How martial arts teaches children in Lincoln 'fitness, self-discipline and confidence'
Criticised as barbaric, two children filmed wrestling in a caged arena prompted national condemnation last week. Reporter Richard Wheeler finds out how children in the Lincoln area are being introduced to martial arts...
A SIX-year-old boy bounded into the ring full of energy, wearing his boxing gloves, head guard and mouth shield.
His opponent was a 14-year-old boy, twice the size with little protective gear and who appeared to have the potential to teach him a kickboxing lesson.
There was only ever going to be one winner. But at this city martial arts club, it will never be the older child.
As the one-minute bout took place, the six-year-old punched and kicked his way to victory, encountering little resistance.
For Satori Martial Arts the emphasis of yesterday's gym show for its younger members – some aged just 4 – was fun.
You will not find an intimidating arena and a 250-strong crowd drinking alcohol, as depicted in Preston, at the club's room in Total Fitness in Kingsley Road, Lincoln.
Instead, everyone wins a trophy.
Parents are gathered round filming, photographing and applauding each young competitor, who is given a chance to show the skills they have learned.
The older and more experienced children enter the ring knowing they will spend most of the time blocking moves from their younger opponent.
For Satori owner Jez Hall, a black belt in karate and kickboxing, he says it is about putting children in the correct situations.
Mr Hall, a child protection officer for the British Freestyle Karate And Kickboxing Organisation, said: "I've been teaching in the county for 25 years and dealing with children for all of that time.
"Most of my courses have gone through Ofsted and when it comes to child protection we are very careful.
"Nobody wins and nobody loses.
"We put the older children with the younger ones and what it teaches them is they have to look after each other.
"Everyone gets a trophy. Everyone is happy.
"We are essentially a kickboxing club but our children's programmes are just that – we don't teach them what we teach adults."
Mr Hall added that the idea, like any sport, was to help children "learn the skills, not have extreme power".
He said: "We are a family gym, we embrace everyone and that's how we work.
"The role models are good and we don't have bully-boys."
Gareth Harvey, 39, of High Street, Lincoln, has been bringing his three boys to the club for nine years.
He said: "They absolutely love it. Jayden, who is 10, does rugby as well, so he does two types of physical sport.
"A lot of sports involve contact, but it's how you manage it with the risks.
"Kickboxing teaches them about fitness, self-discipline and confidence."
Reece Harvey, 14, a black belt who helps train younger members of the group, said: "I love it and enjoy coming here."
Fiona Evans of Bracebridge Heath watched her six-year-old son Callum-Lee in the ring and said it was a sport he loved.
Mrs Evans said her two-year-old daughter Niamh, who joined her for yesterday's show, was eager to join in when she was old enough.
Mrs Evans said: "Callum-Lee has been doing it for two years. We wanted to get him into martial arts as my husband does it and we like Jez – he is a really good instructor.
"He comes once or twice a week and he has a brown belt now. We are just trying to get him fit and healthy and he likes it."
Jon Hitchcox, who has been helping out with the club for several years, said: "I think the shows are good. The younger you start in any sport the better you become and the quicker you can get to the top.
"It gives children control of when to use it and when not to. Even when in the ring they can take it easier and there is supervision."