A SPORTING and educational programme, ‘Fight for Peace’ which began in one of Brazil’s most dangerous favelas, was this week set-up for the youths of Derry at Strike Martial Arts Academy.
Strike and Torres Brazilian Jui Jitsu Club at Unit 10, Bay Road, hosted the internationally renown, ‘Fight for Peace’ initiative last Wednesday night where children and youths from communities across Derry came together for the first session of an eight week cross community project.
Coached by four times world professional kickboxing champion, Daniel ‘Pinta’ Quigley and British Jui Jitsu titlist, Martin McLaughlin, participants from Creggan, Currynierin, Nelson Drive and Caw, were taught the skills and techniques involved in martial arts.
The ‘Fight for Peace’ initiative, otherwise known as ‘Luta Pela Paz’, was first set-up in Rio de Janiero in 2000 to help children affected by gun crime, gangs and violence.
Physical Activity manager, George McGowan of the Old Library Trust in Creggan, alongside, Youth Development Officer Chris Curran from St Columb’s Park House who organised the programme, recently had the opportunity to travel to Brazil to see the ‘Fight for Peace’ education centre at first hand.
And while Derry might not be your classic hillside slum, McGowan believes the young people of the city can fully benefit from such a scheme which aims to break down barriers and empower underprivileged young people to better themselves.
McGowan came to appreciate a little about what it means to live under a cloud of violence during his trip to Brazil where kids are literally ‘fighting for peace’.
And he explains the programme is not just about sport but about educating young people in topics such as racism, sectarianism, homophobia, the effects of drugs and alcohol as well as helping with educational and employability skills.
“It’s a pilot programme we’re running,” explained McGowan. “Myself and Chris have had the pleasure of joining a N.Ireland network wide ‘Fight for Peace’ consortium who went on a trip to Brazil.
“We went to see what they (Fight for Peace) actually do in Brazil and see how they change the lives of young people in Rio. We learned all about their methodology and it’s brought about this project.
“We’ve brought together children and young people from right across Derry to a neutral venue to try and teach them about mixed martial arts as well as taking them on a journey of personal development.
“They have had their introductory session at Strike where they got to know each other and we’ll ask them about some of the issues that have affected them.
“During the eight weeks we’ll hold some workshop and the coaches will deliver some of those workshops themselves and talk about their own experiences. The children will listen to the coaches who are role models within our society.”
Chris Curran believes that Strike Martial Arts and Torres BJJ were the perfect clubs to host the ‘Fight for Peace’ programme.
“We did a bit of research into ‘Fight for Peace’ and thought their methodology would fit well into N.lreland,” he said. “There has been sports programmes like this in rugby, football and cricket but martial arts is what I would deem a neutral sport which isn’t affiliated to any one side of the community. There’s no prejudice or barriers and we can start the process straight away.”
The project will run for the next eight weeks. If anyone would like their group to get involved in the next programme please contact Daniel ‘Pinta’ Quigley at Strike Martial Arts academy on 07809349976 or George McGowan at the Old Library Trust HLC on 02871 373870.
See how the first Fight for Peace session went at