Fort Chip youth learn focus, discipline and highkicks

Fort Chip youth learn focus, discipline and highkicks
Students of Fort Chipewyan’s recently launched class fusing kickboxing, tae kwon do and fitness show off their fighting stances at the Athabasca Delta Community School gym.Photo: Shannon Marten.

A kickboxing program that has recently taken off at Fort Chipewyan’s Athabasca Delta Community School (ADCS) is giving youth an outlet for their energy while teaching discipline and focus, says the principal.

Co-run by fitness instructor and Fort Chip local Shannon Marten and Fort McMurray’s Sandy Bowman, the high energy martial arts class is held in the school’s gym and incorporates fitness, tae kwon do and kickboxing.

Classes started up last week, though Marten and Bowman ran a similar program last summer that was a rousing success in the community.

“The kids were really into it this summer. There was a religious following,” Mike Flieger, principal of ADCS, shared in an interview. “Being in a small town, we need to do things to keep the kids active so I think it’s a great idea.”

Because most youth are already interested in mixed martial arts and fighting, Marten told The Journal that convincing them to join her class was easy.

“The kids don’t really have much to do here so if they’re walking the streets and stuff, they’re getting into trouble,” she explained, but introducing youth to tae kwon do and kickboxing can teach them skills such as leadership, responsibility and respect.

Already the instructors are noticing a positive effect on the 25 to 30 youth attending the class.

“We have kids that are 11 years old leading the class and teaching 5 year-old kids. It’s amazing to see,” Marten said.

The class, open to all ages, is held free thanks solely to support from the community. Groups such as the First Nations have donated the money to pay for uniforms and instructor fees. ADCS provides the gym as a venue free of charge.

Flieger said exercise has always been a priority for the school, which has mandatory physical education classes every day, but he’s noticed the martial arts classes have been giving the students more than just fitness benefits.

“With the study of martial arts, the biggest effect is that it provides discipline,” he said. “Shannon puts the emphasis on the idea that if you are going to participate, you have to do well and behave well in school.”

Flieger said students must follow Marten’s rule that all highkicks, uppercuts and jabs learned in class are for practice only, and not to be used outside of class.

Classes are held Tuesdays and Thursdays after school from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m.

Marten is also looking into holding adult classes at the school gym. For more information, contact ACDS at (780) 697-3933.

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