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The martial arts class teaching kids more than martial arts

THERE'S a martial art class that teaches kids more than martial arts.

Matt Fiddes Martial Arts is a non-traditional martial arts style that teaches kids life skills too.

Stranger danger

On a Wednesday afternoon at the Cooroy State School the hall is teeming with kids dressed in white gis adorned with the Matt Fiddes logo.

They're all wearing different coloured belts.

Some are as young as three-and-a-half and stand only mid-thigh high, swimming in their white gis rolled at the waist, ankles and wrists.

Yet they've all kicked, punched and practiced their hand drills.

Now they're enacting a stranger danger scenario.

A student walks past an instructor who reaches out and grabs the student by the wrist.

"Hey kid, you're coming with me," the instructor says.

"STRANGER!" The kid screams, swinging his arm across and down, like scooping a scoop of ice cream and reefing his arm back up and away, breaking out of the hold.

He then runs to one of the mums sitting on the side watching the class and yells, "Stranger! I don't know that man he's a stranger!"

They're advised they can also yell FIRE, as that will get everyone's attention and to run to a mother with children or if in a shop, to a staff member wearing a uniform.

Matt Fiddes Martial Arts Cooroy owner Brittany Green says stranger danger is a serious problem and the biggest focus in their classes is to teach kids about the difference between a good stranger and a bad stranger and the potential of a bad stranger using lures to entice children to come away with them.

"Kids as naturally so trusting, therefore a stranger knows that all it takes is an offer of lollies or puppies to get kids to come along with them. 

"We teach kids that it's not okay to go with someone that they don't know even if they try to convince them that they know their parents. These important skills could save a life."

Stranger danger is part of Matt Fiddes' life skills program.

Life skills program

"It's our life skills program that sets us apart from other martial arts," Miss Green says.

"We believe subjects such as stranger danger, dealing with bullies, self control, street smarts, road safety, school safety and many more topics are an extremely important part of a child's life. 

"Therefore we ensure we bring these lessons into our classes to children from as young as three years of age. 

"We find ways at Matt Fiddes to instil these important life lessons through fun activities with kids. Without even realising it, children are using the tools we teach them in classes, in their everyday lives."

Bullying

It's another Wednesday afternoon and the same group of students are acting out a bullying scenario.

When asked if she has found the Matt Fiddes training around bullying and how to deal with bullies empowers her students, Miss Green says yes.

"Many instructors and parents would agree that the training focused around bullying and how children can deal with such circumstances in their lives, is extremely important and definitely helps to empower them. 

"Our aim is to lift their self-esteem and confidence, to teach them the reasons why bullies do what they do, and how to deal with those situations.

"When it comes to bullying Matt Fiddes wishes to eradicate it not just in our classes but in the wider community and to do this we need to inform and educate our members and make them aware and understanding what a bully is, how to avoid being bullied and assertiveness to stop bullying behaviour in a non-violent way.

"This assertiveness can also come from building their confidence self esteem and self defence," says Miss Green.

Confidence building

Just from observing a class it is easy to see how Miss Green and her instructors build the confidence of their students.

One instructor is kneeling on the ground with a kick pad. A little girl, one of the youngest students in the class, approaches and kicks the pad as shown.

The instructor throws himself backwards, sprawling across the floor with a look of complete surprise on his face. The young student giggles uncontrollably, returning to the back of the line with a huge smile on her face.

The instructor does this for each student regardless of age, size or skill and with each kick you can see their smiles getting bigger and bigger. It is very heartwarming to watch.

Miss Green says they have a very open door policy which means they have classes for all.

"We don't just expect kids to join if they're the best striker or the highest kicker. We except kids with special needs because at the end of the day it's about changing one life at a time."

And it is clear they are very much doing that.

Mat chats

At the end of each session the instructors, students and their parents all sit in a big circle on the floor for a "mat chat".

"Mat chat topics are probably our most important part of our program," Miss Green says.

"We pick a topic each term and by term I mean between grading to the next grading.

"Some of the subjects are good attitude, being a good finder and no, that doesn't mean finding chocolate under the couch, it means finding the good in everything and everyone, setting goals, having a polite manners, stranger danger and having self-control.

"We believe in teaching our children these life lessons will make them the successful adults."

Not only do the younger students have mat chats but they also have additional weekly, monthly and quarterly challenges along the way.

Miss Green says this creates discipline and makes them proud to come to class with completed task sheets.

"For example they might have a one-week (or weekend) challenge to stay off all devices, or no sugar, or no TV, or to do a house chore daily.

"Or they might have a one-month challenge with a school-based task or a chore or a physical activity. 

Instructor Matt Bonnici with a student and Miss Green.
Instructor Matt Bonnici with a student and Miss Green. Supplied

"The children are set a homework sheet to work on that must be completed prior to grading days, which keeps them accountable for their self-discipline."

Miss Green says students love getting involved in these challenges and parents often state the difference they see at home within their children. 

One parent says these homework sheets are worth their weight in gold. 

"They have to keep their room clean, do their chores, help out around the house, eat their veges and more and they do it because they want to pass grading and they won't pass grading without completing their homework sheet.

"They also have to get their school teacher to sign the sheet to say they have been behaving and doing their work at school."

Adults

And Matt Fiddes Martial Arts Cooroy isn't just about making a difference in the lives of children but adults too. 

"Adults also have a MFit 8-week challenge on right now with extra exercise and nutritional plans to follow.

"We also have 30-day challenges to help break habits. These might include reducing sugar, quitting alcohol, reading a book instead of turning to electronic devices for entertainment.  

"We also try to bring about environmental awareness and set challenges to recycle, reduce, reuse.

"We also set challenges to volunteer in the community or anything that makes us conduct ourselves reputably at all times," Miss Green says.

Miss Green

Miss Green is a passionate, enthusiastic young woman.

At just 20, the instructor bought her own franchise recently after teaching for a few years.

"I've been part of the Matt Fiddes Martial Arts family for three years as an instructor. However, I've been doing martial arts for six years in total. 

"I love teaching and being part of my students' journey so when the opportunity presented itself to buy a franchise, I decided then and there to make a career out of it."

Miss Green now owns three martial arts schools on the Sunshine Coast - Cooroy, Gympie and Nambour and teaches five classes a week."

If you would like more information about Matt Fiddes Martial Arts or classes on the Sunshine Coast contact Miss Green on 1800 840 403.

News Corp Australia

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