The West

Kicking kids beat bullies
Jayden Matthews, 4, and chief instructor Haim Sasson. Picture: Supplied

Toddlers as young as three will learn how to combat bullies and abductors using a modified form of Israeli self-defence system Krav Maga if a program being considered by WA childcare centres is adopted.

About 20 centres across Perth have shown interest in the Dynamight Kids program, launched in the Eastern States two months ago.

Child psychology experts have raised concerns about the program, saying it could teach young children to be aggressive.

The Dynamight Kids website says children learn emergency techniques such as biting, scratching and stomping and how to protect themselves with palms, punches, knees and kicks.

Brisbane-based Childhood Australia director Leann Webb, who set up the program with Israeli martial arts expert Haim Sasson, said it taught children from three to nine more than 40 basic self-defence techniques to solve real life situations such as bullying, rough play, inappropriate touching and abduction.

She will demonstrate the program and another called AlphaTykes, which teaches Spanish, French or Italian to children aged from 18 months, to Perth childcare providers next week.

Ms Webb said self-defence improved children's balance, co-ordination and strength.

It did not teach them how to fight.

Lessons encouraged them to respond to bullying such as hair-pulling or wrist-grabbing by telling the perpetrator to stop, pushing them off and walking away. "There's a very strong message from the instructors that we are never rough with our friends, family or teachers," she said.

"The retaliation only comes if it's someone such as a much bigger child or an adult who won't stop and in that case, I think every parent would want their kid to do whatever they need to do."

Edith Cowan University child psychology lecturer Andrew Guilfoyle said he was concerned about children learning self- defence moves so young because it was instilling an habitual physical response.

"There are other ways to teach co-ordination and motor skills than through martial arts," he said.

ECU child health researcher Bronwyn Harman said self- control was one element of self- defence, and she did not believe three-year-olds were able to moderate control.

'There are other ways to teach co-ordination and motor skills than through martial arts.'"Child psychology lecturer

  • Andrew Guilfoyle *
The West Australian

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