As government considers whether to enact a legislative or policy-based anti-bullying strategy, one man is taking matters into his own hands to help equip kids with the skills and knowledge they need to defuse or avoid bullying situations.
This summer, Krav Maga Cayman owner Ronnie James Hughes is offering a Kids Krav Maga Anti-Bullying camp as a crash course in safety, security and awareness, and to boost kids’ confidence. He is offering the training for free to those whose parents cannot afford to pay for a summer camp to make sure that all kids, regardless of their economic situation, have access to this opportunity.
Kids can train for free if they or their parents are associated with any care homes, shelters or other nonprofits such as the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre or Big Brothers Big Sisters. The camp is also free to kids if their parents cannot afford to pay a fee. For those who can afford to pay, the fee is $125 a week.
“There’s a big class divide in Cayman, and so there are many young kids that don’t have the sort of funds to go to these summer camps because they’re too expensive,” Mr. Hughes said.
Mr. Hughes said that growing up, he “didn’t really have much either,” so he wasn’t able to go to summer camps like other kids. However, he did have the opportunity to train with a boxing coach at a gym.
“That stuck [with] me all my life, and so I just wanted to give the kids that really need it more than anyone else the opportunity to come and enjoy something, and also to give their parents a break,” Mr. Hughes said. “It’s just fun if you can take a group of kids and teach them something in the space of like a month, and it’s life-changing for them.”
The camp will teach kids ages 4 to 12 the elements of Krav Maga, an Israeli martial art that Mr. Hughes describes as a “no-rules form of self-defense” that encompasses everything from jiu jitsu, judo, kickboxing and karate to Muay Thai. The camp will focus largely on grappling, which is a way to use timing and leverage to neutralize an attack, rather than relying on strength or brute force.
The camp also aims to educate kids on what bullying is and how to stop it, whether they are a victim of bullying, a bystander, or a bully themselves.
Mr. Hughes said there will be plenty of games and lots of fun challenges for the kids in an environment that is not too “rigid” like some karate schools.
“The camp itself is designed to be fun,” Mr. Hughes said. “It’s designed to teach kids non-striking forms of self-defense. By teaching them grappling and jiu jitsu and Krav Maga, we’re giving them the tools to be able to neutralize a threat without causing any real damage.”
Mr. Hughes said he considers Krav Maga to be a form of “physical communication” which can be used as a last resort when verbal communication fails to be useful.
“If a bully doesn’t have the educational, or the logical or the cognitive ability to see what they’re doing is wrong, and they get frustrated, they’re just going to lash out and do something physical, so you need to learn how to speak that language, as well as being logical.”
Mr. Hughes said he hopes to teach kids that abusive behavior is not acceptable, and ways they can protect themselves.
The training, he said, is “very empowering.”
Empowering those in need has become a regular part of Krav Maga Cayman’s operations. Mr. Hughes has provided much support to the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre and is currently offering a free month of Krav Maga instruction to anyone who attended the crisis centre’s recent “Strength of a Woman” luncheon.
“If you’ve got a facility, an opportunity and a good group of people, then why not?” Mr. Hughes said. “There’s no agenda behind it. I have a gym, there’s a lot of kids that need training and their parents need a break. I’m not here to make money. I’m here to make a difference.”
For more information or to register for the summer camp, email Mr. Hughes at [email protected]
This story has been amended from the original.