With support of our participating clubs, we've assembled a handful of examples to demonstrate the difference martial arts can make to our target groups.
In all instances we have anonymised the people concerned to protect their identity. This forms part of our standard safeguarding practice. We've also incorporated models and actors for photography or illustrative purposes, again to protect the identity of those to whom the examples relate.
"I spent years trying to cope with the trauma of rape. I never believed close-contact combat sports would help me recover."
"I was abused as a young women and spent years gripped with fear and anxiety, especially surrounding close contact with others. If you had told me then that I would find myself at extremely close quarters with men, grappling, and feeling on top of the world I would have spat at you.
The reality is that martial arts has the power to break you down and build you up. It helped me to return to myself. It switched off my mind and put me back in my body. It also helped me to take control of my life by showing my grit, stamina and discipline will always come to bear. I don't know what I would have done had I not been near enough forced to attend that first women's only self defence class. It was a turning point in my life and my recovery."
Applicable Programme: #PunchLikeAGirl
"I thought I'd probably be dead by twenty, or serving life in prison. Judo turned my life around and made me see how bloody stupid carrying a knife really is."
"When all of your friends are tooled up, you just do it too because it seems like it's the only way to stay safe. The sad reality is that most of it stems from fear. Our school had done talks on knife crime before and I had even taken part in a few 'activator' sessions for Tennis and Cricket, but it just doesn't cut it. The problem with that way of life is it's about the macho image and all of the culture. It's hard to rise above that.
Judo showed me there's always someone out there who can take you down. It also taught me the importance of discipline and self-control. It's the first thing in my life I've stuck at and achieved, and after four years, I'm a black belt. I don't think I'll ever be as proud of anything else in my life. The fact my training was linked to my schooling forced me to engage.
Applicable Programme: #DitchTheBlade
"I spent years in an abusive relationship, feeling as if I was powerless. Three minutes into martial arts, and I re-connected with that bit of me that had been shut off for so many years."
"I hadn't expected to find much use for Muay Thai Boxing but attended because it was an all-women class and, after much pestering from a close friend, I decided to give it a try.
Within minutes of entering the gym and seeing what others could do on the bags, something in my clicked. I felt grounded for the first time in so many years, and empowered by my body. Challenging yourself to physically overcome technical and fitness barriers pushes you to develop. It builds up your confidence and your stamina, and teaches you that your body is yours, and that it's worth fighting for."
Applicable Programme: #PunchLikeAGirl
"Martial arts is the only reason today I am an award winning social-entrepreneur. Without it, I would still be living a life of poverty."
Our very own Chief Executive Officer, Giovanni, grew up in poverty and experienced a family breakdown during childhood due to alcoholism in the family unit. The way in which martial arts calmed and transformed an angry, dejected teenager and 'built him up' as a resilient, disciplined entrepreneur is well documented.
"Sometimes it's just about knowing you're not on your own, and that it's okay to be a bloke and talk about 'bloke problems'."
"I had never considered myself to be the type of person with mental health issues but by the age of thirty five I was struggling with the pressures of being a dad, a husband, the career and everything else. I wasn't talking and was bottling up all of the stress and anxiety of that way of life. It was eating me alive.
Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) was an immense release. A safe space to connect with my body and switch off my mind. Not be a Dad, or a husband, or a colleague - just a bloke. Having fifteen minutes with other guys you're close to and have learnt to trust with your life on the mats, just to talk about the pressures we're all facing and to realise we're all in the same body - it's not just a good use of time, it's a life-saver."
Applicable Programme: MANtra
"I could never have afforded to compete at a national level in any other sport."
"Growing up, my family never had a penny to spare. It wasn't just tight, it was non-existent. I didn't get to do sports classes or gym classes like my girlfriends at the time. Even the most 'affordable' of uniforms would set you back £40 and that was far too much for my parents.
With Taekwondo, suddenly a door opened in which I could not only attend and train, but also compete, without any of the cost barriers. It enabled me to focus on developing a passion for my fighting rather than watching my parents struggle to pay the dues. As a young adult, it's given me an honest way to make a living, and I can't wait to pass on that same 'FOC' opportunity to the next young man or women to learn without cost too.
Applicable Programme: Fighting Chance Scholarship Programme
"I don't know what I would have done, or who I would have become, had it not been for martial arts."
"I spent years as a young man just kicking around the football at the park, not really doing much productive with my childhood. As I become a teenager I struggled with alot of the issues I was exposed to at home. Both my parents struggled with substance abuse, and there was always the threat of violence.
I first tried Kickboxing when the local club ran a free trial. I could never have afforded it myself, but the instructor took me in and helped me to train for free. It marked a turning point in my life. The path I was on wasn't for me, and the moment I had a safe place, away from the knives and the drugs, in which I had for the first time someone telling me I could rather than I wasn't capable, a step-change occured. It was a life-defining moment for sure."
"I spent years being told I was different like it was a hindrance. Martial Arts helped me to see it was just another challenge I could nail."
"There's no such thing as 'can't', that's what my Mother used to say. Unfortunately being born with a severe disability made life anything but straightforward and during my time in school, I lost that can-do attitude.
It was an opportunistic encounter with a martial arts club in which an instructor had completed disability inclusion coaching that helped me to rediscover my innate 'fire'. My belt is the only thing that differentiates me from other students. It's a place in which I am truly accepted for me.
Applicable Programme: Inclusive Martial Arts