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Competition provides an ultimate test of skill in any and every sport, to include mixed martial arts.
IMMAF provides national federations with a set of recommendations for organisers of amateur MMA events for all age groups and suggests the following structure.

Age National Events International Events Rules
6-9 Club events,
technical displays
with minimum
physical contact
10-11 Club, regional,
12-13 Club, regional,
Youth Championships
Youth MMA Rules – C
14-15 Club, regional,
Youth Championships
Youth MMA Rules – B
16-17 Club, regional,
Youth Championships
Youth MMA Rules – A
18-20 Club, regional,
Junior Championships
Amateur MMA Rules
18+ Club, regional,
Amateur MMA Rules


IMMAF recognises the need for a smooth transition from amateur to pro for those competitive athletes wishing to pursue a professional career.

The IMMAF Talent Pathway or “progression scheme” is being taught through IMMAF Coaches Licensing Courses worldwide, and will be published here at soon. For information about upcoming courses, please contact your National Federation.

Technical Progression Scheme

IMMAF Technical Progression Scheme
Recommendations for Coaches on Grading

IMMAF promotes the IMMAF Talent Development Pathway – a technical progression scheme – as the tool to establish standards across the sport and provide national federations with a means to help them in managing membership and generating revenue. The scheme is viewed as the principal vehicle of retention of recreational athletes.

Also, it is a way to assure that all competitive athletes have attained a minimum technical standard if they wish to compete and enter official IMMAF competitions. The minimum grade requirement for each IMMAF competition shall be announced prior to the event will be included in the Event Handbook.

Coaches are free to organise gradings assessments either formally or informally. Some students may benefit from assessment of their progress in a less pressurising environment and, therefore, the examination can be arranged into smaller blocks of techniques and stretched over a few sessions. The coach, who must be eligible to examine the students, shall assess several aspects of the students’ progress . The minimum pass mark of 80% for every technical element is recommended, hence leaving the students with the incentive to master their skills further until they perfect them.


Technical Criteria

Striking Technique:

Posture Balance Space control Footwork Bodywork Handwork Fluency

Striking Combinations:

Balance Space Control Footwork Bodywork Handwork Fluency Rhythm

Standing Techniques: Clinches, Takedowns, Throws, Fence Control 

the best
for action
the action-
Best grip
or clamp
Use of the
of forces

Groundwork Techniques: Attacks, Defences, Reversals, Fence Control

the action-
Body, arm, leg
catch or grip
Use of the
of forces


Grading assessments can be recorded in two ways:

Option 1 (manual) using traditional notes
Option 2 (digital) using the IMMAF Mobile phone application

IMMAF Mobile Application is the source of learning technical syllabus for athletes and the tool for coaches to conduct and record the progress of their students (known as “grading” in the martial arts). Complete IMMAF Technical syllabus is available to all registered users on IMMAF Mobile Application, section “Teach Me”.


Only IMMAF Certified coaches can conduct the technical examination, i.e. grading.

Guidelines For Young Beginners

Recommendations for MMA coaches working with pre-school, primary school and young beginners


Introduction to a sport can be the first step in a lifetime journey when managed successfully, or a disappointing experience ending in the person dropping out. It is the Club coach who is in the front line of getting it right.

Consideration 1

One of the biggest challenges when working with any beginners is the vast variety of their general physical conditions, as they are coming from all walks of life and all ages. They may differ dramatically in their movement experience and have different level of confidence in the execution of the basic motor skills. Therefore, a coach working with beginners, firstly, should focus on the fundamental and general skills. Secondly, he/she should aim at elevating of all the beginners in a class to an appropriate level. This consideration is critical for the sport of MMA, since most of the drills and exercises require work with a cooperative partner.

Consideration 2

We see more and more people encouraging their children to try out sport at early ages. Physical activity is one of the most important parts of a child’s health, well-being and learning and therefore, physical exercise is one of the ways in which young children interact with the world as they grow. Children’s growth, physical and emotional development undergo several phases, each of requiring a meticulous choice of teaching methodology and specific sets of exercises. Therefore, it is mandatory that all coaches useage-appropriate physical activities when teaching novices of different ages.

Consideration 3

It is common for many sports clubs to have classes of mixed ages, however a big age difference (2 years+) is not recommended, particularly when young novices are participating in the class. When pairing up young beginners for joint exercises we need to consider the possible huge mismatch in their physical levels, as they could be early developers (ED) and late developers (LD)

The recommended age groups for classes of beginners are outlined below.


Age specific recommendations for running MMA classes for novices


Novices Ages 2–5

  • Children of pre-school age continue to learn various basic and multilateral movements (running, tumbling, throwing, catching, etc.) and the most effective learning form for them is unstructured free- play. They are too young for organised sport, and it is unlikely that they will gain any long-term advantage in terms of future sports performance if they are exposed to the strict regulations of adult sport. It is advised that children of pre-school age do not join general MMA classes, unless they are specifically tailored for their age group and focused on general physical development with the inclusion of some elements of mixed martial arts.
  • Competitions for children aged 2 to 5 are not recommended, unless they are organised as a technical display
  • The minimum coaching qualification required to run such classes are IMMAF COACH LEVEL 2 and IMMAF YOUTH COACH (coming soon)

Novices Ages 6–9

  • Children of ages 6 to 9 continue to develop all forms of coordination, learn complex movements, including changing direction, pivoting and turning. As their attention increases, they are able to focus on more complex tasks for longer. Between 6 and 9 are the best ages for the introduction of most martial arts to children. The main focus should be on the learning of the biomechanically correct technique and fundamental movements.  
  • Children of the ages 7 to 8 could be gradually introduced to the basic strength training.
  • Competitions for children of ages 6 to 9 are not recommended, except for technical displays, with awards for participation and recognition of an effort and attitude. It is advised that the WHITE grade (wristband) is awarded as soon as the novices are able to display the set of Fundamental movements (See Progression Scheme).
  • Children of ages 8 to 9 shall advance through the Progression scheme, within the minimum time of one grade every 12 months, reaching the maximum of YELLOW grade.
  • The minimum coaching qualification required to run beginners classes for this age group are IMMAF COACH LEVEL 2 and/or IMMAF YOUTH COACH (coming soon)

Novices Ages 10–12 (Youth C)

  • Children of ages 10 to 12 have a mature understanding of physical movements and good ability to follow the tactics and strategies of almost any sport.
  • Technical development remains the prime consideration, while gradual introduction of children to speed, strength and appropriate endurance training is continued.
  • Children of ages 10 to 12 shall progress through the Grading Scheme, within the minimum time of one grade every 12 months, reaching their first competition as a Youth – C at “ORANGE Grade.”
  • Children age 10-12 can be gradually introduced to MMA competitions under the modified rules, which nullify domination by strength through the application of technical restrictions. (See IMMAF guidelines for Youth Championships)
  • The minimum coaching qualifications required to run beginners classes for this age group are IMMAF COACH LEVEL 2 and/or IMMAF YOUTH COACH (coming soon)

Novices Ages 13–14 (Youth C/B)

  • Young people of ages 13 to 14 have a mature understanding of the physical movements and good ability to follow the tactics and strategies of the sport, however the growth spurt caused by the puberty may affect their balance and coordination
  • Young people of ages 13 to 14 shall progress through the Grading Scheme, within the minimum time of one grade every 9 months, reaching their first competition as Youth – B in the “GREEN Grade”
  • Young people of ages 13 to 14 can participate in MMA competitions under modified rules, which shall continue to nullify domination by strength through the application of technical restrictions. (See IMMAF guidelines for events for
  • Cadets and Youth)
  • Children aged 13 to 14 will need to show a good balance of technical and physical development
  • The minimum coaching qualification required to run such classes is IMMAF COACH LEVEL 1

Novices Ages 16+

  • Novices at 16+ can join the mainsteam adult classes
  • Novices of 16+ shall advance through the Progression Scheme, within the minimum time of one grade every 6 months (See Progression Scheme)
  • The minimum technical standard of anyone willing to start competing in Amateur Youth events (U18s) shall be at minimum of ORANGE Grade (cadets) and for a senior event (18+), GREEN Grade
  • The minimum coaching qualification required to run the beginners classes for adults is  IMMAF COACH LEVEL 1

Guidelines For Youth Events

Introduction & Guidelines for Organisers of MMA Competitions


1. Rationale

Grassroots sport forms an important part of Talent Identification and Development Pathways, which IMMAF offers to the practitioners of amateur MMA.

While the preeminent short-term objective of participation in sports competition is to win, the prominent long-term objective is to help young athletes develop physically, psychologically and socially.

Therefore, IMMAF promotes a special and caring attitude towards the youth MMA sport and advocates that:

  • Young athletes are not “small adults”
  • Youth sport is only an introduction to the full game, which is far too complex and physiologically demanding for young athletes to be instantly exposed to
  • Youth sport is a vital “part of the learning curve”
  • Youth sport needs to provide an appropriate learning environment, which in the long-term can help to identify and nurture talent.
  • The process of growth and maturation of children is diverse and individualised, and we may very often see early developers and late developers competing in one age group.

With regards to the above considerations and the recommendations of the IMMAF Medical Committee, IMMAF strongly recommends that all National Federations and event organisers require the minimum technical standardstechnical restrictions and modified rules for all national events for Youths A (age 16-17), Youths B (age 14-15) and Youths C (age 12-13), as described in the following Guidelines.

2. Minimum Technical Standard

IMMAF strongly recommends to all National Federations to realign their national youth events to criteria set as below, as the same minimum technical standard will be applied to all IMMAF Youth Championships (according to the IMMAF Progression scheme):

Youth A (age 16-17) – Green level+                                                                  
Youth B (age 14-15) – Orange level+                                                  
Youth C (age 12-13) – Yellow level+

3. Technical Restrictions

Safety of young participants in competition remains the prime consideration of the IMMAF. Therefore, IMMAF is promotes a gradual introduction of young participants to the full game of mixed martial arts.

Technical restrictions will be applied for the youth age bands A (age 16-17), B (age 14-15) and C (age 12-13).

In particular, the “no head shots” policy is mandatory for all IMMAF youth competitions.

See IMMAF Youth Rules here

4. Modified Rules

The modification of rules for young athletes is applied with the aim of reducing the complexity of the competitive scenarios, and hence allowing them more time to shape their performance techniques and skills, which they will be relying on later in the senior game. The purpose of this teaching strategy is to encourage the learner to develop a sound technical style as opposed to a strategy of quick wins based on physical domination.

Young contestants shall be judged using the conventional 10-point system.

In particular, “technical submissions” shall be observed in all Youth B and C events, i.e. referee will have to be sensitive in the stopping of a match having determined a submission based on a fully extended limb or the tight hold of the neck by the attacking athlete.

5. New Ethos

5.1. Breaking the stereotypes

IMMAF recommends to all National Federations that they adopt and create a new ethos around youth amateur MMA, drawing a line between it and professional sports performance to break negative stereotypes and promote positive attitudes to the sport.

IMMAF recommends avoiding professional entertainment terms – “cage”, “fight”, “fighter” and to replacing them with “ring”, “field of play”, “competitor”, “athlete” etc.

5.2. Uniform

Taking part in a youth sport event forms a big part of the ethos and culture of sport. IMMAF recommends to all National Federations that participants wear the appropriate attire for national events: red and blue rash-guards/shorts with the corresponding colour for gloves and shin-guards.

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Martial Arts Federation
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