Girls build confidence and camaraderie at Harold Park

Young students feel the power with martial arts.

It’s Monday evening. Upstairs at the Tramsheds, unseen by diners below, a group of girls and young women aged 12 to 19 practise their tumbles and grappling techniques. The accomplished High School Jujitsu team, including many black belt members, is the first to regularly enjoy the City of Sydney’s brand new Harold Park Community Hall. Between them, the girls have 12 state, 10 national and 2 international titles.

A life-changing discovery

Martial arts teacher of 25 years, Rose Smith, also known as Sensei Rose, started the group about 6 years ago at a local high school. She’s passionate about the benefits of self-defence training, especially for girls and women.

“Bullies look for the weakest link,” she said. “Once you feel the fear and have the courage to face it, predators are more likely to leave you alone. Discovering this power is life-changing.”

Ella has her black belt and is captain of the High School Jujitsu team

The sense in self-defence

When Marlena’s mum suggested she try martial arts 6 years ago, she didn’t think it would be fun. Then she took a class and fell in love with it right away. First she learned basic defences, things that anyone can do if attacked, grabbed by the arm or put in a head lock.

“It’s for real life situations,” she said. “It’s pretty common for girls walking down the street to feel a sense of danger. Martial arts has shown me my power and instincts.”

Rose believes that self-defence should be taught in all schools, and not just because these skills can help protect students. “For girls and young women, the value of martial arts is also body confidence: feeling good about yourself. Self-defence teaches women the skills to develop healthy emotional and physical boundaries," she said.

Black belt Carmen is also the state taekwondo champion

Shining her light

Black belt Carmen also practises taekwondo, after being personally invited to train in the Olympic form by Master Di Carn of Irontiger Taekwondo. A year later, she became the state champion.

Her mother, Maryanne, also joined the girls’ jujitsu class, and is 1 of 3 mothers training alongside their daughters. She hadn’t done any formal exercise since she was 6 years old, and is thrilled that at 50 she can now do a somersault and a backwards roll. She enjoys being in the class with Carmen.

“It’s a thrill for me, learning from my daughter,” she said, with a big smile. “She’s the black belt, and it’s exciting to see her in this role.”

The girls practice their groundwork

Beyond the black belt

As they gain skills and awareness, students progress through the belt colours from white to red, orange, gold, green, blue, purple and black. But it doesn’t end at black.

“The black belt means that you have the maturity and a responsibility to teach others,” said black belt Maggie. “There are times when the training gets hard and becomes more complex. You need to push yourself to do better, and you need support and encouragement. The belt shows the commitment and self-control that has been required at each level along the way.”

The benefits of martial arts carry across into all areas of life

The bigger picture

The deeper qualities that the girls develop in martial arts carry across into their everyday lives, helping them to manage everything from homework to chores and relationships.

Francesca recalls that before jujitsu, she was a shy person who couldn’t make friends easily.

“Now I’m much better at interacting with people,” she said.

“It’s also a stress relief,” said Sabine. “Being physical like this gets the HSC out of my head.”

Martial arts titles can bring other rewards too. Rose points out that if students are competing in martial arts at state or national level, they can receive ATAR points. It can also open up early entry options for university and scholarships.

Feeling good at Harold Park

The girls love training in the Harold Park Community Hall. It gives them all the space they need and means they can run different activities at the same time.

“It’s open, bright and private,” said Eliza, the group’s newest recruit. “It feels really nice to be here.”

Girls aged 8 and older are welcome to try a free lesson and join classes.

Find out more at Hoshin Jujitsu.

Posted . Last updated .

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