Karate changing tamariki lives in South Island town Motueka

By Jessica Tyson

The Japanese martial art of karate is changing the lives of disadvantaged kids in the South Island town Motueka thanks to sensei Stuart Kere.

Kere teaches 25 tamariki as an afte- school activity at Parklands Primary School.

“It’s just another way of communicating with our tamariki. I think that’s important. We know where they come from. We know what sort of environment they come from," Kere says.

There are parallels between karate and mātauranga Māori, says Kere, and what the tamariki learn in the dojo is similar to tikanga Māori taught on the marae.

“It’s a dream come true that I’ve been given that opportunity to teach what I’ve learned by others.”

Kere was inspired by his father to learn karate and has since been teaching the art for about 20 years.

First grading

“He was old school. He was in the army. There were eight of us and we all had to choose what pathway we wanted to take, so martial arts was my journey.”

Kere's students, aged between five and 12, have their first grading next month which will take about an hour.

“It’s going to be a proud moment, not just for myself but also for others who help us, their parents too.”

Kere says karate can teach tamariki valuable skills and having years of experience doing martial arts is also good to show in their resume when the tamariki grow older and apply for jobs.

“To be able to retain and to hold your mana, I think that’s more important than anything else.”

Overall Kere is grateful to have the opportunity to work with the tamariki.

“I’m very privileged to be sitting here right now and that can only be done by our children because we need our children. I wouldn’t be here otherwise. I’m just doing what I think is the right thing to do. Its hands-on and our tamariki love hands-on skills.”

Kere's classes are held every Thursday night at the kura.