When we started offering martial arts at the Education, Development and Support for the Child Group (Grupo de Educação Desenvolvimento e Apoio ao Menor (GEDAM), we made sure that children and young people of all ages were welcome. We had initially thought that these activities would be more suited to teenagers, but as working with children is fundamental to our work, we kept the age range open. We believe that the younger you work with children the more impact you will have in their lives.

As we have discovered, martial arts combined with education is a success as it also develops physical, intellectual, social and emotional skills. Using education and martial arts together, allows our young people to really reflect upon their own attitudes, as well as the attitudes of their friends. It also enables them to think about other essential values in becoming active members of society. These are the things that we work towards in our project – we want each participant to go beyond their limits, deal with victories and losses with dignity, give opinions, apply knowledge and come up with strategies, and fight: fight for their lives and be happy!

I wanted to share with you this story:

Caio Henrique is seven years old and is one of our students. A few days ago, a classmate of his picked a fight with him on the school bus. Caio’s classmate also practices martial arts but in another organisation. According to Caio, when the boy challenged him to fight, it seemed more like a fist fight and so Caio said no. But the boy insisted and so Caio gave in. As he was telling his mum about this story, who also practices martial arts at GEDAM, she told him that she would intervene but Caio responded:

“My friend still doesn’t understand, mum, that martial arts are for our balance and not for us to fight.”

And said that he would deal with it.

We asked Caio what he had learnt from his professor in his martial arts lessons and without hesitating he said:

“I learnt how to punch, self defense, ways to attack and discipline. I learnt that to be a true fighter, you have to have balance and fight only when the teacher lets you. Fighting should not be used as a form of resolving situations or causing violence,” he explained.

Hearing this, it is possible to confirm the importance of working with children and young people from a young age and that whatever challenges appear, the most important thing is to never forget your principles.