Youngsters are being given the opportunity to build self-confidence and belief in themselves by doing kickboxing. DAVID MILLS finds out more.

TEENAGERS are being encouraged to stay off the streets and develop skills to help them in the classroom, thanks to a school’s new kickboxing programme.

Six pupils aged between 11 and 14 at Kelsey Park Sports College, have been chosen to take part in the martial art sessions twice a week, in order to help build self-confidence and belief in themselves.

The kickboxing programme has been set up by martial arts instructor Nick Jaye, who runs the Phoenix Schools of Martial Arts in Beckenham.

Mr Jaye, a property developer, was inspired to take up martial arts after he was attacked and held at knife point while working as an estate agent in the 1980s.

He said: “I didn't know how to protect myself so I started doing martial arts for my own benefit.

“I wanted to walk down the road with confidence, after something like that happened I didn't feel confident.”

But he says kickboxing offers more than just a mode of self-defence.

He added: “The students will learn co-ordination, balance, and improve fitness and health. They are driven fairly hard and really have to put in a lot of effort.

“It teaches them ways of behaving, such as listening before they talk, to put their hands up when they want to speak, simple things like that, learning respect with adults.

“Everyone calls me Nick but so long as we have mutual respect for each other.”

The rules are fairly strict, stating that the pupils must train hard and not be disruptive - or they will be not be allowed to carry on.

Giving youngsters an alternative to street corners Forty-seven per cent of students at the Manor Way school in Beckenham come from Penge, Cator and Clockhouse - three of the poorest wards in south London.

Headteacher Brian Lloyd says rather than denigrate youngsters, time and effort should be invested in providing them with an alternative to hanging out in supermarket car parks or on street corners.

He said: “We are all too quick to damn hoodies, but think about it logically, what else can these kids do? There are very few youth clubs, very few places they can hang out.

“If we can all invest a small part of our time and help young people it would do an awful lot to raise the state of our society.”

Mr Lloyd said of the six pupils chosen: “We want to raise their self-esteem and give them the opportunity to achieve something, and show them they can start and finish something, which means an awful lot to young people.

“Kickboxing allows them to come out of the academic environment for a short time and focus their attention on putting their ability into something different, and then step back into school life and build from there.

“To be able to concentrate on one thing is a really important asset of learning. ”