Cayman Karate Academy’s classes are now running full-time in a new location in George Town.
There was a huge launch class involving more than 30 students at Dorcy Drive last Thursday. Head instructor and owner Bob Daigle said, “I have thought about opening a full-time martial arts school again for years.
“We moved into our new facility at No. 1 Alexander Place at the end of January and have had a tremendous response from the general public.” He said that parents are seeing the benefits of what they teach and are telling their friends in great numbers.
“It gives me great satisfaction when I see a child’s confidence grow,” he said. “I know what confidence can do for a child.”
Studies show that martial arts is a perfect complement to performing well in school because students learn that confidence and positivity help them as they work through the ranks and earn their new belts.
“When a child has confidence in themselves, there is no limit to what they can achieve,” he said.
Actor Armie Hammer, co-star of the Disney movie “The Lone Ranger” who spent part of his youth in Cayman; Frankie Flowers Jr., the award-winning movie producer; and local film star Brian Braggs all studied martial arts with Daigle at Cayman Karate in its previous incarnation.
“More and more of our former students that trained with us from 1987–2001, many who were children at the time, have returned to training over the past few months. They are also signing up their children,” Daigle said.
An adage at Cayman Karate School is: “The family that kicks together sticks together,” Daigle added, “It’s great to see more and more families joining Cayman Karate. I can’t wait to see when mom or dad – or both – and their children put on a martial arts demo at one of our future graduations,” he said. “That memory of performing with their parents will be with them forever.”
Martial arts is more than just kicking and punching, he added. “Parents want their children to get involved in martial arts because of the mental benefits such as self-discipline, focus, respect and a ‘yes, I can’ attitude.”
It also fosters good sportsmanship, a tenacious attitude and confidence.
“Children want to learn karate because it makes them feel good about themselves, is challenging and a lot of fun,” Daigle said.
Cayman Karate produced Cayman’s most elite martial artists when it first operated. The school competed in more than 150 overseas tournaments and returned with tremendous results. The level of skill was also evident in the local tournaments. “Our goal is to surpass that skill level this time round,” Daigle said.
In order to be world class, one needs to train with elite competitors and instructors, Daigle, a former world karate champion, added.
In the past 12 months, Cayman Karate has brought in world champions to pass on tips to the students. Team Paul Mitchell, Christine Bannon Rodrigues and Dante Rodrigues, as well as Mat Emig and Nikki Stanley, were all flown in for seminars.
“The level of skill of my students has dramatically increased because of this exposure,” Daigle said.
His instructor, Grand Master Tony Cogilandro, has given Daigle permission to bring in anyone “with good character and high skill” from any style of martial arts or organization in the world.
“I am extremely grateful because most schools can only bring in instructors from their same style or organization,” Daigle said.
Children in Cayman also need fun events to look forward to, he feels. “We recently hosted an air-track training session on Public Beach to help student practice their martial arts acrobatic skills.”
Over the next two weekends, the school will be hosting a parents night out, when children attend the school for three hours for games, pizza, glow weapons training and a movie on a 13-foot screen projection screen with an HD projector and surround sound. “Events like these will create lasting memories for all the children that train with us,” Daigle said.
Two kids who are thoroughly enjoying their Cayman Karate experience are Noah Arbo, 11, and his 6-year-old sister Madeleine, who have only been in the program a matter of months.
Their mother Sonia Arbo said, “They are really enjoying it and their confidence has gotten stronger since they started. They can’t get enough of it. They could live here, I think.”
Her husband Paul discovered the classes and thought they would be an excellent way of learning self-defense and boosting confidence.
“The things they thought they could not do, especially with sparring, they have been able to conquer,” Arbo said. “To see another side of my children is quite nice to witness.
“This is beyond physical. It’s working on their character and they are learning to take responsibility for their actions. All these skills will be with them for a whole lifetime.”