Feeling safe as you walk the streets of your local area should be a given notion. However, some people still feel vulnerable walking around alone at night in their high street due to rises in crime rates. Finder.com reports that from 2018 to 2019, the number of crimes rose by 994, and furthermore, police.uk reports that in 2019 in Sydenham alone, 413 violence and sexual offences took place. So what are young people doing to protect themselves?

Since December, Sydenham High School has been running taekwondo classes lessons as a part of PE lessons. Taekwondo is a Korean martial art that is known for its high kicks and fast pace. External taekwondo teachers from Gidae Taekwondo Academy come in to teach girls a variety of taekwondo moves and allow them to try different activities such as breaking boards and kick combinations.

Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, the martial art also has some applications in basic self-defence. Also an Olympic sport, taekwondo may not seem like the first candidate as a martial art for self-defence on the street. However, classes run at school dedicate time to teaching girls a basis of self-defence against events like assault or kidnapping attempts.

Classes last either one or two hours each (students can choose whether to do a double session) but are jam-packed and very practical, with girls being able to share situations that they are worried about and are then taught how to deal with uncomfortable or dangerous scenarios correctly and safely. 

The classes are also aimed to boost girls’ confidence. With kicks requiring girls to shout aloud and exercises that involve trusting their coordination (ie. forms of ladder drills), students develop self-confidence as well as improving their fitness. This has a positive and long-lasting effect on the students, even if they do not necessarily remember the moves later on or ever try taekwondo again after their PE lessons. 

Although, taekwondo has been positively integrated into life at Sydenham. With girls enjoying the lessons immensely and an after school taekwondo club in the works, it seems as though students are not likely to give up on the sport yet. In fact, since the beginning of the classes, some girls have said they feel more confident and look forward to classes.

Emilia Beveridge, year 10, talked about the classes in high regard saying, “It's very enjoyable and it makes me feel that if I am in a dangerous situation, I could get out of it.” Similarly, Jerusha Mohanadas, year 10, added: “I love it and want to do the after school club also.”

Despite the excitement caused by taekwondo, it is also important for students to remember to be practical and try not to put themselves in situations requiring the use of self-defence. However, learning self-defence is a great precautionary measure for helping keep yourself safe on the streets and is found to be good fun by students. Great for fitness and stress relief as well, learning taekwondo is something to recommend to young people.

By Ipek Tsil Kara