Karate Spalding is teaching life-skills and self defence to kids as young as five

Little Dragons and their instructors at The Vista, Spalding. Photo (TIM WILSON): SG080318-108TW
Little Dragons and their instructors at The Vista, Spalding. Photo (TIM WILSON): SG080318-108TW
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Silver screen classics like Enter The Dragon and The Karate Kid inspired martial arts instructor Eddie Bennetto to take up karate 24 years ago.

Now, as a teacher or sensei for the last 18 years, Eddie’s been helping to keep kids away from different kinds of screens – computers, tablets and phones – for around an hour or so each week as they take part in fun and social classes that boost their all-round fitness.

Leon and Ethan with Eddie Bennetto. SG080318-106TW

Leon and Ethan with Eddie Bennetto. SG080318-106TW

For the past few years we’ve been inundated with news reports about how sitting still for long periods poses a major threat to our health, and we hear about kids being less comfortable in face-to-face social situations than when they’re all alone with thumbs busily texting or gaming.

Karate Spalding puts kids in social groups where they work together and, in the case of The Little Dragons, there’s much more as five to ten-year-olds learn about life-skills and safety skills as well martial arts.

Youngsters aged 11 upwards are part of Karate Spalding’s adult group so they get used to socialising with people of all ages, and for those attending primarily single-sex schools it’s a chance to work alongside the opposite gender.

Eddie (42) said: “A lot of the work we do is with partners or in groups and they work on stuff together, almost like a workshop – they are constantly interacting and talking to other people.

“I know a lot of chatter goes on that’s nothing to do with what they’re doing and I don’t mind that – because it was something I enjoyed as a student – as long as they stay focused.”

For those who think karate is all about fighting, think again.

Karate Spalding puts the emphasis firmly on self-defence and all-round wellbeing.

“We try to bring everybody on,” said Eddie. “Not just physically but mentally and emotionally as well.”

The thriving club has just over 100 members, with around 80 of them belonging to The Little Dragons.

The five to ten year olds learn life-skills such as discipline, respect and listening skills along with wide-ranging safety skills such as fire safety, road traffic safety and stranger awareness.

The martial arts skills are not only about developing aerobic fitness but flexibility and core muscle strength as well.

“It’s about getting your whole body moving,” says Eddie. “We do try to make it fun and enjoyable for both the little ones and the adult classes. With The Little Dragons we play a lot of games ... basically we disguise their training as games but they are still practising their karate moves. They really enjoy it. They go home buzzing, full of energy, and really loving it. We have had a lot of good feedback from parents and students in that respect.”

Although Eddie has devoted his entire adult life to fitness, he’s not a big fan of “exercising for the sake of exercising” because it is just too dull for words.

He said: “If you can do an activity, even something like football, then you are playing a game and the fitness happens by itself.”

Karate Spalding holds classes at The Vista, Spalding, and The Community Hall at Spalding Common.

Eddie started out in 2001 with the Budokai Blackbelt Academy and has been a self-employed martial arts instructor since 2002, although for the past seven years he’s squeezed in another teaching role, that of driving instructor.

He founded Karate Spalding about three or four years ago and teaches alongside Martin Stafford and Jamie Tarry.

Eddie says there are various packages for lessons, although lessons generally work out at about £5 a time.

There’s a £30 enrolment fee but those joining on their first visit can expect to see that halved to £15.

And the Karate Spalding uniform that normally costs £25 is given free to new members.

You can also book a free trial lesson by visiting www.karatespalding.com or calling 07944 246233.