Little warriors

By Danielle Wright

If you're tired of wrapping your children in cotton wool, Danielle Wright has found ways to give them some rough and tumble, in a safe environment

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu students at the Submission Martial Arts school in Takapuna. Photo / Jemma Hamilton
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu students at the Submission Martial Arts school in Takapuna. Photo / Jemma Hamilton

Much has been made of the trend for overly protective parents who shelter their children from experiences that might harm them.

Whether you agree or disagree with this approach, the fact is that the world does seem a more dangerous place for this generation.

There's help at hand, and all around Auckland, clubs are catering for little warriors, giving them skills that may protect them one day, as well as being a way to let off steam and build self-confidence.

A fighting spirit will stand them in good stead to face the modern world.

Here are our picks:

Rough and tumble

Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a martial art, a combat sport and self-defence system, which looks to me like the ground-fighting many dads and sons do on the living-room floor.

Take a closer look and BJJ, as it's known, is teaching the skill of a smaller, weaker person taking on a much bigger competitor - the perfect wrestling scenario for children.

"It takes a couple of years learning BJJ to be able to defend yourself," says Warren Lambert, who teaches a class in a Takapuna hall on Friday evenings.

"It's about giving the kids the tools in a fun way," says Lambert, whose own children attend the classes. "We can always fix technique when they are a bit older, unlike more traditional karate. "Their cardio is incredible," he says, as half a dozen kids run excitedly around him. "It's awesome for fitness and these kids could go on forever. They definitely sleep well afterwards."

There's also an element of discipline, and at the end they delight in saying thank you, clapping and shaking hands, before heading home for the weekend.

Submission Martial Arts North Shore, 11 Killarney St, Takapuna, $10 per lesson. submissionmartialarts. co.nz

Sport as art

Kids' Capoeira teacher Shan Mei Chan began teaching two years ago, after trying capoeira on an exchange trip to Hawaii five years before.

"It really struck a chord with me and incorporated everything. It's a unique art form blending dance, martial arts, acrobatics and music," says Chan.

"The number of friends I have made through capoeira is just amazing."

She tailors the kids' classes to be simple and fun, while still pushing them to try their hardest, with a focus on an annual event where children can earn different belts. There's also an element of outdoor training where the group plays in a circle for the public to watch.

"We've noticed the kids' confidence has increased," says Chan. "Physically, there's increases in co-ordination and balance but also mentally - they need to sing and play instruments, as well as perform in a circle with everyone watching.

A lot of parents say that their kids are much more confident to stand up in front of their school class after doing capoeira."

"Capoeira is so unique, I love seeing the kids doing something that's so different to them," says Chan. "There's no rule book and a never-ending combination of moves.

Au Capoeira, 106-8 Quay St, Auckland City, ph 021 239 1345 or email junior@aucapoeira.co.nz, aucapoeira.co.nz. Classes start at age four and cost $120 a term, or $15 class.

Taking aim

"Archery is great for a family," says the club's co-ordinator Max Carpenter. "We had a group come three days in a row. The grandparents visiting from Britain, their children and the young kids.

"It's a skill, not strength, activity so grandma could compete with the rest."

Carpenter recommends starting archery at age 10 or older.

He says it's an activity where you have to be composed to be good at it, and the harder you try, the worse it's going to get, which doesn't suit the temperament of much younger children who tend to respond with frustration.

It's quite good for kids struggling at school. What we're trying to do is find something that people can achieve at, so they go away thinking 'I can do that'. Some of the kids don't have that positive reinforcement in their daily lives.Military Arts Club co-ordinator Max Carpenter

on axe throwingFrom 10, the kids can take on much older guys and beat them," says Carpenter.

"It's great for dads to do with their sons or daughters."

The popularity of movie The Hunger Games has helped with interest in the sport and the Military Arts Club provides tuition and entry-level archery only.

"I first tried archery in a resort, but it was a horror show and my arm was ripped open," says Carpenter. "We don't have that kind of archery, ours is just about good fun. We also have Flu-Flu archery, where the arrow flies up and drops, so you don't need to be trained. That's great for bigger groups."

Military Arts Club, based at Matakana Country Park, 1151 Leigh Rd, Matakana, ph (09) 422 9944, matakanacountrypark. co.nz. $25 to $40 a person for a 1.5-2 hour session.

Yes, sir!

"Everything we do in life is about teamwork," says Carpenter. "It's really important that everyone knows how to work in teams; humans are a team animal."

The Military Grade Confidence Course is for children 12 years and older and revolves around a series of obstacles that must be overcome in a team, and as quickly as possible.

For example, faced with a 2.5-metre wall to climb, who's going to be last over it and how will you transport the jerry can of water as well? These are the challenges the team face.

There are also wire nets, monkey bars over a stream and ropes with pulleys, as well as nasty drains full of mud to navigate.

"It's pretty hard work," says Carpenter. "But very rewarding."

Military Arts Club, as above. $35 to $45 a person, depending on the scope of the course.

It's an art

"It sounds very dangerous, but, we've never even had a cut finger doing an axe-throwing class," says Carpenter. "It's an art, really, and they're thrown about 9m, rotating a number of times before hitting a big round log target."

"It's lots of fun," says Carpenter. "Take a look at the axemen competitions that the woodchoppers do at A&P-type shows - it's not a strength thing and the axe moves quite slowly through the air.

"It's proven to be very popular because most people can do it," he says.

"It's quite good for kids struggling at school. What we're trying to do is find something that people can achieve at, so they go away thinking 'I can do that'. Some of the kids don't have that positive reinforcement in their daily lives."

Military Arts Club, as above. $25 a person, fully supervised with tuition for half an hour.

Get them in the ring

In affluent Mt Eden, gym owner Dean Evans teaches school kids as young as 10 the fundamentals of boxing without the full contact.

"It's PC boxing," says Evans. "They learn choreographed moves so the normal guy on the street will be surprised. It makes them feel like a boxer. They hit bags, do exercises and skipping. At the end of the year, they do a choreographed boxing display at the Christmas party.

"We also have to be disciplined in boxing," he says.

"Nowadays in the world, kids get away with murder, but at boxing class they have to be there on time and do as they're told. It builds their confidence."

Evans says he pushes them hard at doing the exercises. "It builds self-confidence and they feel less vulnerable knowing they can throw a real punch, even if they don't put it into practice."

There are about eight girls and around 25 boys in the classes at the moment.

"Some of the kids are very quiet in the beginning, but boxing makes them more extroverted and the more they come, the more they greet the receptionists and even make jokes with them.

"It's quite a transformation."

Boxing Central, 41 Boston Rd, Mt Eden, ph 021 845 373, boxingcentral.co.nz. Classes run through the school term on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Casual Junior Academy rate is $15.50, 10 concessions $155 or $250 a term.

- NZ Herald

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