By E L Brown
In a bright, airy room on the first floor of Chestnuts Community Centre, Master Franck Mpinda has been teaching his distinctive style of martial arts for more than 20 years. When DT arrived before one of the classes, the room was filled with happy chatter, as parents talked with the instructors while the children prepared for their lesson.
As soon as the class commenced though, a noticeable hush fell over the room: these kids were focussed. Master Franck indicated to a young woman who was leading the troupe through their warm up – ‘that’s my daughter,’ he remarked. ‘She is 22, and the other instructor is my boy, he’s 14. A lot of people don’t know they are my kids. I’m quite severe with them – in the class, they can’t even call me dad. She used to be one of the children in my classes – now, she is leading them,’ he said with quiet pride.
Master Franck’s approach is firm but fair: ‘Kids today, they don’t have discipline – we are trying to restore that discipline.’ Disruption and disobedience are not tolerated, and self-control – or ‘controlling yourself, in order to control others’ – is one of the main tenets of Pinda Kai-Do. ‘When people get upset, they often can’t control themselves, and use physical force to express themselves. But here, we want them to get used to being in control, to think twice before they do something.’
It seems clear that both children and parents reap the benefits. Master Franck encourages good behaviour at home and in class, and ‘punishments’ – in the form of press ups and stomach crunches – are tailored to help children develop their areas of weakness. The discipline of Pinda Kai-Do not only helps children develop martial arts skills, but also prepares them for real world challenges, from working under pressure to setting goals and achieving them. ‘One of my students, who used to be very naughty, is now doing a PhD,’ Master Franck said.
Its clear to see why Master Franck is an inspiration to his students. His strict discipline and determination stem from his own experiences overcoming hardships and forging a path to success. ‘I grew up in Congo – it was a rough place, fighting was normal, so you needed to know how to defend yourself. I started with Karate, but found that people with experience in Judo or wrestling could easily pin me, so I went and learnt them as well. By 16 or 17, I became a three-time black belt in Shotokan Karate, Taekwondo and Jiu Jitsu.’
‘Sport is my passion, I can’t live without sport – and my parents let me do it as long as I continued to study,’ said Master Franck. Years later, as a six-time black belt with extensive competition experience, he put his knowledge of different disciplines together to create Pinda Kai-Do as a complete martial art, even creating his own moves. In 1997, Pinda Kai-Do was formally recognised as a martial arts style, and structured teaching commenced.
Pinda Kai-Do is a registered charity, which ensures the lessons are affordable, and the money raised goes toward keeping the classes running smoothly. ‘We do it because we love it, and we believe in it,’ said Master Franck. Gradings aren’t held as regularly as at other martial arts schools – instead, instructors will gauge when a student is ready, and only then allow them to take the test.
‘We’re not only teaching them how to defend themselves, we’re teaching them how to be a leader. Any of the students from orange belt upwards can stand in front of a class and teach – it’s second nature to them. They’re studying the art, but they’re also studying how to teach and be leaders,’ Master Franck explained.
Asked what he’d like to achieve in the future with Pinda Kai-Do, Master Frank said: ‘My hope is to have more instructors. We are training three or four more instructors, so that Pinda Kai-Do can expand all over the world, and we can have our own instructors, teaching our own philosophy, just like Shotokan Karate or Taekwondo. I’ve already started Pinda Kai-Do in Congo, where we have 18 instructors.’
Pinda Kai-Do classes are open to adults and children, male and female. ‘I always encourage people, especially women, to come to Pinda Kai-Do,’ said Master Franck. All students will be pushed to improve their technique, fitness, and defense. But when it comes to taking part in semi-contact or full-contact exercises, students are invited to move at their own pace. Master Franck sums it up: ‘When they’re here, there’s no girl, there’s no boy – there are only Pinda Kai-Do students.’
All photos by Agenda Brown at visualmarvelry.com