Thursday, October 11, 2007

WE Community – Toronto Man Teaches Life Lessons through Discipline

by Niama S. Sandy

At the Malvern Youth Centre in 70 students are learning the art of discipline and self-restraint through Tae Kwan Do. Their teacher, 42-year old Stephen Salicksing, has been a student and teacher of Martial Arts, for 30 years.

Guyanese-born and Trinidad-bred, Salicksing and his family moved to Toronto at age 8. When he was 11 years old he started taking his very first martial arts course. After months of taking the classes, young Salicksing was able to begin instructing other children in his neighbourhood on how to defend themselves. His instruction helped to ease tensions in the area. "Everyone knew everyone else could fight so no one really interfered with anyone else," said Salicksing.

At 18, Salicksing completed the training required to receive a Black belt - though the period of study for the Black belt generally takes far less time. "I came from a very poor family," explained Mr. Salicksing. His days consisted of getting up to go to school, returning home, tending to his siblings, and going to work. In those days where Martial Arts was concerned, Salicksing said "when I had the time I trained." Salicksing also underscored how times have changed. "Back then, when it was over it was over and it was good being able to walk away and leave it at that."

Upon leaving high school, Mr. Salicksing began to coach basketball at Stephen Leacock High School. This time coaching led him to discover his passion for working with youth.
"When I left high school, I went back and I decided to help coach the basketball team at Stephen Leacock High School. They enjoyed it! A lot of the kids went on to play university ball, at Syracuse University and some other schools in Canada," said Salicksing. The young coach ended up returning to school and receiving a degree in Social Services. In addition to his own studies, Salicksing engaged in more coaching in volleyball and track.

In a world where senseless acts of violence and innocent bystanders becoming victims of heinous crimes is the norm, Mr. Salicksing is trying to instil in his students at the youth center a different set of values. Simply put, "they know how to fight and they know they can hurt people - but they will not because I ask them not to. I feel bad for my kids that they can't defend themselves because they can really damage people. I spar with them in class so I know exactly what they are capable of."

The most fulfilling part of his job is the privileges of implanting this discipline and the seeds of inspiration to go above and beyond in his students. "Their parents complain that they're so distracted in school and they can't be taught. I teach them when they don't think anyone else can," explained Salicksing.

Students of Salicksing's have gone on to do great things. "We have students that have become doctors and police officers. 90% of our current students are getting B+'s and up," explained Salicksing.

The Salicksing children are following in their father footsteps. One student was doing very poorly in her French studies. As a result, her mother wouldn't let her come to Karate school. One of the Salicksing daughters lent the student a study guide. On the day I spoke with Salicksing, the student was just returning the book and raving about how much her French grades had improved with use of the French book. "The same thing I do, my kids are doing," explained Salicksing. "It grew on them. They're all teaching Karate now, the three elder children - they teach for the city. They're doing what comes naturally now." Just as their father is doing what is second nature to him.

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