World champ concerned over TV portrayal

WORLD champion kickboxer Marlon Hunt hopes that a recent controversial television documentary does not tarnish much of the good work being done at the grassroots level of martial arts.

Stuart Watson

WORLD champion kickboxer Marlon Hunt hopes that a recent controversial television documentary does not tarnish much of the good work being done at the grassroots level of martial arts.

Shown as part of Channel 4's widely acclaimed Cutting Edge series, 'Strictly Baby Fight Club' followed five primary school children in their bid to become Thai boxing champions.

The one-off documentary highlighted how obsessive many parents and coaches of young Thai boxers can be and has led to general criticism regarding children as young as five being allowed to fight.


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But although Hunt, who runs his own junior kickboxing club, fully agrees that the behaviour of many of the adults shown in the programme was unacceptable, he is keen to stress that the footage is not reflective of the martial arts community as a whole.

The 29 year-old said: “The parents and coaches shouldn't have been behaving the way they were and all that has done is portray the junior side of the sport badly.

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“My experience of junior kickboxing has always been very positive. All the shows I have organised and seen have been judged and refereed properly by people who have been on the correct courses and are fully qualified because safety is paramount when it comes to children competing. “The contact level is extremely light, the children are put into the correct weight and age categories and competitors are fully padded out with the correct safety equipment.

“I just hope that this documentary doesn't potentially stop children coming into martial arts at a young age because concerned parents won't let them give it a go. I know, certainly at my club, all of our parents are completely happy.”

A Channel 4 spokesperson said: “Strictly Baby Fight Club was an observational documentary that followed four very passionate families whose children are encouraged to participate in this up-and-coming sport. Channel 4 feels its portrayal of the sport as undertaken by its contributors was fair and accurate.”

Hunt, who runs the Red Phoenix Kickboxing Academy at Great Finborough, currently travels all over the country with his best young fighters, some as young as seven, to compete in shows.

Indeed next month, Hunt's own seven year-old son Marshall will be competing for the British Light Continuous Council (BLCC) English title in Telford.

Marshall, who started training 16 months ago, is a blue belt and has already finished fourth at the WAKO British Championships.

The youngster should have been competing for this latest title, against Derby's ISKA British champion Mohammed Umar in February, but due to a freak accident at school where split his toe he had to pull out.

For more information on Marlon Hunt's Red Phoenix Academy, please visit www.redphoenixacademy.moonfruit.com, or e-mail marlon-hunt@hotmail.co.uk.

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