Retrieved from KentOnline - Written by Bess Browning on November 10, 201
A black belt instructor will travel to Zimbabwe to teach young women from challenging backgrounds the benefits of martial arts.
Former British karate champion Mark Caddy, the chief instructor at the University of Kent for more than 20 years, will work with the Fair Fight project which helps to empower girls in third world countries through the art of karate, aikido and other forms of self-defence.
Mark, 43, and the team will travel in January to a school in the southern African country, where hundreds of youngsters await his lessons.
He said: “Martial arts may seem like a strange thing to be teaching but it can be practised anywhere, alone or in groups, and with very minimal equipment.
“The physical skills though are only a small part as in turn we promote equal opportunities, equal respect, self-confidence, self-belief and working together as a team.
“Martial arts offer a powerful form of physical and mental development and we show them something new and hope they will realise they can do things they never thought possible.
“We give them new sportswear which may end up being the clothes they wear every day – it is not often they receive new clothes. It is incredibly poor and there is very little economy in the rural areas out there.
“We really want to help them realise their potential.”
Mark, of Horselees Road in Boughton, is currently fundraising to provide equipment for the project.
He hopes to raise at least £1,000 before he leaves for his three-week trip to contribute towards the underprivileged communities.
Those funds will all go directly to the project as his company, Jigsaw Business Consultants, has already funded his own travel and accommodation.
Mark, a management consultant, is also looking for donations of training gear such as pads, special mitts, gum shields and first aid items.
The Fair Fight Foundation, founded last year and based in the Netherlands, would like to take their mission across the globe, travelling to India next year and different parts of Africa, to schools where their services would be valued the most.
In January 2015, they began their work in Zimbabwe establishing regular classes with one school and ran events at a local orphanage and another school.
The students also learned when it is appropriate to use the techniques they have been taught, shared stories and heard first-hand how martial arts has changed people’s lives for the better.
On the 3rd of October we organized the first ever FairFight self-defense seminar. Our primary aim was to raise funds for the Zimbabwe 2016 campaign, but also to raise awareness for our cause and show people why we do what we do. Laurent, our PR and social media manager, interviewed two of the people present that day to get their impressions. Here is what they had to say:
Ashleigh Woodend is a researcher and course coordinator at Erasmus University College. She is of Zimbabwean nationality and will be a part of the 2016 Zimbabwe Study Trip.
Laurent: To start-off, I would like to know the reason why you attended the seminar. Was it to financially support the cause or simply because you wanted to learn the basics of self-defense?
Ashleigh: It was a bit of both. I strongly support what FairFight strives for and have always wanted to learn self-defense but never really got around it, so that was definitely a big motivation for me. Also, I brought a friend with me to the seminar and I know she was really interested in self-defense too.
L: In general, did you like the event?
A: I liked it a lot! It was a well-designed seminar with a very nice atmosphere. We were taught a lot of practical moves that were quite easy to do and thus manageable regardless of your age or experience in martial arts. There was also sufficient support throughout the event to let us know whether we were doing the exercises right or wrong.
L: That’s great to know, thanks! I know that a 3-hour seminar is short, but do you feel that you learned something, which you will possibly think of if ever you find yourself in a dangerous situation in the future?
A: First of all, I learned a lot of practical tricks for when you go out. For example keeping flats [shoes] in your bag so that you can take off your heels when you walk back home. It was also really good that Floris [the assistant trainer] stressed that all the techniques we were taught are only last resort measures and that we should always try to avoid such situations by cooperating first. Additionally, on a personal level I realized that physical strength is quite important to defend yourself and tricks are not always enough.
L: Does all this knowledge help you understand the reason why we believe providing free martial art classes in developing countries lead to empowerment?
A: In developing countries women are not only dominated mentally but also physically. Thus, giving them the means to react in various dangerous situations is, I think, one of the right routes to take in order to reach empowerment. I was able to appreciate this more fully by attending the seminar.
L: Do you think that martial arts provide only physical empowerment?
A: Well, it is hard for me to say because I have only attended one class and never felt physically endangered myself. However, I think that from now on I will walk with more confidence in the street, as I know that I am better able to defend myself.. So I am sure that for girls and women who have had to face physical abuse in their lives, regular martial arts classes can lead to empowerment both on the physical and mental level.
Daan van den Oetelaar is a 26 year old Dutch citizen currently finishing his thesis for a Master in Management. He also works part-time as the Student Life Officer at Erasmus University College.
Laurent: So what did you think of the seminar? Do you feel like you got anything out of it more than just entertainment?
Daan: It was great! A lot of fun to participate in and I think it gives a nice impression of what impact regular trainings could have on the children in developing countries.
L: Did you know about FairFight before joining the seminar or was it first time you got acquainted with it?
D: In a broad sense, yes. As I know the two founders [Ginie and Alex] I already heard the name a few times and was quite familiar with what they wanted to achieve.
L: Has the seminar provided you with more insight on why FairFight uses martial arts to empower young girl in developing countries?
D: Definitely! I thought that there was one thing which was really well transferred to the people attending the seminar. I now understand that it is not an active fighting sport but rather a self-defense one that provides you with a certain mindset.
L: What kind of mindset are you referring to?
D: Well I understand it on two different levels. First, the focus of martial arts is not on beating the other person up, but rather on protecting yourself. Second, you are aware of the fact that you are vulnerable. As we were told during the seminar, in your head you always win the fight, but that rarely is the case. Remaining aware of those two points allows you to assess certain situations more fairly and thanks to that you will be able to avoid plenty of unnecessary dangerous situations. The children in developing countries will be able to use this kind of mindset both in martial arts and throughout their lives, which can help to lead to empowerment.