At-Risk Youth

Shou' Shu' and other authentic martial arts have been highly effective at teaching youths discipline and giving them direction. Youths find it to be a positive outlet for their energies and find the peer group to be a very positive influence. This is especially important for at-risk youth as the training and positive peer group can redirect their focus away from gangs and unhealthy behavior. Traditional martial arts instruction has been shown to reduce violence in at-risk youth[1].

Without positive roles models and direction these youths have no other influences other than that of their environment. The chances are great that they will fall into the patterns of criminal activity and drug use that surround them, thereby furthering the problem. Local authorities in small towns dealing with these issues have stated that small town gang activity can actually be more dangerous to the general public than activity in large cities. The reason for this is that the local youths involved in these activities are trying to emulate their larger city counterparts. They fail to realize that these inner city gangs have certain codes, which contain the activities within their own cultural sphere. These codes somewhat prevent them from randomly attacking the uninvolved public. Small town criminal gangs do not put these limitations on their members and therefore will attack in a more random nature, leaving the public more at risk.

Regardless of whether the at-risk youths reside in small towns or inner city the danger of them falling into criminal lifestyles is large. However with the right redirection and positive role models this can be changed. We have seen great success with these at-risk youths. A great number of them have gone on to lead positive productive lives. It is obvious that changing the life of even one of these youths can have a serious impact. What is the impact on society of one child taking a positive direction in life rather than a negative one. One person being a productive member of society versus a hindrance.

We’ve found that, when given the opportunity, at-risk youths excel in our programs. They take to the instruction extremely well and are overly gracious at the opportunity to better themselves. Often they have large amounts of pent up anger and frustrations. Our programs are perfect for dealing with this; as a self-defense art, there is an aggressive nature to the training. This becomes a very healthy outlet for the anger and frustrations inherent in these youths, allowing them to express anger and frustration in a very healthy way. Many of them have become part of our “demo team” where they demonstrate their skills in public forums. This has a parallel to how they would express themselves through violent activity, yet is done in a healthy manner with a cooperative partner rather than an innocent victim. It gives them the opportunity to “be somebody” which is usually the reason they strike out in a criminal nature to begin with.

Our programs provide these youths with:

  • Positive role models
  • A sense of community
  • Self discipline
  • Self esteem
  • Exercise
  • An outlet for aggressions
  • Mind-body connection
  • The desire to improve
  • character building
  • and much more


  • The goal is to give these youths a positive direction in a system that teaches them self-esteem, self-discipline, humility and respect. In so doing, we hope to improve not only the lives of these youths but also to improve the community they live in — by assisting them in becoming productive members of the community.

    The program will take youths that may otherwise be misdirected and provide them with a healthy outlet for their energies and a sense of direction and achievement. We have found the personal development that is achieved in our programs has formed the foundation for success in other activities. Our experience has shown us that this program can have immense long-term benefits for these youths and the community. Studies have shown that the study of traditional martial arts (as opposed to “sports” martial arts) has benefits no one ever guessed[1].

    You can help us with our work with at-risk youth by Donating to the Sheng Chi Foundation


    References