No punches, knockouts or concussions – grappling is gaining ground as a “safe” martial art

Jackie Hughes was a fighter in one of the most brutal sports out there – Muay Thai.

It is a discipline that includes stand-up strikes, where punches are not only performed with fists, but also with elbows, knees and shins.

After claiming a clean win in her very first home game four years ago, the 36-year-old Adelaide lady showed all the promise of a rising talent.

However, a concussion before their fourth scheduled fight changed their path forever.

Taking hits to the head from strikes made Jackie question the risks of repeated concussion damage.

This eventually led to her quitting strike sports altogether and finding a new calling in what she describes as “safer” martial arts.

Along with husband Nick Hughes, Jackie has since put her heart and soul into what the couple calls “submission grappling” — a martial art focused on jiu-jitsu and wrestling that involves no punches, no knockouts, and no unnecessary risk of concussion damage .

The couple have since set up their own academy with the aim of teaching others that a passion for martial arts doesn’t have to come at the expense of your own safety.

Nick and Jackie Hughes stand on a mat at a gym while two couples wrestle on the floor behind them.
Jackie and Nick Hughes founded the MatLab Grappling Academy in 2022.(ABC Sports/Siren Sports: Sue McKay)

The culture of silence in concussion

Jackie has come a long way when it comes to understanding martial arts and concussion injuries. No punches, knockouts or concussions – grappling is gaining ground as a “safe” martial art

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