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Is it time to belt up!

A year has been stolen from our existence due to this Covid Pandemic, which has had a shattering effect on our overall well-being. Children and young people especially, have found this somewhat overwhelming. Engaging in something meaningful and stimulating will aid in the healing process as a means to a way forward. However, it is quite evident that any regular activity has a vast impact on physical, mental and emotional well-being. No matter if its gardening, daily walks or browsing the shops, these all play an important part in activating the feel good factor. More adults are realising that in this ever changing and fast paced society, we cannot live on bread and water alone. Activities such as jogging, yoga and gym workouts are now becoming a big part of our lives. The realisation of the importance of doing something, also keeps our sanity intact.

There are many meaningful and stimulating activities on offer, however, when it comes to the younger generation, why are many not reaping the benefits? Apart from the good health benefits, could they be missing out on opportunities to gain important life skills that may help better shape their future? Parents may struggle to understand what goes on within the minds of the young, resulting in a guessing game where reaching a happy medium can be non-existent. We can understand that it is also the age where physical, hormonal and emotional changes are happening however, giving in to youngsters with expensive mobile phones, computer games or endless Netflix viewing is not the answer. This can result in a lack of physical motivation affecting mental and emotional well-being. In this influential big wide world, social media can be good or bad and when young people begin to explore, they will discover all kinds of things.

Needless to say, a communication breakdown between children and parents can escalate to a point of devastation. I believe discipline, respect and learning important life skills from a very young age are paramount. In the past, our fathers were the main bread winners and our mothers would keep the house in order unless of course, if a single parent, one had to work. Children came home from school to find a respected family figure waiting with prepared snacks and a drink. So, someone being there gave a sense of reassurance, security and a guiding hand. Nowadays, in some cases, things are very different. As times get harder and with a struggle to make ends meet, both or single parents may work long hours. Young people can be vulnerable and left to their own devices, can fall prey to bad influences, leading to a path of wrong doing with shocking outcomes. Guidance at the right time is important and can have a positive effect on any person, especially when feeling lost. So what message should be conveyed to young people and what can be done to help solve the negative situations they sometimes find themselves in. If negative energy could be channelled into something positive, then that would be a good start. As a youngster, I remember attending youth club with limitations as to what was on offer, it provided an outlet to let off steam. Most importantly, it helped with developing interpersonal skills and respect whilst incorporating a sense of belonging. The benefits one can gain from participation in itself can be priceless to kickstart the feel good factor.

I think TV and media sports coverage is still very much male dominated and mainly limited to football, rugby or boxing, so nothing has really changed with the times. Sports coverage should be broader with womens sporting activities also respectively brought to the forefront. This could be a motivational trigger for more young girls to participate. Sports personalities can be good role models and to convey that powerful message in the right way, can leave a real impression on a young persons psyche. Sometimes, young people respond better to teachers, instructors or coaches than with parents. Their advice is usually taken more seriously and could result in a life changing experience. When it comes to activities and interests, there are many hidden gems that are overlooked. Creative activities like painting, drama, music, yoga, karate and other performing arts have incomparable benefits. Karate for example, is a very popular discipline which has never been given the opportunity to highlight its amazing qualities. The positive impact karate has had on shaping the lives of many individuals around the world is phenomenal. The most exciting thing that has happened to karate is being included in the Olympic games this year (2021) in Tokyo.

The art of karate has a strong belief system of discipline, morals and ethics. This is consolidated throughout its practice with classes beginning and ending with respect and courtesy. Training is 80% mental and 20% physical with an aim to better oneself through the perfection of the art itself. The activity of karate is for everyone and apart from learning to defend one-self, it teaches important life skills and gives guidance on conflict resolution, how to deal with bullies and not quitting when life gets tough. The ultimate aim is to achieve the black belt grade, which is not just something you wear, it is something you become! Karate could be the activity that plays a big role in changing the attitudes of many people on how to better conduct their lives in the future.

It is distressing to hear that harassment, abuse and violent attacks thrust upon women and girls are becoming more and more frequent. This demonstrates a lack of education and respect by the perpetrator/s. As a means to self-protection, emphasis should be highly placed on activities that offer guidance on street awareness, practical self-defence skills and how to avoid potential dangers. This needs to start in schools with children being educated from a very young age. As a parent with young girls, along with other activities, finding a practical self-protection type activity is important. This could prove to be a valuable asset in a dangerous situation as a means to self-protection and survival. If anger, aggression and negative attitudes could be replaced with a with a positive mind-set with a desire to achieve more in life, that would be good progress. So, in the search for answers and achieving long term goals, we have to go back to basics and also listen more. Of course, we have been here many times before, but, we must not give up. Children and young people need an outlet where guidance and positive mentoring is on offer. Early education in regards to having respect for the female gender, avoiding bad situations such as peer pressure, saying no to drugs, street crime and having respect for human lives has to start in the classroom. Maybe an additional lesson in schools on “moral values and ethics” may be a suggestion.

Local authorities providing incentives such as ” open activity days especially for children and young people” is a good thing. These could be organised in conjunction with local sports, performing arts and other groups too. Providers highlight what they have on offer, explaining the benefits. As affordability could be an issue for parents on a low income, perhaps providers could offer a discounted membership if anyone showed a keen interest in joining. This would also create an opportunity to invite respected members of the community to give talks, lectures or seminars that address certain issues in our communities that need immediate attention. Young people can also have a chance to have their say. The road is long but there is hope – we have to start somewhere.

Article by Kim Singh – Head instructor of the East London School of Karate (05, 05, 2021)