Project aiming to inspire Hackney’s young boys through martial arts and drama proves a success

Kevin Stuart with children from the Yasuke Project. Picture: Kevin Stuart

Kevin Stuart with children from the Yasuke Project. Picture: Kevin Stuart - Credit: Archant

A project created to inspire young boys and help them rediscover their sense of community through martial arts and acting has proved a success.

Deputy speaker Michael Desmond with children from the Yasuke Project.

Deputy speaker Michael Desmond with children from the Yasuke Project. - Credit: Archant

Taking Shape, run by martial arts instructor Kevin Stuart, set out to work on the mind and body of a group of boys aged 11 to 17.

It was launched following a successful pilot earlier this year, which won praise from parents.

Kevin came up with the idea because he wanted to do something about the increased levels of knife crime, and his employers at the Young Hackney youth hub in Forest Road agreed to back the project.

He told the Gazette: "After a hugely successful pilot the project was brought back to Hackney to evoke the same amount of enthusiasm, self-reflection and ambition in a new group of boys, including children with autism and other additional needs.

"The project aims to better address difficult encounters they may have living day to day in an inner-city area and provide both physical and emotional equipment to best approach the situations that arise.

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"The is a unique project which combines a range of physical martial arts training sessions - including meditation and reflective exercises - with emotional aspects using applied theatre.

"This in turn uses a psychological approach to bring out their personalities and give them freedom to express themselves on so many different levels."

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The boys also went on a trip to Liverpool because Kevin wanted to take them out of London to learn about UK history.

As well as camaraderie, Kevin wanted to teach the boys to recognise the integral role they can play in society.

"We wanted them to really grasp how important their lives are," he said. "And that they can do anything."

Earlier this month the boys were presented with their certificates by deputy speaker Cllr Michael Desmond in front of their parents and family.

"It went really well," said Kevin ."The boys were really happy and had a fantastic time. I can get used to this building mini communities!"

Cllr Desmond told the Gazette: "It was great to celebrate the success of the project together with them. Participants learn martial arts, self-discipline and drama and enjoy the camaraderie shared experiences bring.

"The regular training sessions help develop confidence and skills and provide opportunities for practical advancement."

Kevin now hopes to roll out the project across London. Anyone interested in hiring Kevin can get in touch at

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