His nose may have received a few more blows than a box of tissues — but you get the impression that this guy could make an depression anywhere on your body if he needed to. The third degree black belt kickboxer is prepared for the worst… but hopes it will never come.
“If properly trained, a kickboxer doesn’t go looking for trouble,” says 58-year-old Pedro Barbosa, who has been teaching kickboxing at the arena mezzanine since January.
Barbosa hails from Ponta Delgada, in the Azores, a group of nine islands west of Portugal in the middle of the North Atlantic. He moved to B.C. in 1969 but has been back to the Azores many times, to establish four kickboxing schools and to attend yearly kickboxing championships, as an honoured guest.
Barbosa and his wife, Sheila Sandberg-Barbosa moved to Hope last year. Long-time Hope residents may recognize the Sandberg name. Sheila grew up in Hope and is now working locally as a hairdresser.
Soon after arriving in town, Barbosa came across a scene where his training gave him the confidence to intervene in a mugging.
“It was late at night, during Brigade Days,” recalls Barbosa. “Four thugs had a woman and two guys on the ground, kicking them. I chased them but they got away. The police tracked them down. They were from Chilliwack and the case is in the courts now.
“It’s good to have the skills, to defend a friend or your family,” contends Barbosa. “Martial arts give you self-esteem and discipline. That’s what they are all about.”
Barbosa got his start in self-defence before he emigrated — but when he moved to Brampton Ontario, he got involved in kickboxing. In 1974, he went with his Sensei, Mr. Frank Lee, for eight months of training in Thailand. While there, he also trained in Mo Tai, which stresses the use of knees and elbows. On his return, Barbosa was certified as a third degree black belt instructor.
“I’m very disciplined in my school,” says Barbosa. “I teach my students that they have to respect others, so that they will be respected.
“I opened a school in the Azores for 17 years,” he recalled. “I’d have the students from after school until 7:00 at night. In the beginning, they were very badly behaved. But now, they are accountants, doctors and lawyers.”
In Hope, Barbosa has attracted up to 15 students per session, with ages ranging from 14 to 70. He’s hoping those numbers will be maintained or grow when the classes move to the United Church Hall on March 19th.
The one-hour sessions begin with a half hour of conditioning and cardio.
“We do push-ups, sit-ups, jumps and spins,” says Barbosa. “If people want to just come for that part, that’s fine too.”
From there, the students work on punching and kicking technique.
“If I have someone who’s more advanced, I teach the next level and then they come and help teach the others.”
For softening the practice strikes, Barbosa has hand and foot pads — plus a big pad, much like the ones they use in football training.
“We use the boxing gloves after they have learned to use the left and right hand,” explains Barbosa. “That takes about three months.”
The belt program is an option for those who are interested.
“After perhaps six months, they can try light sparring, with padded helmet, shin and foot pads, padding for the private parts and a mouth guard. They are not required to take part in this, just if they want to.
“We have one man coming out, Mr. Lee, who is 65 years old. He’s retired from the army and he was trained in judo, so I sometimes give him a half hour to teach judo to the others,” says Barbosa. “He gets kids in holds and they can’t get away.
“They just love it, though. They’re very curious, so they ask him to try it again so they can get some ideas on how to get free.”
Once the classes move to the United Church Hall, they’ll run from 6:45-7:45 on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and 11:00 till noon on Saturdays. Monthly fees will be $45.00, says Barbosa. Sweat pants or shorts and a t-shirt are the recommended attire.
To reach the instructor, call 604-860-0411.