Daviot Kelly, Staff Reporter
It may seem strange that in trying to keep children out of gangs, you teach them karate.
But for Kimani Reid, a young sensei or teacher of the martial art form, one aspect of it is exactly what these children need - the discipline.
"If you're watching a kung fu movie, it's all about fighting," he said. "But in reality, we teach them not to fight unless your back is against the wall and there is no way out." He also said the children are taught not to go around practising karate on their family and friends. He is a first degree black belt and found out about the Child Resiliency Programme from his sensei.
"It started off kind of slow because most of the children are troubled," he admitted. "But I understood them, talk with them and teach them about seeking perfection and character," he said. These are all principles of the dojo kun, the strict code of karate. Lessons such as refraining from violent behaviour and respect for others are constantly reinforced to the students.
"I find out from talking to them, and having them say the dojo kun over and over, it gives them self-confidence," he said. But they also have fun.
"One of the most exciting things for them is the kiai (that loud cry you hear when they complete a move). They like that. It sounds like the movies." Dr Kim Scott, founder of the Child Resiliency Programme, said karate has quickly become one of the most popular activities. Reid says his students are calmer and more relaxed, and speak up more.
"When I just came, most of them were pushing, cursing. Now it's more relaxed. They use words like 'please', 'thank you', things like those." Reid seems quite comfortable around the children as if he can relate to them. That's because the young sensei can relate to their issues.
"When I was at St Catherine High, I used to give a lot of trouble," he admitted. "And I liked to fight." But when he took up karate, he realised it wasn't just about throwing kicks and punches. Elements like the kata, the detailed choreographed patterns of movements, bring him serenity.
"I haven't fought since school," he said. Reid said he's from Greenwich Farm and he is well aware of the pressures the children can face.
"I understand how they would feel because I see children in my area, how their mothers curse them, so I understand," he said. "Sometimes I sit down with them and tell them that they are wonderful human beings, or they can excel. And they are definitely receptive."