A few days ago, I walked outside my house and noticed that two of the neighborhood kids were on the ground, fighting. I couldn't tell whether they were fighting for real or just for fun, because they're at that age where they like to wrestle (by the way, some of us never grow out of that age) and have just started to get into things like UFC and pro wrestling. As a matter of fact, I see more and more children wearing Tapout T-shirts every day. I look at some of those kids and think, "My gosh, you're so little. Do you even know what UFC is about?"
I don't know whether kids who watch UFC and other kinds of regularly televised martial arts are educated enough by their parents to understand that the stuff they see on TV is extremely dangerous, even when done correctly by professionals. I don't know whether their parents tell them, "Okay, this is really serious stuff and you need to respect the fact that the people on TV are professionals and have been training their bodies to be able to handle the stress of full-body contact and dangerous techniques for a very long time". They probably don't. They probably just turn the TV on and expect their kids to know better than to try it...but it's just like with anything else you show children: if you enjoy something and you make a huge deal out of it, they will naturally want to do it in order to receive your attention and praise. I'm no parent, but I was once a kid and I remember getting REALLY into airplanes because my dad was a pilot and I wanted to have something in common with him.
Anyway, my point is, parents have a responsibility to their children to ensure their safety. Where UFC is concerned, it is especially important to educate children because of how dangerous it can be. Not only that, but martial artists also have some responsibility to those people who don't recognize and respect the danger of what we do. Knowing how to seriously hurt or even kill someone is a huge responsibility in and of itself. When people who don't know what they're doing attempt to show off the moves that we've been training for years and years to learn and refine, they are a danger to themselves and to others. So if we ever have an opportunity to properly educate those people, we kind of have an obligation to do so...so that nobody gets hurt.
With that, I stopped the fight and found out that it really WAS for real. I made them apologize, and allowed them to get the rest of their anger out on each other under direct supervision and only AFTER teaching them how to grapple properly, without killing each other. Injury was avoided and they both thought it was awesome afterward and wanted to learn more.
The number of Tapout shirts on children will probably only increase, because UFC is popular and engaging. What we want is an increase of shirts and a decrease of ignorance. Together. At the same time. Then children can understand that professional fighting isn't just about kicking the crap out of each other; it's about practice and hard work and honor and respect for the opponent, the art form, and yourself.