Jeet Kune Do is a Kung Fu/Kickboxing hybrid - a great activity for your kids that will allow them to let off steam and reduce any stress they may have, all while gaining focus, discipline, fitness and self-confidence.
3 September 2016 was my last time teaching the awesome Little Dragons at Phoenix Martial Arts with Sensei Alex Livingstone. Camden Martial Arts will be running on Saturday mornings, so I won't get the opportunity any more. Thanks to the students for their energy and enthusiasm and thanks for all the guidance, Sensei!
I wanted Lila to start early... a few weeks ago I put the Olympic Taikwondo on the TV. After 5 seconds Lila said: 'Daddy. Their hands are so low down!' That's my girl!
Classes held at Our Lady Help of Christians Church, 4 Lady Margaret Road, Kentish Town NW5 2XT. Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4 to 5 pm during term time.
An article I wrote for the Tufnell Park Parents Newsletter, March 2017
Helping Kids Get Their Kicks
Julian Gilmour reports how martial arts make kids happier, fitter and more functional
After 17 years’ martial arts training under some world class instructors, I finally opened Camden Martial Arts in September 2016, teaching jeet kune do, a kung fu/kickboxing hybrid developed by the late, great Bruce Lee.
The benefits to children of learning a martial art are many, varied, and sometimes unexpected.
Fitness – With childhood obesity on the up and average child fitness levels decreasing, a fun pastime that keeps children active is the ideal antidote to the seemingly endless distractions of iPads, Playstations and Disney. In class I mix the martial arts techniques with games, but the only time they stop moving is to watch a demonstration or when we all stop for a drink of water.
Concentration – The children need to pay attention to what I demonstrate because if they don’t, I’ll know immediately. They need to reproduce my demonstration as best they can, and it’s also important if one child is holding pads, to do it correctly. Even while holding, I explain that they can use the time to learn to ‘read’ their partner’s body language and thus know what’s coming. All this requires a high level of engagement, and the more time they spend concentrating on themselves and their surroundings, the easier they’ll find it to apply themselves back at school, and at home.
Discipline – I am quite informal with all my students - kids and adults. I explain that they can call me ‘Julian’ or ‘Jules’ (no ‘Sensei’ or ‘Sifu’ required) but I do insist that they bow on the way in and out of the dojo. When I’m there it becomes a place of warrior learning, and it is to show respect for me, for my teacher, and for all the other teachers that have passed the knowledge down to us. They also need to bow to each other, to show respect to their training partners as they all get better together. I believe respect is something that needs to be earned in life, and the pursuit of strengthening the mind and body around good people is an excellent way to start. I think this has positive effects on how they treat their friends at school, as well as their parents and teachers.
Dedication – I continually instil in them that to get good at anything you need to put in the time and effort. This applies to other sporting endeavours, to playing a musical instrument, even their school work. I’m really seeing the fruits of this now as the kids have only been training under me since September but they don’t skip classes and are already displaying some great techniques and skills. It’s hugely rewarding for me as an instructor, as I watch them all improve while having lots of fun. To get good at anything (as long as you have a good teacher) you just need to keep turning up. Bruce Lee and Muhammad Ali were beginners once. ‘The secret is, there is no secret’ – Kung Fu Panda.
Sense of calm – You need to be mentally ‘present’ in the training, thus leaving the worries of the world outside. In class they can work out any stress or excess energy they have, kicking and punching pads. It is INCREDIBLY cathartic, for the young and the old. All this should lead to a general sense of calm, once the excitement of class has worn off.
Ability to defend themselves – Understandably, this is the bit that differs wildly from what I teach in my women’s self-defence and mixed adult classes. I explain to the kids that what I teach them is only to be used in the dojo, never in anger, and shouldn’t really be necessary at all. I am often asked about bullying and whether we should stand up to bullies or run away. My answer is neither to run away or to fight, but to walk away, and with confidence.
I teach punching and kicking etc (although they never do any proper sparring, the class is only for 7 to 11-year-olds) but I can’t have my 7-year-old daughter kicking would-be bullies in the head in the schoolyard. I also teach them basic joint manipulation, wrist locks and escapes to be used if someone grab them, so they can free themselves and then walk away with confidence. That way they don’t lash out at an aggressor, but equally they don’t mentally beat themselves up later on for being cowardly, which is very common. Those who know they are able to throw punches and kicks should maintain self-confidence and self-respect without violence. At that age, I believe it’s the best approach for conflict resolution.
The children have some skills at their disposal if they choose to compete in the future, or if they’re threatened when they’re older, but much as I love the training and the cerebral aspects of all that goes on in the space between two human beings, fighting is a stupid thing to do. The fighting arts shouldn’t just be just about bashing.
Guro Dan Inosanto was Bruce Lee’s best friend and training partner and he said, “The goal of the martial arts is not for the destruction of an opponent, but rather for self-growth and self-perfection. The practice of a martial arts should be a practice of love – for the preservation of life, for the preservation of body, and for the preservation of family and friends.”
What can the kids expect?
I begin every class with a brisk warm up that usually starts with some running around the edge of the dojo. I mix it up with boxing footwork, changing direction, touching the floor with either hand. It gets their blood flowing and also makes them aware of their environment and each other. They loosen up with some yoga-style moves to stretch them out a bit and help with core strength – sit-ups, scorpion press-ups, the plank and some South East Asian movements from silat and kali (escrima).
Then the more combat-oriented stuff begins. I start from the ground up in a good stance, then they’ll go on to practice some basic boxing and kickboxing skills. Some are partner drills, some are punching and kicking pads, sometimes the aim is evasion. Sometimes I hold pads for them and sometimes they partner up. The aim is to keep them fit and keep them smiling, while teaching them how to kick and punch and… well... not get kicked and punched by anyone else.
The first lesson is free. For more details see www.camdenmartialarts.com or contact email@example.com or 07876 660 375. Kids’ classes are at the church on Lady Margaret Road NW5 2XT and there are mixed classes for adults and women-only self-defence classes in Tufnell Park and Kentish Town. Private sessions are also available.
You can follow Camden Martial Arts on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.