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'Get a cup of toughen up' – BOP school trials MMA to combat playground fighting problem

A Bay of Plenty principal who grew weary of dealing with playground tussling has come up with a new approach to rough and tumble during break times.

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Life’s lessons, including getting hurt, are being taught at Taneatua Primary. Source: Seven Sharp

Tāneatua School principal Marama Stewart noticed fighting was getting out of control in her school, so she decided to stop fighting it and welcomed it into the classroom.

“Every day I was getting called out to the playground breaking up fights,” said Stewart, adding that at times there would be “three staff in the playground trying to break up fights”.

That's when Stewart had an idea for her school's curriculum – mixed martial arts or MMA, a brutal combination of the world's fighting styles.

"I was watching these guys fight and they were really, really calm and it seemed the person who could stay the calmest won the match. And I thought wouldn't it be great if our kids could stay calm.”

Funded with Ministry of Education Urgent Response Funding, the school was able to have four mats paid for which cost $4,500.

“To be a good fighter doesn’t mean you need to be the more violent or aggressive fighter, it's actually the opposite," Jiu Jitsu instructor Jerry Stensness said. 

Stewart says the move has developed resilience in her students.

“It's actually less violent than rugby. You think about those tackles and they don’t stay calm in a scrum do they? But you’ll see our kids and they have some pretty big hits and they’ll pop up with a smile,” Stewart says.

“We kind of believe that everyone gets hurt - it's a part of life.

“Maybe get a cup of toughen up, it's just a scrape, move on and our resilience in our kids is fantastic,” Stewart said.