June 27, 2001 / Updated:16:01:43 SGT

  
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Little Dragons get their kicks


Pictures by CLARENCE CHAN.






FIGHT ONLY IF ALL ELSE FAILS

THE ''Little Dragons'' programme comprises a half-hour theory lesson, 25 minutes of practicals and five minutes of meditation.

Students enrolled for the programme learn about the importance of courtesy (ye ui), integrity (yom chi), perseverance (in nae), self-control (guk gi) and indomitable spirit (baekjul boolgool) - the five tenets of taekwon-do.

They are taught to recite all the tenets before the start of each lesson.

This emphasis on ''moral culture'' is unique to the practitioners of ITF taekwon-do.

The ITF-style of taekwon-do is a non-contact sport. Violence of any sort is frowned upon, and the students are taught to apply their skills only in the direst of situations.

Their philosophy of self-defence: Talk if you will, walk away if you can, run if you must but if all else fails, defend yourself.


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A self-defence programme teaches more than just taekwon-do to kids

A NEW form of martial arts, introduced in September last year, is fast gaining popularity.

The Little Dragons Programme, an alternative form of taekwon-do designed especially for kids, has found enthusiastic takers.

The School of Taekwon-do is the only centre in Singapore that offers the programme through its four training centres.

At last count, there were at least 50 who have signed up.

Put together by Scott Downey, a Canadian child psychologist and an International Taekwon-do Federation fifth-degree Black Belt, the programme is meant for kids between the ages of 4 and 7.

Consisting of moral education, meditation and a fair share of kicks and punches, the programme strives to teach kids the essence of self-defence in an environment filled with fun and laughter.

''The kids really enjoy themselves,'' says KC Tan, chairman for the School of Taekwon-do.

''They have fun while learning some important values in life, and that's what really sets this programme apart from the usual way taekwon-do is taught in Singapore.''

As if reinforcing the view that practitioners of martial arts must be serious and solemn, the children pretend to put up serious faces when asked to share with Project Eyeball exactly how much they enjoy it.

''I very much like it,'' whispers Jingjie Joseph, a six-year-old boy who joined the programme when it first started in September last year.

''It is very good and it is a lot of fun.''

Orhun Timurcam Ozcelik, a part-Turkish five-year-old, agrees with a solemn nod.

Before long, he and the rest are lined up in neat rows eagerly waiting to hear what the instructor has to say.

Timurcam's mother, Loh, says: ''You think they are just having fun, but they are actually concentrating on what is being taught.

''Discipline comes in also.''

Hasinah, whose five-year-old son, Daniel Nurhakim, is also in the programme, thinks it is ''very good'' and ''healthy'' for children.

''Sir (the instructor) teaches the theory lessons in Korean and English, and they enjoy that very much.''

Loh's elder son, who turned eight this year, used to attend the taekwon-do lessons held at a nearby community centre.

But ever since Timurcam started the Little Dragons Programme, she's convinced that this system of taekwon-do is a better one.

Her elder son is also enrolled in a similar programme for older kids.

Their instructor, Tan, 42, who has been practising this style of taekwon-do for over 30 years, is anxious to emphasise the difference between the two styles.

''There is an emphasis on moral character here.

''We also make sure the kids remember what was taught in the previous lessons before we move on to the next.

''We want the values and movements we taught them in class to stay with them their entire lives.''

The lessons, 1 1/2 hours each, are held once a week at Punggol Primary School; PCF Punggol East Blk 124A Education Centre; PCF Punggol East Blk 452 Education Centre; and Springleaf Educare, Kinderland.

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