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Thursday, 13th February, 2020 8:53am

Martial arts experts in Cork have said that introducing self defense classes to school children as part of their physical education would be hugely beneficial.

There are currently a number of self defense classes available around Cork city and county, however the majority of young people may never learn how to effectively defend themselves.

Speaking to the Cork Independent, Sensei Martin O’Keeffe of the Mayfield Renshukan Karate Club, said that the physical, mental and social benefits of martial arts and self defense for school children would have a great impact on their development and education.

“Martial arts within the education system would be of great importance, especially for kids. When you come into our club, the first thing you learn is respect - before you learn to punch or to kick. That's paramount in martial arts,” said Sensei O’Keeffe.

He said that learning self defense at a young age can be a great way to build confidence and discipline, while the intricate training techniques would promote problem solving.

“I've been one of those kids. I was nine when I started. I was a bit shy and introverted. But karate helped me to develop,” he said.

However, Sensei O’Keeffe underlined the importance of not starting children too early, saying that from the age of seven or eight onward is most effective.

“We would take them younger, but we find that the younger kids don't retain the instruction quite as well,” the Sensei explained.

He added: “If you bring them on a bit too early and they can't retain what they're supposed to, then they get frustrated and they don't want to go training and end up not liking it. You'd lose them forever then.”

Kung fu and street self-protection expert David Devins, who is based in Ballincollig, said that he also sees the benefits of young people learning how to defend themselves, but that he would not class it as self defense.

“I would use the term ‘personal security’. That's how I teach it because the idea is that it's 90 per cent avoidance and ten per cent defense,” said Mr Devins.

He continued: “Most people do not want a confrontation, even verbally, so we try to teach people to look for the trouble before it kicks off, and then avoid it.”

With 25 years of training under his belt, Mr Devins currently teaches a form of personal protection which he has created using specific elements of a wide array of martial arts which, ultimately, aim to avoid conflict at all costs.

Mr Devins is based in Ballincollig and is available to teach classes in schools as well as night classes.

For more information visit theschoolofselfdefence.com.

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