VUB uncovers the potential of martial arts for youngsters in Brussels

Martial arts clubs are closed, so young people organise their own street fights. Closing the clubs in the time of COVID-19 seems to be a perfect recipe for accidents. From a scientific point of view we react to this new hype and provide a constructive response to the challenges faced by many young people. Various studies in Belgium and abroad show that active organised leisure time involvement of young people offers them the best chances for successful outcomes. That’s why, as an urban engaged university, the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) has launched the BXL Living Martial Arts Lab, led by researchers Marc Theeboom and Hebe Schaillée. The aim is to give young people the support they deserve. As part of the VUB weKONEKT week, a debate in three rounds is being held today on the potential added value of martial arts.

With the two-year project, financed by VUB, the university focuses on the challenges young people face and how sport, in this case martial arts, can help them to cope with those challenges.

“With the BXL Living Martial Arts Lab, we are focusing on raising awareness on the potential added value of martial arts. Not only in a club context, but also in other contexts such as the welfare sector, the social sector, etc,’ says Marc Theeboom, chair of the VUB research group Sport & Society and initiator of the project. “It has been scientifically proven that martial arts such as boxing can lead to increased social cohesion. With this project we are also committed to breaking the negative image of martial arts and focusing on these types of sport from a variety of perspectives, also as a form of artistic expression.’

“As a university, it’s important that we take nuanced positions on all aspects of social life, also in relation to often contested issues such as harder martial arts. As an institution that prepares young people to enter the workplace and the world at large, we want to inspire our viewers through shedding light on diverse topics and contribute to more nuance thinking in relation to martial arts,’ adds Hebe Schaillée, project manager of the BXL Living Martial Arts Lab.

Partnerships with various actors and disciplines

The BXL Living Martial Arts Lab consists of a consortium of 10 scientific partners of the VUB and the Université libre de Bruxelles and two additional partners, the Flemish Martial Arts Platform and UNIVER.CITY, which provide project-based support.

“Each scientific partner in the consortium has its own research expertise. The lab offers a unique opportunity for partnerships between various actors and disciplines, such as sport and exercise sciences, educational sciences, sociology, psychology and criminology. For all the activities, we collaborate with different target groups and encourage interaction between people from different sectors. Setting up new partnerships and strengthening existing ones is central to the work of the BXL Living Martial Arts Lab,’ says Theeboom.

Note for the press:
Debate on potential of hard combat sports

The VUB, the Koninklijke Vlaamse Schouwburg and the Flemish Martial Arts Platform are joining forces for this unique online event on the potential of martial arts. The guests will reflect and engage in discussions on various aspects of Martial Arts and include, amongst others, VUB rector Caroline Pauwels and Marc Theeboom, chair of the VUB research group Sport & Society. The event is part of the VUB weKONEKT week.

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