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MMA program teaches youth about the impacts of bullying

A martial arts program in Yellowknife is teaching children how to improve their lives through sport and prevent bullying in their community.

A pilot project called Be A Buddy Not A Bully launched on Oct. 18 and is scheduled to run every Tuesday until Dec. 13. It’s targeted towards youth between the ages of five and 12.

RELATED: Former MMA star visits Behchoko as part of anti-bullying initiative

Brad Foster is president of Edmonton’s Kamikaze Punishment Foundation, which is running the program with the help of Arctic Combat Fitness.

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He says seminars are designed to help youth understand what bullying is and the effect it can have in communities.

Another goal of the program is to show kids that healthy, active lifestyles can lead to improved mental health.

“We want to affect their life positively with martial arts training and the community positively by building better people,” Foster told Moose FM.

“That‘s a big stigma with martial arts training is that we’re going to make children into fighters when in reality that’s not the case. We want to make them into good human beings.”

“I would … prefer they spend their energy [kicking and punching] heavy bags and go home and have a great healthy meal and do their homework than act out at school with their frustrations.”

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Foster says the program combines physical exercise with classroom-type sessions to teach kids about the negative impacts of bullying.

Last year, semi-retired Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fighter Martin Kampmann visited students in Behchoko as part of the same program.

Canadian kick boxer Gasper Bonomo – who boasts a professional record of 21-0 in the sport – was brought on board this time around.

Foster says he’s already leaving an impression on some of the city’s youth.

“He relates to the kids in a real good kind of superhero way,” he said. “They look up to him and realize, ‘this guy’s a really proficient kick boxer but he’s not a rude person or an arrogant person.’

“We want to make [the children] into good, humble citizens that way too.”

Foster says it costs $80 to register for the Be A Buddy Not A Bully program. He’s hoping to introduce bi-weekly classes at Arctic Combat Fitness in early 2017 once the pilot project is over and done with.

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