There’s a gaggle of excited children and chatting mums waiting outside the studio at Building Blocks Enrichment Centre in Motor City, the same scene you’d find at any other kids’ activity across Dubai. But when the instructor walks in, everything changes. Kids eagerly file through the door, lining up in a hushed and orderly file against the far wall before politely bowing to their teacher. This is TKD Tigers, a unique class aimed at youngsters between three and six, which combines the fitness and coordination benefits of traditional martial arts with age appropriate life skills and personal development lessons.
‘We’re trying to help kids gain confidence,’ says Adam Nazer, the class instructor and managing director of Dunamis Training that runs TKD Tigers, who just happens to be president of the International Taekwondo Federation in the UAE. There is a strong social element to the course, he explains, covering important core themes including bullying and peer pressure, teamwork, child safety and health and education. With course booklets supplied to each pupil, the aim is for kids to continue the learning process with their families at home.
On paper, the holistic nature of the course looks great. But can it really work in practice? As we watch the lesson unfold on the TV screen in the Building Blocks reception (mums aren’t allowed into the classroom so as not to distract their kids), it seems the answer is yes. The kids sit rapt as Adam runs through their instructions, before jumping up to join in the activities, whether it’s hopping through hoops, or learning basic taekwondo moves. Throughout the term, Adam will go through each of the core themes using role play and creative games, with the children receiving badges and milestone awards along the way.
It’s impressive to see all of the kids patiently taking their turn, and on the one occasion some of the older boys did start to get rowdy, Adam immediately intervened, sitting all the children down, and explaining to the class why they shouldn’t behave in such a way, before resuming the activity.
‘TKD Tigers is a great leveller,’ he tells us after the class has finished. ‘As well as teaching discipline through the taekwondo moves, the activities really help the kids to come together and work as a team. Whether they’re very timid and reluctant to get involved, or boisterous and over-active, we’ve found that it evens them out.’ Unlike some sports, TKD Tigers isn’t about excelling, or being part of the top team – it’s about children of all abilities and sensibilities coming together, having fun, and learning along the way.
The anti-bullying message is a key part of the course, says Adam. ‘There’s a lot of bullying that can go on in schools and I really want to help kids to know how to deal with those situations, whether they might be picked on or singled out if they’re not into team sports, for example, or if they’re the ones who are behaving like bullies themselves. Our course is designed to make kids understand what their actions are. An adult telling them off is not going to make any difference, if anything, it will make them want to do the exact opposite. We want to help them understand the effect of their actions, and that you don’t have to be aggressive to get attention, whether it’s at home or at school.’
Kids generally settle into the class routine within the first four weeks he adds. ‘There was a very quiet boy who joined up a few years ago, he pretty much sat there in silence for the first few classes. His mum was worried that he never wanted to join in at school, or get involved with any activities. But after around four weeks he learned to work as part of a team, and he became one of our top students – he’s now been with me for more than three years. Depending on the kids’ needs in each class, I’ll work with them individually if they’re struggling in certain areas. We’ve also got classes especially for three-year-olds that we hold in the Lakes, and I run private sessions too.’
As Adam takes his leave to start the next taekwondo class that is waiting outside, the final verdict must then lie with our three and five-year-old Time Out guinea pigs. ‘The teacher was really cool,’ is the unanimous decision. ‘When can we do it again?’
TKD Tigers runs classes for three to six year olds at the Lakes, Motor City, Knowledge Village, Jumeirah Beach Road and the Madinat Jumeirah. New classes at Umm Suqiem/Jumeirah begin at the end of October. For more information, go to www.dunamistraining.net/tkdtigers.html or call Linda Nazer on 050 859 3550