Ainsley Walters, Gleaner Writer
"OUR youth are at risk, and introducing martial arts in schools, from the primary stage, would save some, not all, and would go a far way in reducing the rising incidents of violence among juvenile boys," Jason McKay, captain of Jamaica's combined martial arts team, told The Gleaner recently.
McKay, a district constable attached to the St Catherine South Police Division and chief executive officer of McKay Security, pointed to an incident in which a 15-year-old Denham Town High School student shot up a minibus along Spanish Town Road in Kingston, wounding a conductor two weeks ago.
The lad had reportedly, three hours earlier, accused the conductor of overcharging him for a bus ride. He was pointed out during an identification parade last week and now faces multiple charges.
The 15-year-old was the seventh juvenile - all boys - arrested in the last two months in relation to gun crimes.
Head of the St Andrew South police, Senior Superintendent Delroy Hewitt, said six were charged for shooting and another for illegal possession of firearm.
SSP Hewitt told The Gleaner the level of crime among juveniles is not peculiar to the division and highlights deficiencies in homes and schools.
The veteran cop said the police are trying to steer children away from crime through various outreach programmes.
McKay, however, believes the lure of martial arts, from an early age, would serve to hone better-disciplined juveniles.
"Locally, our uniformed groups - Scout troops, cadets, Girl Guides, brownies, youth clubs, and so on - once served that purpose, but they have lost that appeal, which martial arts now provide with the opportunity to travel and see the world," he said.
As such, he has called on Education Minister Ronald Thwaites to introduce martial arts into the national curriculum, from as early as primary school. This would expose and train both boys and girls to a high level of discipline and self-control, which is mandatory in practising the ancient art.
"If you look at the background and character of students who have emerged from the Jamaica Taekwondo/McKay Security High School League for boys, you would see that what I am proposing is workable in every aspect," McKay, a Calabar High alumnus and internationally certified criminologist, pointed out.
"We have students from extremely depressed circumstances and very violent communities, who are either in university or have completed tertiary education since being on the programme.
"I believe there is a direct correlation between learning the art and appreciation of schoolwork, which translates into more civilised and accepted behavioural patterns," he pointed out.