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I don't box. I don't like boxing. Professional boxing seems barbaric. Olympic boxing is just boring. But I am a martial artist, and I'm annoyed that there is not Cub Scout belt loop for martial arts. I understand the concern regarding concussions, but BSA approves flag football. It seems to me that they could approve non-contact martial arts. My cub scout aged son prefers forms competitions to sparring competitions any way.


But I recently learned that the insanity is much deeper. The original book of merit badges included combat skills.


"1910 BSA Handbook... by Chief Scout, Ernest Thompson Seton, had 14 "Badges of Merit"... [including] Master-of-Arms... The Master-at-Arms Badge involved mastering 3 of the following combat skills: single stick, boxing, ju jitsu, wrestling, quarterstaff and fencing."


This badge was only available for one year. It seems Seton dropped this badge almost immediately. Does anyone know why? Did Americans of 1910 find it inappropriate to teach combat skills to 12-year-old boys?

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I'm no historian, but the general thinking seems to be that the time for combat may be upon a lad soon enough.

Scouting on the other hand, comprises a set of skills that gives your fellow combatants the edge.

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Kids were almost unimaginably tougher back then.


But seriously, they also use to teach jiu-jitsu as an activity at the camps under Baden-Powell. At about the same time, Theodore Roosevelt built a dojo in the White House and hosted MMA bouts between judoka and wrestlers and boxers. His letters are full of descriptions of his bouts, and one of his letters describes practicing Dog Brothers-style full-contact stick-fighting with General Leonard Wood on Christmas day and getting a shiner. Full-contact stick-fighting, boxing, wrestling, judo, jiu-jitsu, and fencing were fairly common activities for Americans back then.


You can still use Judo (or even Tai Ch'i Chuan) as an activity for the BSA sport merit badge, I think, but BSA doesn't want striking arts to be used, probably for liability issues. (Funny, because I saw way more injuries when I trained in Judo and BJJ than I ever did when I was a boxer...)

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I had a parent ask me about this in a Tiger Cub Den several years ago. His son was in a martial arts class and he wanted to know why BSA didn't recognize such activities.


I speculated that BSA generally didn't recognize activities where boys could be expected to be hit in the head as a regular part of the activities. That includes regular football, for example.


He accepted that, and it's still the best answer I have, although it's mostly speculation on my part.


Once again, the lawyers run the world.


Also, while no doubt some martial arts programs are well run, others no doubt are poorly run, perhaps with poor skills and poor judgement by leaders and poor protective equipment and methods. Poor programs may be particularly hazardous, but most parents aren't going to be able to evaluate such things very well, I would suppose.(This message has been edited by seattlepioneer)

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I agree, lawyers are probably responsible for keeping boxing and martial arts out of the scouting experience today, but I'm wondering why Seton kicked it out in 1911. it seems very curious to me. And does anyone know if the British scouts still award this merit badge/ Do we have any foreign scouters on the forum?

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Don't know about other scout organizations and boxing.


Maybe Seton wanted to offer a different direction from the competing military-oriented American Boy Scouts which was started by William Randolph Hearst. I think ABS scouts were required to own a 22 rifle and train with it. At some point, one ABS scout shot and killed another scout. The ABS was soon gone as well.


Or maybe he equated boxing with fighting and figured boys needed an alternative?


Just guesses.

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"Full-contact stick fighting"... since when does a group of boys need instruction and encouragement to engage in such things!!


We get this as nauseum at just about every campout I've ever been on :p


Boxing and MMA come later when the boys are older and get into disagreements at Boy Scout camp.


Never seen knife fighting (thank goodness), but was involved in a couple non-sanctioned BSA rock throwing fights at summer camp as a youth.


I think the point is, even in 1911 - young men did NOT need to be encouraged to fight. Kinda comes naturally with the surge of hormones.

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Saw some video of Boy Scouts training and fighting with Staffs.....Probably their hiking sticks....


Adding fighting skills back would certainly add the cool factor back in.......



But some dumb testosterone laden SOB volunteer would take it to far and get some scout killed or hospitalized doing it.....

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Here's an article about the original Master at Arms merit badge and a picture of it:




A 1912 quote from Baden-Powell, after watching Japanese Scouts training in martial arts:


"I went and saw a lot of them at their daily practice of fencing with bamboo sticks and practicing jiu-jitsu to make themselves strong and active and good-tempered. I say good-tempered because it is very much like boxing; you have to take a good many hard knocks and take them smiling. If a fellow lost his temper at it, everybody would laugh at him and think him a fool. In jiu-jitsu they learn how to exercise and how to develop their muscles, how to catch hold of an enemy in many different ways so as to overpower him, how to throw him and, what is very important, how to fall easily if they get thrown themselves. I expect the Scouts of Japan, if they visit England later on, will be able to show us a thing or two in this line."


According to the article (which also expounds a little on current BSA policy), the British Scouts still have a Master at Arms badge, but only for fencing, shooting, and archery


1. Attend regular training sessions in a chosen activity (fencing, shooting or archery) and demonstrate an improvement in skill. Training should be for at least five sessions.


2. Know the safety rules associated with the activity and demonstrate their use.


3. Take part in the chosen activity at an officially supervised contest and discuss performance with the instructor.


(Here are the requirements: https://members.scouts.org.uk/supportresources/576).


The traditionalist Baden-Powell Scouts Association still issues the Master at Arms badge in something close to its original form:




1. Demonstrate proficiency in 1 of the following: Single stick, Quarterstaff, Fencing, Boxing, Judo, Wrestling, Archery or any recognised Martial art.


2. In all the contest events, Scout must have taken part in an encounter under proper ring conditions and be able to demonstrate the correct methods of attack and defence.


3. Give evidence of being in training for the scheduled item for a period of not less than 3 months.




Back when Judo was first popular in the U.S. (it's becoming moreso again), many Judo schools had short programs to cover the requirements of the Sports merit badge, which specifically mentioned Judo as an activity. They were often free, in the hopes that the Scout would like the activity and continue to become a regular dues-paying member of the dojo. Many did.

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