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Free martial arts class brings discipline and joy to Holloway

PUBLISHED: 09:32 01 November 2016

Luke Baiju, 16, works with jiu-jitsu instructor Carl Fisher - watched by Hanife Khan, 12, and Estelle Montgomery, 12. Picture: Polly Hancock

Luke Baiju, 16, works with jiu-jitsu instructor Carl Fisher - watched by Hanife Khan, 12, and Estelle Montgomery, 12. Picture: Polly Hancock

Archant

As a born and bred Islington man, Stephen Riley feels as much as anyone the pain that youth violence can bring to our borough.

Jonathan Buffong and Stephen Riley have brought free mixed martial arts classes to the Ringcross Community Centre in Lough Road, Holloway. Picture: Polly HancockJonathan Buffong and Stephen Riley have brought free mixed martial arts classes to the Ringcross Community Centre in Lough Road, Holloway. Picture: Polly Hancock

And as a youth worker with a sports coaching background, he knows what physical activity can do for young minds.

It is why he is organising weekly mixed martial arts sessions in Holloway’s Ringcross Community Centre, in Lough Road.

Not only is he trying to teach young people discipline on our streets, he is also targeting deaf and disabled people. The free sessions are open to all between 12 and 25.

Stephen, 53, of Highbury, said after overseeing the third session on Thursday: “The great thing is, everybody can do martial arts. We have had two coming in their wheelchairs, and they absolutely love it.”

One pupil who was there last week was 16-year-old Luke Baiju, who has ADHD.

“I was watching Luke and he just had the most wicked smile on his face,” says Stephen. “He was enjoying every little bit of the session.”

Luke Baiju, 16, works with jiu-jitsu instructor Carl Fisher. Picture: Polly HancockLuke Baiju, 16, works with jiu-jitsu instructor Carl Fisher. Picture: Polly Hancock

The classes, which will run every Thursday until December 15, will explore a different form of martial arts each week. The main objective is discipline.

“Martial arts is about control,” said Stephen. “That’s a valuable tool, because some kids nowadays don’t have any control. We want to get as many people in as possible to help them do something productive, rather than creating rubbish on the streets.

“We are about teaching self-defence, but raising awareness of how and when to use it.”

Stephen and his colleague Jonathan Buffong won a grant from Sport England to run the classes. They are now looking for more cash to extend the sessions beyond December 15 – and take them into Islington’s schools.

But first he wants to build pupil numbers at the Ringcross centre.

“We started on October 13. We’ve had a few people in so far, and we want more. In any case, they are free, and everybody loves free things!”

The sessions run from 6.15pm to 7.15pm. For more information, visit mmarap.co.uk or call Stephen on 07956 530377.


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