Child Abuse or Martial Arts? 8-Year-Old Girls Fight in Kickboxing Bout

| by Kate Wharmby Seldman

Parents are outraged after two Australian girls, aged seven and eight, competed against each other in a kickboxing competition for a $70 payoff.

Jasmine Parr, eight, fought against seven-year-old Georgina "Punchout" Barton on the Gold Coast in Queensland. Jasmine's father is John Wayne Parr, a kickboxing champion, and he was there at the bout with his daughter. The fight was declared a draw, and both girls won 70 pounds in prize money.

Now parents are speaking out about the controversial bout. Online news sites who ran stories about the girls' fight received comments like "Charge the idiot parents and promoters with child abuse." Another commenter said, "Disgusting. Shame on the parents."

Jasmine began to cry after the first round, and was knocked to the floor at least once. Georgina was the more experienced fighter of the two.

The two girls wore gloves, shin pads and headgear, but according to a brain injury expert, that's not enough to protect them from possible head trauma during a bout like this. Anna Petrou of Synapse, an Australian brain injury organization, said, "It doesn't take a lot of force for the brain to be impacted."

Some parents saw no problem with children as young as Jasmine and Georgina taking part in kickboxing. One commenter said that kids their age are already learning martial arts and there's no harm in that, while a father of three said he also saw no issue with the fight "as long as precautions are taken."

There are two key issues here. The first one is that, according to the brain injury expert, precautions were indeed not adequately taken, making this a particularly dangerous sport for children to play. Yes, all sports carry a risk of injury, but a broken leg from soccer is significantly less dangerous than a fractured skull from kickboxing. Secondly, Jasmine's tears indicate that she was scared and possibly hurt. Sports, while sometimes rough-and-tumble, are supposed to be enjoyable for children. A bit of anticipatory anxiety before a big game is normal; tears after your kickboxing opponent knocks you to the floor? That suggests the fear and pain level is far too high for a girl of eight.

Jasmine's situation may be further complicated by her father's love for the sport. Hopefully, her parents have talked to her extensively about whether she likes this sport, whether she's doing it for her own pleasure or to fulfil her parents' expectations, and whether she wants to continue it even when she gets hurt.

Even if Jasmine truly enjoys kickboxing, the dangers of injury are such that her parents may want to enroll her in a similar but less brain-trauma-inducing sport like judo.