Shaolin Kung Fu: Why every child should learn Martial Arts by Martine Niven

29 Dec

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Q: Why bring your child to our kung fu class?

A: Here are a few of the many qualities they can attain:


Strength of body, mind and spirit


Learning to work with others

Learning respect for themselves and others

Inner & Outer self expression


Self awareness

Internal awareness







Inner calm

Social interaction

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We have been working with children for many years in many different settings, as foster carers and support workers, in community theatre projects, teaching drama and dance, class room teaching, children’s entertaining, through the treatment of Children’s Chinese medicine and of course in martial arts.

We have experience in teaching children with mild to severe learning difficulties. Also children with many different behavioural issues.

Our classes differ from the average martial arts school, yes we do teach a traditional style of Shaolin Temple Kung Fu which encapsulates many different aspects from acrobatics to traditional forms and movements, to the more softer internal practices of Tai Chi, Qi Gong and Meditation;


but our focus is also on the personal development of each child, with our extensive knowledge in traditional Chinese Medicine and various movement based disciplines, we incorporate all our knowledge together to help guide these young people, helping them to grow in individual ways.


Each child has their own personal challenges and difficulties and it is our job as teachers to help that individual discover themselves by challenging and supporting them in ways that help them to change and grow into balanced young people.

We have a special class that we run on Sundays at the Littledown Centre in Bournemouth called our “Family Kung Fu” class, this allows parents and children to train together. We have found that this gives a great atmosphere to the class and helps to build strong and healthy bonds between parents/carers and children.

We also run a volunteer class at the Bournemouth Chinese School on Sundays. This is an hour long class and at the moment we tend to have a younger age group.

We tend to find that children are more responsive to this type of training and exercise after the age of five but we have been known to take on younger students depending on there developmental stages. In these cases the parents always have to be present in the room and be willing to encourage and work with their children to help them to feel comfortable, some children take to it first time, some need gentle encouragement and can understandably feel scared and worried being in a large group, but we find that after a few sessions they soon feel comfortable and settle in to the training. All the senior students are encouraged to make beginners feel welcome.


We like to keep an enjoyable atmosphere in the sessions but there are also times when discipline and structure are needed.This is part of the  key skills to their growth, development and learning. We feel these skills can be taken through to influence their whole life, in the way they interact with people, therefore building the foundations and valuable life skills.

We have also done a number of workshops for schools and a variety of education establishments, here are a few listed below:

  1. Bournemouth Chinese School39637_150594538289563_792060_n
  2. Avonbourne Secondary School
  3. Sheiling School
  4. Wing Centre
  5. Bournemouth University
  6. Bournemouth & Poole College
  7. Haymoor Middle School
  8. Sturminster Newton High School
  9. Paragon Education & Skills Ltd

Paul is looking into furthering this area and is hoping to bring these skills to schools in more permanent morning sessions and after school activities.

We do take part in competitions and there is the chance to do gradings. These are not pushed but are gently encouraged if the child would like to take part, to help the children gain focus and enthusiasm for this amazing practice.We have found that the competitions inspire and motivate the children when they see other schools performing and demonstrating. They can find it challenging, facing fears and building confidence in a safe , friendly, non judgemental atmosphere.




We choose very carefully who we associate with, making sure that these principles are maintained, it is important to us that the right attitude to these events are implemented so that the positive aspects of competition are developed. It is also a chance to enlighten their minds about self-awareness, kindness, respect and most importantly being humble.


After all we believe that life is present in each and every one of us, one person no more important than the other, as we are all a part of everything and everything a part of us.

We also like to incorporate some of the cultural aspects of training, for example teaching in Chinese, after all this is how we were taught by our teachers and masters and so need to pass on these ancient practices in the most authentic way possible.

Sometimes we are asked to do events and demonstrations, we have taken the children to London to perform for health organisations and regularly perform for the mayor of Bournemouth and Poole at Chinese New Year. The Children enjoy the challenge and focus.

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There is also a social aspect to the school. We  organise various events throughout the year, including christmas!, outings and from time to time free training at the park. We have seen how children who are more introverted literally come out of their shells developing into confident young people who are more able to deal with social situations better. This is evident in the children we teach who have mild Aspergers.

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Every Year we hold a week long course for the children to do over the summer holidays. We call it “Kids Kung Fu Camp.” We have been running this for about four years and every year the children come back to enjoy more. We do lots of types of training including: Tai Chi, Meditation, Qi Gong, lots of forms and acrobatics, san shou (Chinese kick boxing) and for the more advanced students, weapons. We also have been known to do beach training too, which went down very well last year.

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At the end of the week we usually go on a group trip. This year we all went to Snow Trax to let off some steam after all their hard work. In previous years we have been bowling, the cinema and next year we are considering “go ape” (high rope climbing) or some type of water sports, should be exciting!!

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One of our Instructors Martine Niven is a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine and has just qualified in Paediatrics (the treatment of childhood illnesses) She takes regular trips to China to improve on her Shaolin Kung Fu and regularly trains with her master in England Shifu Yan Ming, 34th ShaolinWarrior Monk, at the UK Shaolin Temple. This constant practice  helps her to grow and develop in her skill and knowledge, after all we are all students in this art, we are always trying to develop and grow mentally, physically and spiritually, it is important for the children to see this, so they understand that everyone is on the same journey, children learn not only through experience but also by and  through example.


Paul is constantly developing his internal skills with his master Grandmaster Gou Kongjie, 11th Generation Lineage holder of Chen style Tai Ji, who is based in Oxford.  He is extremely knowledgable and proficient in internal martials arts.

Paul works with many different streams of society, he is a full time instructor and we have both dedicated our whole life to this practice and way of life. We both have been very fortunate to be taught by extremely accomplished practitioners and therefore are honoured to be able to pass the true traditional knowledge onto our students.


What happens in class?

Each class follows a similar structure but is constantly changing and adapting depending on the dynamic and energy of the group and the individuals present.

We have mats and crash mats which provide safety and give the children confidence to practice their skills.

We and the students have worked together in sponsored events to raise money to buy  valuable pieces of equipment for the school, one example is a 10 meter tumble track which we have yet to use in the New Year!


Physically in the classes the children start with a warm up. This is very important as their bodies/muscles need to be warm in order to practice the next movements. This reduces injury as well as building stamina, fitness and strength.

After this the class can take on various different focuses. We tend to practice stretching all body parts, splits, back bends, arms, legs etc. to increase flexibility. We learn and practise stances, all basics or “Ji Ben Gong” in Chinese – the root or foundation movements for further practice. This is  very important for you cannot build a house on weak foundations or your house will collapse. Kung fu is the same and so we work diligently on these movements and stances.

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Children are encouraged to ask the instructor for water and if they need to leave the room for toilet breaks. We do provide suitable breaks but this teaches the children the boundaries and they can learn respect not only for their teachers, family and friends but also for themselves. Hence they must also bow before entering and leaving the training hall. This gives them awareness, respect and care for their training environment and later they discover they are essentially bowing to themselves, respecting and caring for themselves.


After stretches we practice basic kicks in all directions and combination movements. We also practice acrobatics similar to gymnastics type movements. For example the beginners may learn forwards and backwards rolls, cartwheels, handstands and then as they progress moving on to learn the more complicated movements of hand springs, flick ups, spinning kicks and back and front flips (hence the need for the tumble track to make these movements easier and safer to learn)



The children then go on to learn “a form” which is a group of movements put together to make a routine. These “Tao Lu’s”(forms) help the students to understand and practice the various different movements and help them to develop at the level they need too, depending on what form is chosen for them.

Usually they start by learning the “WU BU QUAN” which is 5 stance leg and hand form. Once proficient they will move onto the more complicated forms of which there are hundreds (and more if you include modern wushu and artistic forms.)

They also get the chance to learn various weapons. Hard style like stick and sword and soft style like 9 section chain whip!


We incorporate at any time stamina and traditional strength training. We like to keep the classes fresh and are always coming up with new ideas and practices to keep the children interested and enthused.


At the end of the session we bring together all the students (sometimes parents too!) to practice meditation and/or qi gong (qi gong are Chinese health promoting exercises, similar to yoga). These practices help to develop inner strength, peace and clarity of mind, very good for the children nowadays who are more and more under pressure with large amounts of homework or for those children who have family pressure of all kinds wether that be pressure at home, school or from life in general.


It has been told to us by parents that these exercises have helped their children when they are stressed giving them a valuable tool to use. Throughout the  years we have seen our students grow into well balanced, happy, healthy and well-rounded dependent individuals.

Are aims and focus are to help these young people to grow through this amazing and ancient martial art form.


Yes there are aspects of self-defence but this is only the surface of a very deep, philosophical and profoundly enriched system that encompasses all layers of learning, growing and knowledge internally and externally.


We guide the students to reach their inner potential in all aspects of their life – this is our passion and why we teach.

Over the years we have seen so many children gain positive experiences from the training. But we think it would be best to let them tell you what they feel about the classes themselves! Please see below for some of their thoughts and also some of the parents too. (there are more to come so please be patient as we upload them!)

Parents Comments:

“Both Finn and Chris say they love coming to kung fu because  it’s helping Chris with his confidence and stamina and helping Finn with his coordination. He says it’s fun too!..”

“Paul and Martine are excellent and passionate teachers of Kung Fu and my seven year old has really enjoyed the classes and progress that he’s made.  The classes are fun and friendly, beginners are always made very welcome and the kids learn a great deal of discipline and respect for others as they develop in the practice of Kung Fu.”
“I have enjoyed the classes since I started at 2009. I have made many new friends and have had chances to learn new skills such as acrobatic, weapons, hand forms and basic Kung Fu. They have helped me with my physical health & strength. I would like to thank my highly skilled teachers, Martine & Paul, for their encouragement & supports as well as teaching me and helping me to achieve all I have done!”
Owen Choy, age 13
“My son started Kung Fu with Paul in the Bournemouth Chinese School 3 years ago. He was looking for something more physical and challenging at the time, as well as enjoyment from another Martial Art (he was already a highly trained Karate student)!
Paul & Martine have supported my son throughout his training and took him to various competitions in London, where he gained a number of trophies and medals. These provided much needed confidence for his self believe. 
Kung fu also teaches my son good disciplines & self awareness, which he lacked in the past. I hope he will continue to enjoy the lessons under the brilliant guidance of Paul & Martine, and that he might be able to pass on this Traditional Chinese Art Form to others in the future generations!”
Candy Choy
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One Response to “Shaolin Kung Fu: Why every child should learn Martial Arts by Martine Niven”

  1. yingyongsworld January 4, 2013 at 1:40 pm #

    This is a great article on Young people and Martial Arts. Very honest and open! Refreshing to read about the commitment of the teacher and students!

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