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Thirty years of helping students build strength and confidence


Bev Leonard demonstrates moves for her Tiger Tots class at the Belleville YMCA on Tuesday. Photo by Haley Rose, QNet News

By Haley Rose [1]

BELLEVILLE – Boys and girls ages four to six line up with their hands out in front of them with all 10 fingers pointing up.

It’s called “birthday candles,” and it’s how Bev Leonard begins her Tiger Tots martial-arts class at the Belleville YMCA [2]. She proceeds to tell her young students to blow out their candles with three big breaths.

Tiger Tots is just one of many different classes Leonard teaches throughout the week.

She has more than 30 years of experience teaching groups and individuals of all ages. Her students range from three years old to one woman she teaches at Quinte Gardens [3] who just turned 90.

Leonard said she thinks the martial-arts classes are beneficial because “It’s very good for children to see that there is another way of dealing with anger and aggression. I teach defensive, not offensive. I never teach them to fight back. That might sound silly, but there truly is a way to defuse the situation without fighting back.”

Leonard and her husband, Bob, also teach tai chi [4], ju jitsu [5], karate, self defence, kick-boxing and fitness for seniors.

Bev Leonard said she got into the sport because it was a family activity. She got her black belt in karate when she was 32 years old. After she had her second child, she said, she wanted to do more, so decided to get back into it.

Her favourite part about teaching, she said, is what she gets back from her students – seeing them get stronger and become more social.

Leonard explained that martial-arts training is something that can continue for as long as someone wants to pursue it. Students she has taught in the past are now registering their children. “The best part about doing classes is seeing the different generations,” she said.

Leonard is the co-founder of Industress, a health, safety and wellness company that has worked with businesses in the Quinte area as well as in the Toronto area, Oakville and Guelph for the last 20 years. Industress promotes workplace wellness by creating programs that are based on the gentler side of martial arts.