The movie Fight Club was a rebellious violent movie. Made in 1996, it almost immediately became a cult classic. The movie depicted a group of alienated men who form their own culture of violence with their own rules. One of the nasty side effects of the movie was the development real-life fight clubs across the US.

For over 15 years now these fight clubs have popped up in different places at various times. Many of the fight club members are suburban high school kids, not gang members or criminals. What has lead teens to participate in fight clubs? Is it something about our society, being a teenager, or a little bit of both?

A Violence Saturated Media

How many fight videos have you seen online? If you are a parent, you probably do not spend that much time watching videos on YouTube where may home-made fight videos are hosted. In fact, if you are in your forties or fifties, YouTube was not a part of your growing-up experience. High school may have still had typewriters! Cable TV and the endless stream of police procedural TV shows did not exists. Compare some of the shows of the 70’s to the twisted violence laden TV of today. There is no comparison in the graphic images being shown today.

Not only is there a lot of violence on TV, but the Internet is filled with violent content. Videos of teen violence pops up routinely on YouTube and other websites. The videos go viral on Facebook, Twitter and other social websites and end up being seen by millions of people. Extreme examples show up on the new to the dismay of horrified parents. Add violent video games and you have a toxic soup of violence.

Not only is our society saturated with medial violence, but our nation has been at war for 12 years. Society today is as violent as it ever had been. So, violence is ingrained in our culture and teens who see all this violence everywhere cannot help but be affected by it.

Teens Model Adult Behavior

What do we expect from our teenagers? As adults, it’s pretty obvious that we see violence a a solution or at least an option to our problems. Why shouldn’t they? Or are they supposed to be more evolved than us? Aren’t they modeling us?

Yes they are. Teens look to adults to discover acceptable ways of behavior. It you think about it for a moment, you can see this modeling in action in all aspcts of life. The modeling behavior is so important in teen development, that adults are encouraged to be positive role models.

Fire Mountain worked with one of the kids who was part of the Fairview High School Fight Club here in Boulder Colorado. Adults were horrified that teens were fighting for entertainment…for sport. It should have not been all that surprising.

Boxing? Wrestling? UFC? WWF? Aren’t fighting sports in the Olympics? Aren’t the winners given belts, and medals and trophies and money and appearances on Celebrity Apprentice?

So teens do it too and parent yell, scream and punish them. Police and school administrators ticket them and fine them, suspend and expel them from our learning institutions. Adults call their actions reckless and dangerous, or call them punks and admonish their antics.

Teenagers are living in response to the world adults created. They are not the determining factor of the direction our society is going…adults are.

Teens Need More Than Role Models

The idea of teens modeling adult behavior does not tell the whole story of why teens get involved in fight clubs. If it was just a matter of having better role models, then smiple providing good role models would be enough to keep teens from engaging in these types of behaviors. This is not to say role models are insignificant. Role models are extremely important and can have a significant influence on teen behavior. There is something more going on here.

To understand the fight club phenomenon, one has to understand the nature of human development and society, specifically the transitions people make in different periods of their lives. One of the most important periods in our lives is the passage from childhood into adulthood.

Rites Of Passage

Societies throughout time have had rights of passage. This has been part of the human experience throughout time. Some examples from our society are school graduations, religions today have rights of passage such as marriage, and baptism. Sorority/fraternity hazings are rights of passage.

What our society has today, as opposed to past societies, is a society with no cohesive right of passage from childhood into adulthood. What our society has is a mixed bag of different traditions. Not only that but many traditions are no longer practised and teens are left to navigate the passage to adulthood on their own. This is where the fight clubs come in.

These fight clubs are nothing more than a misguided attempt at creating a Rite of Passage.

Take Back This Important Moment

Unfortunately, fight clubs represent the worst tendencies in ourselves. A fight club revels in brutality and violence. It the last thing a parent wants as a right of  passage for their teenager. So, in order to fill this void and do it in a way that creates positive life affirming values, parents must step in and provide direction in this crucial phase of teen development.

There is no better alternative than to create a Rite of Passage: a ceremony, an event, a ritual, that takes in the needs of the teens going through the experience. Parents want to see their kids grow up on a healthy and positive way with a full set of life skills going into adulthood. The passage into adulthood is a critical moment where teens need guidance.

Adults Need To Be Involved

As adults, as a community, we must provide a Rite of Passage ceremony, event, ritual for our teens. If adults don’t provide a rite of passage for teens, they will provide it for themselves.

Learn about Fire Mountain Rites of Passage camp.