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Martial Arts for Children in West Dorset

Martial Arts for Children

Mum of two Charlie Hughes runs green family lifestyle blog Sophia’s Choice. She shares her experiences of martial arts for children with Yarn Magazine.

Before meeting my husband, my only real experience of martial arts was having watched the Karate Kid aged 12 and attending a “self defence” course at school where I gave my best friend a black eye. I suppose it proved that the techniques worked, however I’m not sure my friend was too pleased by the experience.

Since then I’ve often toyed with the idea of learning a martial art properly, particularly as I’ve watched my husband’s own journey with martial arts over many years. I’ve come to realise that there’s so much more to it than just self defence and, in our modern world, learning a martial art can definitely offer our children many key benefits which will set them up for life.

My husband teaches Wing Chun, a form of Kung Fu, and in recent months our eight-year-old daughter has shown a keen interest in learning with her father. She’s a confident, yet sensitive child and as her mother I often worry whether she’ll be able to hold her own with her peers as she grows older. I’m therefore keen to nurture this interest in martial arts further.

Bullying is sadly still prevalent in many schools, so the benefits a martial art can bring to children is far reaching and can inspire an inner self-confidence, which makes dealing with potential bullies a less daunting prospect.

‘Taught in the correct environment, martial arts promote awareness, confidence and understanding of others’

Now I’m not for one moment advocating violence; far from it. From the discussions I’ve had with local instructors and those from further afield, the answer to the question, “Does a martial art promote violence?” is a resounding “no”.

Taught in the correct environment, martial arts promote awareness, confidence and understanding of others which enables and encourages the individual to avoid a potentially aggressive situation. Students learn that responding with hands and feet is always a last resort; the first tools to use are mouth and brain.

‘an art to diffuse situations rather than to be aggressive’

As mum, Melanie, explained to me: “To learn a martial art is to learn respect for yourself and respect for other people. It’s basically an art to defuse situations rather than to be aggressive… Charlie knows he may only use it [Tae Kwon Do] in self-defence and not for instance in the school playground or when out or play fighting. The respect he has learnt as to when he can use it is paramount”.

All the parents and instructors I spoke to echoed this view. Some of the many key benefits that are shared across all genres of martial arts are discipline, self-confidence, self-control and respect for self as well as others.

I recently attended three different classes locally; TAGB Tae Kwon Do, Spirit Combat and SW Kickboxing, and what struck me most of all, was the amount of fun each child was having. Classes were either child focused or mixed age groups. When there were mixed ages, the instructors adapted their class to suit everyone’s needs. Parents were very much encouraged to join in and be a part of the classes. I spoke to one mum, who like me felt inspired to take up a martial art herself. Watching our own children’s journey can encourage us to take the plunge and join them. And with many classes encouraging families to join together, martial arts is definitely a sport for all.

As another mum, Mandy, said: “It’s thanks to my son taking up a martial art that I did too. I find that I am also more confident and positive than I was previously. That was a totally unexpected benefit of my son taking it up.”

Here they’re encouraged to step out of their comfort zone and shine

I was also taken by how, when practising a martial art, a child’s ability and experience can potentially be valued above and beyond an adult’s. Within martial arts classes, your experience and belt status outranks your age. Children often help teach the adults and the hierarchy and respect afforded those of a greater belt grade means that for many children, the hard work they’ve put into their training is rewarded in ways that further develop them as an individual. Children may be asked to take a warm up or show part of a “form” to another student or the rest of the class. This can be exceptionally empowering for the child who’s known as the “quiet one” at school. Here they’re encouraged to step out of their comfort zone and shine.

So if martial arts are empowering and confidence building for children are they also inclusive to all children including those with special educational needs such as ADD or autism? Many of the local instructors I spoke to had taught children with these needs and seen how positive martial arts can be.

Francis Miller of Evolution said: “Over my long Taekwon-Do career I have taught many students with all different types of Special Educational Needs [SEN] and classes are differentiated accordingly. These types of students have always had the 100% Taekwon-Do experience and have never missed out on any aspect of the art.”

Mike Rowling of SW Kickboxing said: “I have taught several children that have had ADD and autism, and although not in the same category, dyspraxia. It’s great to see the development they make. Parents that I have spoken to have told me how much kickboxing helps with control and developmental skills.”
And it can be just as rewarding for the instructor as well as the child when a first grade is achieved. Gerry Waugh from Target TAGB Lyme Regis shared this proud moment: “I was recently delighted to present an 11-year-old autistic boy, Matthew from Lyme Regis, with his first belt, having achieved the highest possible mark — an A pass and grading award. Anyone who tells an autistic child or his/her parents that the child will never achieve anything clearly does not understand that autism is not a barrier to martial arts. In fact the routine, structure and discipline elements are beneficial. No child should be told their potential has limits.”

Overall martial arts for children bring many different benefits and life skills; everything from building fitness and having a safe space to expend excess energy, to learning respect and discipline and making new friends. We’re very lucky in the local area to have so many excellent martial arts schools in such a short distance of one another. We really are spoilt for choice in the Beaminster, Bridport and Lyme Regis areas.

What should I look out for in a class?

If you’ve decided that you’d like your little one (or perhaps your not so little one!) to try out a martial arts class, but you’re not sure where to start, here are my top tips to finding the right class:

  • Each child is different so look for a club which is flexible about training so you can try out a few classes before committing to membership. Each martial art has its unique appeal, so ask to pop along and watch several classes in action before making a decision.
  • Look for a class where the focus for children is on having fun. A child who enjoys themselves will learn far quicker and want to come back for more.
  • Look for a properly qualified and insured instructor who is affiliated to a larger school or association. Make sure the school is also student-focused, not just about making money through classes and gradings.
  • Make sure the venue is safe and suitable for children to train.
  • Ask whether the classes are child-focused. Many classes have both adults and children training together, however a good instructor will always adapt their classes to individuals needs.
  • Talk to other parents or get your child to chat to their friends who already practise a martial art. Recommendation is always the best way to find a great class.
  • Make sure the instructor has a valid first aid certificate and is DBS checked (formally CRB) if teaching children’s classes.
  • Look for a club that offers no tie-ins or high membership costs. The average yearly membership cost is approx. £30-40 which should include your insurance.
  • And most important of all, once you find that class, have fun!

Martial Arts in Focus

Tae Kwon Do translates as “the art of kicking and punching” and was founded in 1955. A Korean martial art derived from Japanese Shotokan Karate and developed into a modern art renowned for dynamic and exciting kicks. It uses feet and hands equally in a combination of strikes, kicks, punches and blocks. It is the form of unarmed combat taught to the Korean army.

Aikido is a dynamic Japanese martial art originally developed by Master Morihei Ueshiba during the first half of the 20th century. It is not only an effective self-defence system but also a method of strengthening the mind and body to produce a more integrated person. “Aikido” means: the way (do) of harmony (ai) and the spirit/energy (ki).

SW Kickboxing teach a form of kickboxing based on American style incorporating a range of kickboxing techniques; elements of Thai boxing, K1 rules kickboxing and other stand up skills. Focusing on a range of kicks and punches, from basic skills to more demonstration type kicks, all useable in any competition.

Spirit Combat founded in 1960 by Brian Dossett (Soke), is a modern martial art founded on traditional teachings. It is based on forms which are practised in hard and soft styles, becoming more complex as one moves up through the grades. The forms and techniques involve throws, so breakfalling in the correct manner is taught. Also blocks, kicks, sweeps, locks and submission skills are included.

Shotokan Karate is one of the most widely practiced forms of karate and one of the most traditional. Introduced to Japan from Okinawa by Supreme Master Funakoshi Gichin, Shotokan puts heavy focus on kihon (basic techniques), kata (forms), and kumite (sparring) to develop a range of powerful and dynamic techniques. Karate is a form of unarmed combat employing a wide range of punching and kicking techniques. There are no weapons involved in practicing karate and the term “karate” literally means “empty hand” where only hands and feet are used for blocking and striking.

Wing Chun is a practical martial art renowned for its close-range hand techniques making it an effective form of self defence in today’s modern world irrespective of gender or size. A style of Kung Fu originating from China, its speciality being in close-quarter combat, this martial art uses quick punches and kicks with a tight defence, coordinated through agile stances and footwork.

TAGB Lyme Regis action shot  at show
TAGB Lyme Regis action shot at show

Find a class near you

We are very lucky to have a great selection of varied martial arts clubs in the local area. Below are clubs offering children’s classes (as well as adults) in the Beaminster, Bridport and Lyme Regis areas.

Bridport & Surrounding Villages

Juniors Class, Monday, 7.40-8.40pm (Adult classes also available)
Bridport Leisure Centre, Brewery Fields, Skilling Hill Road, Bridport
Age range of classes: 9 years upwards
Cost: £3 per class for Juniors, £6 per class for adults
Clothing needed: Loose clothing or white martial arts suit (gi)
Grading System: Coloured belts and tags. Gradings held twice a year
Contact: Jake Birkett
Tel: 01308 459364
Email: mail@jakesweb.co.uk
Website: www.bridportaikido.co.uk

Evolution Martial Arts
Wednesday, Junior Tae Kwon Do 8-13 years, Teens Tae Kwon Do 13 years +
(Adult classes also available)
Sir John Colfox School, Ridgeway, Bridport, DR6 3D2
Age range: 5 years upwards
Cost: Free trial, then £6 per session. Fees collected monthly.
Special Offer: One month’s training and uniform only £30
Clothing needed: Clothing that is easy to move around in
Grading System: Evolution Junior TKD syllabus
Contact: Francis Miller
Tel: 01823 431434
Email: info.evoma@gmail.com
Website: www.evoma.co.uk

Spirit Combat
Tuesdays, 6-7pm, Mixed Age Class
The Sea Scout Hut, St Swithins Road, Bridport
Age range: 6-64years
Cost: Free trial class, then £4 for juniors, £5 for adults
Clothing needed: Loose clothing. A suit is required for Grading at 3 months
Grading System: Gradings held every 3 or 6 months or annually at the Instructor’s discretion
Contact: Steve Reynolds
Tel: 01308 458488
Email: stephen.reynolds940@btinternet.com
Website: bridportmartialarts.org.uk

Target TAGB Tae Kwon Do
Wednesday 6-7pm, Mixed Age Class (Families welcome)
Loders Village Hall, Loders, Bridport, DT6 3SA
Saturday 10-11am, Sundays 5-6pm, Mixed Age Classes (Families welcome)
Bridport Leisure Centre, Brewery Fields, Skilling Hill Road, Bridport
Age range of classes: 6 years upwards
Cost: Free month trial period. Then £35 per month for unlimited training with any TAGB school (lots in the area). Family discounts
Clothing needed: Loose clothing. Training uniform needed for grading
Grading System: Every 3 months, then every 6 months once you reach senior grade (blue belt). Colour belt gradings are in Honiton
Contact: Chloe Richards
Tel: 07999 317673
Email: bridporttagb@gmail.com
Website: www.targettagb.co.uk

SW Kickboxing
Beginners children’s class, Sunday 5.30-6.30pm
Advanced children’s class, Sunday 6.30-7.30pm
Venue: British Legion, Victoria Grove, Bridport
Age range: Children’s classes 5-15 years (Adult classes also available)
Cost: First class free, then £5 per class, pay as you train, no contracts
Clothing needed: loose clothing, barefoot
Grading System: Belt gradings every 3-4 months depending on the skill level Gradings are optional
Contact: Mike Rowling
Tel: 07882 841862
Email: swkb.info@yahoo.co.uk
Website: www.southwestkickboxing.moonfruit.com

Shotokan Karate
Thursday, 7:30-9:30pm (however may change to Wednesday due to parish council functions)
Bradpole Forster Memorial Hall, Higher Street, Bradpole, DT6 3JA
Age range: Adult class, however children from age 12 years welcome
Cost: £3 per session juniors up to 17 years, £5 per session adults
Clothing needed: Loose clothing
Grading System: JKAE Shotokan Karate. Start at 10th kyu, then gradings normally every 3 to 4 months up to 1st kyu. Then 6 months minimum to 1st Dan black belt
Contact: Andrew Townsend. Tel: 07967 190605
Email: bridportkarateclub@gmail.com

Beaminster & Melplash

TAGB Tae Kwon Do
Tuesday 6-7pm (Juniors & Beginners), 7pm-8pm (Teenagers & Adults)
B-Fit Sports Centre, Beaminster Community School, Tunnel Road, Beaminster
Cost: From £20 per month
Clothing needed: Loose clothing and bare foot. A uniform is needed if you grade
Grading System: Grading available but optional
Contact: Mark Lawler
Tel: 07796 950134
Email: beaminstertkd@gmail.com
Website: beaminstertaekwondo.co.uk

Wing Chun (Kung Fu)
Mixed Age Class, Monday 7.30-9.30pm
Melplash Village Hall, Along the A3066, Melplash
Age: From 12 years upwards
Cost: Free trial class, then £7 per class, or £20 for a block of 4 classes
Clothing: Loose, comfortable clothing and trainers
Grading System: Gradings every 3-4 months dependant on skill level. Gradings are optional
Contact: JJ Hughes
Tel: 07525 786426
Email: info@wdwingchun.co.uk
Website: www.wdwingchun.co.uk

Lyme Regis & Axminster

Target TAGB Tae Kwon Do
Lyme Regis: Tuesday and Wednesday 4.30pm
The Hub, Church Street, Lyme Regis
Axminster: Fridays 6pm and Saturdays 11am
Axminster Leisure Centre, Lyme Road, Axminster
Age range: 5 years to 95
Cost: Free month trial period. £35 per month for unlimited training with any TAGB school (lots in the area). Family discounts
Clothing needed: A dobok (training uniform) will be needed, but new students can train in loose clothing for the first few weeks
Grading System: The TAGB vice-chairman, an 8th dan, comes down to impartially assess students. Gradings are a minimum of three months apart, longer for higher grades
Contact: Gerry Waugh
Tel: 01297 639830
Email: info@targettagb.co.uk
Further classes available in several local towns. Visit targettagb.co.uk for details

SW Kickboxing Lyme Regis
Thursday Evenings 8-9pm, mixed age class
The Hub, Church Street, Lyme Regis
Age range: From 5 years upwards
(If there’s enough interest for a daytime children’s class then a Sunday class will start)
Cost: First class free, then £5 per class, pay as you train, no contracts
Grading System: Belt gradings every 3-4 months depending on skill level. Gradings are optional
Contact: Gareth Taylor
Tel: 07833 157436
Email: fleck_1@btinternet.com

WD Wing Chun

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