation** (Kick-/Thai boxing, MMA, full contact karate …)|
18.104.22.168. Pedagogical Perspective: Full Contact Martial Arts Coaches’ Education
- Because of the fragmentation as well as the wide variety of full contact martial arts, the trainer course is a general course for different full contact martial arts. This implies that no sports specific training course exists for boxing, kick-/Thaiboxing, MMA, etc.
- Only a limited number of full contact martial arts trainers have followed the trainer course organized by the department of the administration of the Flemish government. This is an issue concerning demand for—as well as supply of—the trainer course. With regard to the former, there is only limited interest and motivation to follow the training course, because the content of the existing course is not sufficiently well-known in the federations, or supported by specific federations. Regarding the supply chain, the training course is not accessible enough for full contact martial arts teachers, because many of them are low-skilled and/or immigrants. With regard to the latter also a language barrier exists.
- Very few full contact martial arts federations require recognized certification for a trainer to start a sports club. This carries the risk that participants of full contact martial arts are trained by insufficiently qualified trainers, meaning the safety of the participant cannot be ensured.
22.214.171.124. Ethical and Medical Perspective
- In some full contact martial arts clubs and federations in Flanders, members are not obligated to have insurance. Some clubs and federations require this only of their competitors.
- Furthermore, a lack of clarity exists regarding compulsory protection (e.g., is it compulsory to wear a helmet?). Furthermore, differences exist in the protection material (e.g., leg protection: thick versus thin).
“The shin protection is sometimes treated in a stepmotherly way. Some have really very thin, other very thick protection. There is a big difference between the impact of a blow to the head with such a light protection, that has mostly moved to the wrong side during the fight, as compared with a thick shin protection.” (A physician)
- No clear agreement exists with regard to the medical examination of a participant of a full contact martial art (e.g., before a competition, after a medical suspension period, etc.)
- Because of the fragmentation of the full contact martial arts sector and the problem of “federation shopping”, discussed previously, no general system exists, with regard to checking the medical status of participants. Each federation has its own system, and as a result there is no general registration of the total number of competitions with an indication of wins/losses, injuries sustained, knock-outs, …
- A lack of clarity exists with regard to the authority of a physician during competition.
- In most federations, the specific regulations with regard to youth are vague. For example, in some federations punching to the head is allowed, but participants are not allowed to hit “hard”.
“It is written in the rules that youth cannot make hard contact, but in fact this is bullshit, because what is ‘hard’? ‘Hard’ for the one is different for another.” (Expert in full contact martial arts)
- The commercialization of full contact martial arts events can be considered as an ethical issue. The commercial gain of such events is often considered more important than the safety of the participants.
126.96.36.199. Governmental Perspective
- There is lack of clarity in the vision of the Flemish government. For more than a decade, one of the pillars of the Flemish sports subsidization policy relies on the existence of a selected list of 54 sports that are eligible for official recognition and financial support by the Flemish government. The list includes 10 different martial arts (aikido, amateur boxing, fencing, jiu-jitsu, judo, karate, kendo, taekwondo, wrestling and wushu). Apart from amateur boxing (because of its Olympic status), no other full contact martial arts are included. This is mainly because of distinct medical and moral concerns that were raised. The lack of clarity in the vision of the Flemish government relates to the fact that on the one hand limited recognition and no support is allowed for participants of full combat martial arts, such as Thai and kickboxing (because they are not on the official sports list), while on the other hand, the same government supports a number of sports-based developmental initiatives that make use of these sports.
- The Flemish government uses a specific term to refer to full contact martial arts, namely “risk” martial arts. This term refers to those martial arts that have specific techniques which permit punching or kicking an opponent with the intention of reducing his/her physical or psychological integrity (Decree of 13 July 2007 on medically and ethically sound sports participation, Art. 2, §13). Based on the interviews with expert witnesses as well as on what was heard during attendance of different competitions, trainings and meetings, we can indicate that the introduction and the use of this term has caused consternation among different individuals involved with martial arts practice. According to many of those involved in full contact martial arts the use of this term promotes negative stereotyping, and is not positive for the image of this kind of martial arts.
In order to improve the image of our martial arts, we have to take our own responsibility and emphasize the positive aspects.... This is however very difficult when you are called “risk martial arts”. (A representative of a martial arts federation).
- Municipalities and cities are unaware of the problems and the possible abuses that occur in full contact martial arts (e.g., rental of locations to organizations which are not practicing/organizing martial arts in a medically sound way).
- Municipalities and cities can determine the criteria that sports clubs have to fulfill in order to obtain financial support. Often a sports club is not required to be a member of a recognized sports federation. Because of this, it is possible for a local sports club to receive the financial support of the local authorities without being a member of a sports federation. As they receive the financial support of the local authorities, they do not feel the need to be affiliated with a sports federation. As indicated earlier, such clubs are less controllable and often, even more than those that are a member of a sports federation, the ethically and medically sound sports participation is highly questionable in these clubs.
4.2.2. Initiatives of the Flemish Government Regarding Full Contact Martial Arts
- The platform is a knowledge center to extend knowledge with regard to the different aspects of full contact martial arts;
- The platform is a communication center and contact point: a center which will inform and communicate regarding full contact martial arts with all sorts of stakeholders (e.g., federations, government, etc.) on a regular basis;
- The platform is a service and support center for stakeholders involved in the organization or the practice of full contact martial arts.
Conflicts of Interest
- Australian Bureau of Statistics. Children’s Participation in Cultural and Leisure Activities,Australia, Apr 2009. Available online: http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/[email protected]/DetailsPage/4901.0Apr%202009?OpenDocument (accessed on 21 January 2010).
- Ifedi, F. Sport Participation in Canada 2005; Culture,Tourism and the Centre for Education Statistics: Ottawa, ON, Canada, 2008. [Google Scholar]
- Van Bottenburg, M.; Rijnen, B.; van Sterkenburg, J. Sports Participation in the European Union. Trends and Differences; Mulier Institute: Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 2005. [Google Scholar]
- Theeboom, M. A closer look at effects of martial arts involvement among youth. Int. J. Sport Manag. Mark. 2012, 11, 193–205. [Google Scholar]
- Brent, J.; Kraska, P. Fighting is the most real and honest thing: Violence and the Civilization/Barbarism Dialectic. Br. J. Criminol. 2013, 53, 357–377. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Theeboom, M.; Vertonghen, J.; Dom, E. The regulation of “risk” martial arts: The case of Flanders. In In Book of Abstracts,Proceeding of the 21th Conference of the European Association for Sport Management (EASM), Istanbul,Turkey, 11–15 September 2013; pp. 79–80.
- Fulton, J. “What’s your worth?”—The development of capital in British boxing. Eur. J. Sport Soc. 2011, 8, 192–218. [Google Scholar]
- Haudenhuyse, R.; Theeboom, M.; Coalter, F. The potential of sports-based social interventions for vulnerable youth: Implications for sport coaches and youth workers. J. Youth Stud. 2012, 15, 437–454. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Theeboom, M.; Wylleman, P.; de Knop, P. Martial arts and socially vulnerable youth: An analysis of Flemish initiatives. Sport Educ. Soc. 2008, 13, 301–318. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Endresen, I.M.; Olweus, D. Participation in power sports and antisocial involvement in preadolescent and adolescent boys. J. Child Psychol. Psychiatry 2005, 46, 468–478. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed]
- Grady, J. Celluloid katas: Martial arts in the movies—A practitioner’s prejudices. J. Asian Martial Arts 1998, 7, 86–101. [Google Scholar]
- Smith, R. Martial Musings: A Portrayal of Martial Arts in the 20th Century; Via Media Publishing: Erie, PA, USA, 1999. [Google Scholar]
- Fu, P.; Desser, D. The Cinema of Hong Kong: History,Arts,Identity; Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK, 2000. [Google Scholar]
- Taylor, K. Martial Media. In Martial Arts of the World: An Encyclopedia of History and Innovation; Green, T.A., Svinth, J.R., Eds.; ABC-CLIO: Santa Barbara, CA, USA, 2010; pp. 527–554. [Google Scholar]
- Hunt, L. Kung Fu Cult Masters: From Bruce Lee to Crouching Tiger; Wallflower Press: London, UK, 2003. [Google Scholar]
- Ngai, K.M.; Levy, F.; Hsu, E.B. Injury trends in sanctioned mixed martial arts competition: A 5-year review from 2002 to 2007. Br. J. Sports Med. 2008, 42, 686–689. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed]
- Junge, A.; Engebretsen, L.; Mountjoy, M.L.; Alonso, J.M.; Renström, P.; Aubry, M.J; Dvorak, J. Sports Injuries During the Summer Olympic Games 2008. Am. J. Sports Med. 2009, 37, 2165–2172. [Google Scholar]
- Pappas, E. Boxing, Wrestling, and Martial Arts Related Injuries Treated in Emergency Departments in the United States, 2002–2005. J. Sports Sci. Med. 2007, 6, 58–61. [Google Scholar] [PubMed]
- Porter, M.; O’Brien, M. Incidence and severity of injuries resulting from amateur boxing in Ireland. Clin. J. Sport Med. 1996, 6, 97–101. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed]
- Gartland, S.; Malik, M.H.A.; Lovel, M.E. A Prospective Study of Injuries Sustained during Competitive Muay Thai Kickboxing. Clin. J. Sport Med. 2005, 15, 34–36. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed]
- Gartland, S.; Malik, M.H.A.; Lovel, M.E. Injury and injury rates in Muay Thai kick boxing. Br. J. Sports Med. 2001, 35, 308–313. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed]
- Green, T.A.; Svinth, J.R. Introduction. In Martial Arts of the World: An Encyclopedia of History and Innovation; Green, T.A., Svinth, J.R., Eds.; ABC-CLIO: Santa Barbara, CA, USA, 2010; p. xix. [Google Scholar]
- Parlebas, P. Jeux,Sports et Sociétés, Lexique de Praxéologie Motrice [Game,Sports and Society, Lexicon of Motor Praxeology]; Institut National du Sport, de L’expertise et de la Performance (INSEP): Paris, France, 1999. [Google Scholar]
- Donohue, J.; Taylor, K. The classification of the fighting arts. J. Asian Martial Arts 1994, 3, 10–37. [Google Scholar]
- Pearn, J. Boxing, youth and children. J. Paediatr. Child Health 1998, 34, 311–313. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef] [PubMed]
- Förster, A. The nature of martial arts and their change in the West. In Mind and Body: East Meets West; Kleinman, S., Ed.; Human Kinetics: Champaign, IL, USA, 1986; pp. 83–88. [Google Scholar]
- Van Bottenburg, M.; Heilbron, J. De-sportization of fighting contests: The origins and dynamics of no holds barred events and the theory of sportization. Int. Rev. Sociol. Sport 2006, 41, 259–282. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Buse, G.J. No holds barred sport fighting: A 10 year review of mixed martial arts competition. Br. J. Sport Med. 2006, 40, 169–172. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Sheard, K.G. Aspects of boxing in the Western “Civilizing Process”. Int. Rev. Sociol. Sport 1997, 32, 31–57. [Google Scholar]
- Carr, D. What moral significance has physical education? A question in need of disambiguation. In Ethics and Sport; McNamee, M.J., Ed.; E. & F.N. Spon: London, UK, 1998; pp. 119–133. [Google Scholar]
- Parry, J. Violence and aggression in contemporary sport. In Ethics and Sport; McNamee, M.J., Ed.; E. & F.N. Spon: London, UK, 1998; pp. 205–224. [Google Scholar]
- Steenbergen, J. Grenzen aan de Sport: Een Theoretische Analyse van het Sportbegrip [Frontiers to Sport: A Theoretical Analysis of the Sport Concept]; Elsevier: Maarssen, The Netherlands, 2004. [Google Scholar]
- American Academy of Pediatrics. Boxing participation by Children and Adolescents. Pediatrics 2011, 128, 617–623. [Google Scholar]
- World Medical Association. WMA Statement on Boxing. Available online: http://www.wma.net/en/30publications/10policies/b6/index.html (accessed on 1 September 2010).
- Gauthier, J. Ethical and Social Issues in Combat Sports: Should Combat Sports be Banned? In Combat Sports Medicine; Kordi, R., Maffulli, N., Wroble, R., Wallace, A., Eds.; Springer: London, UK, 2009; pp. 151–172. [Google Scholar]
- Jones, K. A key moral issue: Should boxing be banned? Sport Soc. 2001, 4, 63–72. [Google Scholar]
- Collinet, C.; Delalandre, M.; Schut, P.; Lessard, C. Physical Practices and Sportification: Between Institutionalisation and Standardisation. The Example of Three Activities in France. Int. J. Hist. Sport 2013, 30, 989–1007. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Dortants, M.; van Bottenburg, M. Aanzien en overleven in een sport vol passie [Respect and Survive in a Sport Full of Passion]. In Over Regulering van Full Contact-Vechtsporten [Regulation of Full Contact Martial Arts]; Arko Sports Media: Nieuwegein, The Netherlands, 2013. [Google Scholar]
- Kikulis, L. Continuity and change in governance and decision making in national sport organizations: Institutional explanations. J. Sport Manag. 2000, 14, 293–320. [Google Scholar]
- Maher, B. Understanding and Regulating the Sport of Mixed Martial Arts; University School of Law: Oklahoma City, OK, USA, 2010. [Google Scholar]
- Varney, G. Fighting for respect: MMA’s struggle for acceptance and how the Muhammad Ali act would give it a sporting chance. West Va. Law Rev. 2010, 112, 269–305. [Google Scholar]
- Hess, P. The development of mixed martial arts: From Fighting Spectacles to State-Sanctioned Sporting Events. Willamette Sports Law J. 2007, 4, 1–23. [Google Scholar]
- Sanchez Garcia, R.; Malcolm, D. Decivilizing, civilizing or informalizing? The international development of Mixed Martial Arts. Int. Rev. Sociol. Sport 2010, 45, 39–58. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef][Green Version]
- Distaso, M.; Maietta, A.; Giangrande, M.; Villani, R. The state of the art of scientific research in combat sports. In Book of Abstracts, Proceedings of the 14th annual Congress of the European College of Sport Science, Oslo, Norway, 24–27 June 2009; p. 599.
- Zohrabi, M. Mixed Method Research: Instruments, Validity, Reliability and Reporting Findings. Theory Pract. Lang. Stud. 2013, 3, 254–262. [Google Scholar]
- Berg, B.K.; Chalip, L. Regulating the emerging: A policy discourse analysis of mixed martial arts legislation. Int. J. Sport Policy Polit. 2013, 5, 21–38. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- De Smedt, L. Wij Krijgen Onterecht Stempel Crimineel [We Obtain Unfairly the Stamp of a Criminal]. Available online: http://www.nieuwsblad.be/article/detail.aspx?articleid=DMF20131009_00782826 (accessed on 11 October 2013).
- Op de Beek, H. 20 Redenen Waarom deze Gevechtsport zo Gevaarlijk is [20 reasons why martial arts are dangerous]. Available online: www.hln.be/hln/nl/956/Meer-Sport/article/detail/1777518/2014/01/20/20-redenen-waarom-deze-gevechtssport-zo-gevaarlijk-is.dhtml (accessed on 3 February 2014).
- Vermeiren, M. Sugar Jackson werd Jarenlang Slecht Begeleid [Sugar Jackson was poorly guided for many years]. Available online: http://www.vandaag.be/sport/137822_sugar-jackson-werd-jarenlang-slecht-begeleid.html (accessed on 3 February 2014).
- Vertonghen, J.; Dortants, M. Report on the workshop “Organising, Managing and Regulating Martial Arts” during the 21st EASM Conference. Rev. Artes Marciales Asiáticas 2014, 8, 480–483. [Google Scholar]
- European Commission. Erasmus + Programme Guide. 2014. Available online: http://ec.europa.eu/programmes/erasmus-plus/documents/erasmus-plus-programme-guide_nl.pdf (accessed on 19 February 2014).
- Koppenjan, J.; Klijn, E. Managing Uncertainties in Networks. A Network Approach to Problem Solving and Decision Making; Routledge: London, UK, 2004. [Google Scholar]
- Theeboom, M.; Verheyden, E. Vechtsporten met een Plus: Extra Kansen voor Kwetsbare Jongeren [Martial Arts with a Plus: Additional Opportunities for Socially Deprived Youth]; Vubpress: Brussel, Belgium, 2011. [Google Scholar]
- Chalip, L. Toward a Distinctive Sport Management Discipline. J. Sport Manag. 2006, 20, 1–21. [Google Scholar]
- Theeboom, M.; Schaillée, H.; Nols, Z. Social capital development among ethnic minorities in mixed and separate sport clubs. Int. J. Sport Policy Polit. 2011, 4, 1–21. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Vertonghen, J.; Theeboom, M. How to Obtain More Insight into The True Nature of Outcomes of Youth Martial arts practice? J. Child. Serv. 2013, 8, 244–253. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- 1. Many different terms and definitions are used to refer to martial arts . For the remainder of the present paper, we will use martial arts as a generic term, and use the term ‘full contact martial arts’ to refer to sports, such as boxing, kick-/Thaiboxing, Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), cage fighting, K1, full contact karate and sanda.
- 2. Flanders is the Dutch-speaking northern part of Belgium.
- 3. Someone was considered as an expert when he or she had more than 20 years of experience with full contact martial arts as an athlete and more than 10 years of experience as a teacher. Moreover, most had experience with the practice of more than one full contact martial art.
© 2014 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Vertonghen, J.; Theeboom, M.; Dom, E.; Bosscher, V.D.; Haudenhuyse, R. The Organization and Regulation of Full Contact Martial Arts: A Case Study of Flanders. Societies 2014, 4, 654-671. https://doi.org/10.3390/soc4040654
Vertonghen J, Theeboom M, Dom E, Bosscher VD, Haudenhuyse R. The Organization and Regulation of Full Contact Martial Arts: A Case Study of Flanders. Societies. 2014; 4(4):654-671. https://doi.org/10.3390/soc4040654Chicago/Turabian Style
Vertonghen, Jikkemien, Marc Theeboom, Els Dom, Veerle De Bosscher, and Reinhard Haudenhuyse. 2014. "The Organization and Regulation of Full Contact Martial Arts: A Case Study of Flanders" Societies 4, no. 4: 654-671. https://doi.org/10.3390/soc4040654