Austrians want to integrate refugees better – just martial arts

How can refugees be integrated into society? This question is currently being asked by almost all European nations. The Viennese Ronny Kokert has found an answer: With martial arts he wants to give war refugees new courage. But he comes up with sharp criticism. Especially the FPÖ feels that refugees should not deal with martial arts.

Ronny Kokert is a former martial arts world champion and teaches Shinergy, a martial art he has developed himself. In his gym in Vienna since 2016, he trains a group of refugees, which he calls “Freedom Fighters”.

Although Shinergy is a martial arts, it is not about violence, he told the ORF. More important to him is discipline and respect for others. The aim of the training is mental strength and inner strength. This is supposed to give courage to the “Freedom Fighters”, who are mostly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. So he wants to make them fit for the challenges that await them in Western societies.

Combat training for refugees – “How absurd is that?”
With the training, Kokert pursues an ambitious goal. On the website of the gym, he explains: “My dream is that the young heroes will win medals for Austria.” Already he sends his students to competitions. Result of the Austrian State Championships 2017: 12 times bronze, 7 times silver and two new national champions.

Criticism of his views and his training offer comes mainly from the FPÖ. Secretary-General Harald Vilimsky, who has been sitting in the EU Parliament in Brussels since 2014, believes that refugees should not receive martial arts lessons. He made public his criticism on Facebook: “Almost every day attacks of asylum seekers on Austrians and then there is still free combat training? How absurd is that?”. A few days later, he picked up the topic again: “How crazy is that? From the war zone as a refugee to Austria for free combat training No, thank you!”

Running, hiking or yoga are alternatives
In an interview with the ORF, Vilimsky said, “The asylum seeker is here for protection and not for kickboxing medals, which is the wrong way to go, I can not understand that.” He thinks that one can also do sports differently. For example with running, hiking or yoga.

But he still believes that martial arts can contribute to integration. The criticism of the FPÖ answered the martial arts coach with an open letter. He thinks Vilimsky connects all those involved in the project with serious crimes. That was “completely unacceptable”.

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