ARE MARTIAL ARTS LEGAL?

UK Sports recent (final) report on coaching found that almost 90% of all sports coaching providers I.e. Schools and Universities etc are in favour of a system of licensing. Whereas, support amongst coaches themselves is as low as 41% in the face of the public’s generally positive response to sports coaching. It is a goal of government to see sports coaches licensed by 2012, which I feel is long overdue.

Since 1995, when I was invited to the European Commission in Brussels to discuss sports coach development (or rather lack of it) in the UK, where together with Professor Anthony Smith the former Vice -Chairman of the MAC, we met Messier Mattheiu Hoeberigs, I knew that it was just a matter of time before our house of cards came tum-bling down. The trouble is that most people have been so preoccupied with their own interests they haven’t even noticed that it may already have happened. Even that bastion of sport, the Sports Council, as the caretaker of gov-ernment funds failed to see it coming, albeit that I have tried unsuccessfully to set up meetings with them to engage in wider discussions about far reaching and impacting developments.

As you read through this and wonder what nonsense it is that I am talking about, I would draw your attention to Sections 23 and 24 of the

Children and Young Persons Act 1933 and 1963 as amended and the Children (perfor-mances) regulations 1968:

Section 23 (Dangerous

Performances) states that: By CYPA 1933, s23, no person aged 16 years or under may take part in any performance in which his life or limbs are endangered without a local authority licence. Anyone who causes or procures this to be done, or a parent or guardian who allows it, is guilty of an offence. A Chief

Officer of Police must authorise proceedings in such cases. The types of performance referred to are those in respect of which a charge is made, or which take place in licensed premises or registered clubs, or which are live or recorded broadcast performances or performances filmed for public exhibition.

Similarly Section 24 (Training for Dangerous Performances) states that: ¦By CYPA 1933, s24, no person under 12 shall be trained to take part in any dangerous performance, and no one between 12 and 18 shall be so trained except in accordance with the terms of a local authority licence. Every person who causes or procures a person, or being his parent or guardian allows him to be so trained, is guilty of an offence.

For the purposes of licensing under this act, new regulations to implement EC Directives came into effect on 4th August 1998 and extend to sporting activities in both paid and unpaid capacities and where an admission charge is made. Now before you start yelling or putting pen to paper to discredit anything which I am pointing out, you should look carefully at the act and also at any interpretations which may be inferred and not immediately clear from the above especially in that section 37 of the Children and Young Persons Act (1968) requires a local authority licence for three specific contexts: 1 To take part in a performance 2 Otherwise to take part in a sport, or 3 Otherwise to work as a model

All the variables can now start to be interpreted in that sport is, by its very nature, performance based and invari-ably some charge is made along the line somewhere, so the criteria begins to be met whereby we fall into categories to which this legislation and other acts apply. It is not unreasonable to argue that all sport is inherently dangerous and thus the impact runs right across the world of sport in the UK.

Whilst there will be those amongst you who will, as ever, bury their heads in the sand and some who will say that no-one will ever take this seriously, or that I’m not a trained Lawyer or some other contrite argument, this is a REAL concern and one which is acknowledged by

Parliamentary representatives and may impact significantly upon us. It is now intended that a Parliamentary question will be tabled to bring the matter to the fore and to seek clarity of the law. As someone who is actively engaged in producing structured training programmes based on

National occupational Standards, I am amazed that the so-called governing bodies of sport and martial arts have not picked up on this and also a number of other items of concern. Surely you must ask why your organisation, governing body or the Sports Councils didn’t identify the problem. I did and I’m trying to get the matter clarified. Where are all the legal brains of government agencies and sport in dealing with this? Since before 1993 Professor Anthony Smith and I have been trying to bring a voice and structured system of regulation into martial arts, but we continue to meet untold resistance from groups and individuals more concerned with their own agendas than the wider sporting benefits. Why is there so much negativity towards quality sports education and development as well as setting benchmarks for standards and safe practice? Why is it that so many martial arts and sporting groups fail to grasp the concept of professional standards and quality coaching qualifications? What is it that they fear?

In almost every other industry there is structure, development, training, regulation and licensing of some kind but martial arts and sport simply refuse to be governed. The great controversy of an unregulated security industry has now been sorted out and is ongoing in both regulating and improving standards and practice. It is simply a matter of time before sport comes under the same control. In France and many other countries sport is licensed directly by the government and I would like to see something of a similar concept here in the UK. As regards martial arts, I would say that we are not capable of regulating ourselves, because of too many issues which could be seen as a conflict of interest and many of us know of ‘personality wars’ between various individuals, which would in itself bring more layers of controversy to this debacle. This will be taken out of our hands soon and the sooner the better for my liking. I abhor the politics and dictates born out of fragmentation, more often hailed as a healthy diversity. Rubbish! It is empire building with which to control not regulate.

Our divide between what some call traditional against that described as sport is not blameless in this situation, as argument versus counter argument versus counter argument has achieved nothing. The fact is that martial arts is regarded as a sport in some contexts and can be regarded as performance based in both traditional and sporting format and so we are all affected. To those who turned and continue to turn a blind eye to things I would like to say I told you so, so I’m going to say it.. I told you so! The question now is what is it I would actually like to see come from this? Well, for one, an ‘independent’ regulatory and licensing body with powers to police martial arts and sport and to stamp out macho egomaniacal practices, which are inherently dangerous to children. Also, here’s one that will get many of you to sit up and take notice: BANNING of full force head kicks to anyone less than 18 years of age.

Whilst adults can make a calculated judgement of associated risk, minors can not and their parents or instructors are not entitled to expose children to unnecessary risk which should be managed with the absolute aim of protecting the child. Other responsible instructors may wish to expand upon this within a wider framework but the time has come for everyone to sit up and take notice. I could go on and discuss issues regarding martial arts for children less than 5 years which appears to be uninsurable and may require registering and inspection as a pre-school

To return to the problem at hand, we may find ourselves at a watershed in terms of how we operate but the upshot, I hope, will be a realisation of the importance of having a voice with which to lobby government and a recognition that the days of burying ones head in the sand are over.

We all have a legal responsibility in the way in which we pass on our knowledge and skills to future generations.

Activity, and regulation concerning various types of safety equipment or lack of it, but I’ll leave that for future editions.

Whilst I am under no illusion as to the possible ridicule which may be poured upon this situation, I am also under no illusion as to the huge impact this may have upon us here in the UK, especially as ignorance of the law is no defence in law. From my own investigations and discussions with local authorities I know of their equally real concerns and frustration at the situation and how we resolve it. Professor

Smith has taken the first tentative steps towards improving standards and safe practice with Martial Arts by setting up the UK Martial Arts

Standards Advisory Commission which it is hoped will lay the foundations for establishing criteria for safe practice and quality coach education.

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