These pint-sized pipsqueaks are a long way from the Ultimate Fighting Championship, but while their fellow toddlers are busy picking their noses and learning their ABCs, they are preparing for combat.
At Williamsburg Mixed Martial Arts school, which is actually on the edge of Greenpoint, kids as young as two years old train to perfect their roundhouse kicks, jabs, and foot sweeps. But how to annihilate adversaries is not the only thing these tots are learning, according to their muscly headmaster.
“We teach them better focus, concentration, and practical self-defense,” said school director Roger Mamedov.
Mixed martial arts incorporates elements of a variety of fighting styles, including judo, Muay Thai, boxing, and jiu jitsu, and is the basis of the wildly popular pay-per-view sport in which two fighters beat the daylights out of each other for five rounds, stopping only if one is knocked or submits.
Mamedov says that, far from training youngsters for schoolyard battle, his classes give kids a safe place to unleash their inner tattooed gladiator.
“For preschoolers, the benefit is structure in a controlled way where the kids can still express themselves,” said Mamedov.
The kids’ classes have been small lately, but on Monday afternoon, best friends Phoenix Burciu-Ballen and Stella Chris, both five, thoroughly worked each other over. Instructor Diego Lopez led the pair through a number of rough exercises, including grappling moves, a judo-style sweep, and punches. He also had them scramble over and under an obstacle course.
At the end of each class, the instructors sit the students down and talk to them about respect, responsibility, and friendship. They then award one pupil a black belt for the day.
For now, the kids remain blissfully ignorant of the brutal world of pro fighting and champs such as Georges “Rush” Saint-Pierre and Johny “Bigg Rigg” Hendricks — and their parents intend to keep it that way.
“They are so not aware of all of that,” said Phoenix’s mother, Andreea Burciu-Ballen. “If anything, they are learning to protect themselves.”
Wiilliamsburg Mixed Martial Arts School [42A Dobbins St. between Nassau and Norman avenues in Greenpoint, www.williamsburgmma.com, (718) 916–7492].