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Paulatuk gets boost from boxing

Kassina Ryder
Northern News Services
Published Monday, May 7, 2012

Grade 12 student Bessie Lennie says she's learned many moves since participating in a boxing workshop at Angik School in Paulatuk.

"It's almost like dancing," she said. "Besides being fun, you also learn to defend yourself."

Lennie and fellow students have been learning boxing techniques from Mike Davis, an instructor and owner of Winning Edge Fitness Studio in British Columbia.

Davis has been travelling to the community to deliver the program for the past three years. He said the first part of the class is spent practising punches and learning proper stances. Then, Davis puts on music and students warm up by skipping and doing other activities before using focus pads.

He said learning the steps involved in boxing is a great way to workout and pick up new skills.

"It develops hand-eye co-ordination and it's a fun way of exercising," he said.

For younger students, it's also a way to run through the skills they're learning in the classroom. Davis has the students count or recite the alphabet while they practise, which helps them remember numbers and letters.

They also learn the difference between left and right.

Physical education teacher Mike Mansfield said the program also boosts attendance at the school.

"I think the main thing that we're seeing is it's new to the students so it's sparked a lot of interest," he said. "A lot of students are coming back just because they know Mike's in town."

Davis agreed.

"Usually, I'll come just at the beginning of second semester when attendance has dropped," he said. "It's an incentive for them to come back."

He said he speaks from personal experience.

"Certainly that's been the case for me as a kid, if it wasn't for sports, I probably wouldn't have gone to school as much as I did."

In addition to the benefits of physical activity, the program also promotes self-esteem, Mansfield said. When students feel physically powerful, they learn to believe in themselves.

"It's a rewarding experience for the students," he said. "It's a confidence-builder for sure."

Davis said boxing offers a supervised outlet for kids to vent their frustrations.

"It is also a way of not just working out, but to work things out," he said. "It certainly has the potential to develop character, confidence and self-assertiveness."

He said this can be especially true for girls.

"We live in a culture where big boys don't cry and big girls don't hit," he said. "It is an outlet."

Davis, who holds a master's degree in psychology, said visiting the community also gives him a chance to talk to students about the effects of alcohol and violence.

"We all find that I get respect a lot quicker as a boxer than I would as a social worker. I get to combine both of them together," he said. "It gives me an opportunity to speak to them on violence and alcohol abuse."

Davis also provides evening boxing workshops for members of the community.

"I find I do get some of the kids coming back," he said. "There are community members that do it that otherwise wouldn't have the opportunity to learn boxing."

Mansfield said Davis was brought to Paulatuk thanks to an Active After School grant through the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs and the NWT Sports and Recreation Council.

The grant has also been used for new equipment, such as medicine balls and boxing equipment, as well as after-school activities and a healthy snacks program.

Lennie said she definitely recommends the program.

"It's pretty cool," she said.

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