It was only one year ago, my grand daughter Chloe, aged 9 at the time, started doing Arakan.
It was my wish that she learn some form of self defense that would give her self confidence as well as the ability to look out for herself if ever needed in whatever situation that may arise.
Chloe had her initial session with Josh Baramilis, and instantly fell in love with the whole aspect of the physicality of the art of Arakan.
The following week she started doing group sessions on a weekly basis with Josh Cheeseman and has continued to do her weekly group sessions since then with Josh’s group and then on school holidays she has private lessons if time permits.
Chloe is now 10 years old and catches the school bus daily to and from school each day. A journey that sometimes takes up to one hour each way.
Last week, on the way home from school, Chloe noticed a little Prep Class girl from her school, being bullied at the front of the bus by three grade 3 boys (also from the same school).
These little fella’s were hitting this little girl and teasing her badly and of course, this was really upsetting her. The bus driver did absolutely nothing about what was happening, so Chloe decided it was time to take action!!
She walked down to where girl was, (right behind the driver), and stood between her and the 3 boys, she then told them to leave the little one alone and go back to their seats or she would have to deal with them. Immediately, these young boys walked back to their seats towards the rear of the bus (and they remained there for the rest of their journey).
Chloe then picked up the girls school bag and took her to sit with her, ensuring that she felt OK and again safe.
This is where Chloe’s Arakan training really kicked in. She assessed what was going on, approached the bullies and defused the situation. The confidence and clear thinking that she has learned from her weekly classes is brilliant, not to mention the physicality of the sport making her so much stronger. Some weeks she has a whinge about being tired and having to go to training after a busy school week, but I swear after every session, she is beaming and telling me how much she enjoyed the class.
After only one week of Chloe starting the kids group, I joined the mum’s Arakan group. It is the activity I have been looking for all my sporting life. It is amazing in the way it works the brain as well as the body. I can honestly say that Arakan is a life changer for Chloe and myself and we can’t wait to see where the Arakan journey takes us both. At this stage Chloe wants to be an instructor ‘when she grows up’.
Thanks to Josh Cheeseman who trains and guides Chloe so well, and to my trainers Patty and Antonio for their patience and guidance with me.
When Jack started at Arakan as a six year old, he had not long been diagnosed with High Functioning Autism. Jack's ability to socialise with his peers was significantly compromised and with rudimentary verbal communication Jack would spend most of his time on the group fringe mirroring the group play behaviour as his attempt at communication. His low muscle tone meant basic tasks requiring Fine Motor Skills like holding pencils was difficult for him and his Gross Motor such as co-ordination; skipping, hopping, etc was also significantly under-developed. Crossing the mid-line continued to be out of reach.
When a friend recommended we try Arakan, we signed Jack up to 1:1 classes with Ali Grieg. Ali's gentle and fun approach was an invitation to Jack to play which he did wholeheartedly and with some nervousness on our part 3 weeks later, Jack was introduced to Nathan Hinga and his Junior Class. Nathan, the man and Arakan the martial art have had a significant impact on Jack's continued development and recovery from Autism. Four years on we regard Jack's weekly Arakan class as part of Jack's recovery program contributing to improvements in his Physical, Social & Psychological health.
The Arakan community practices true acceptance. Like every student he turns up to train, progresses at his own pace, and his Arakan journey is honored. On this journey he has improved his gross motor skills, learned discipline, focus and importantly, Jack has developed a self confidence and resilience that now sees him running with the group and participating socially with his peers.
It is in no small measure, and with gratitude that we regard Arakan as an important part of Jack's continued progress.
Katrina & Phil, Jack’s Parents
When my son Sam turned 5 years old, I signed him up to start doing one of the Arakan Martial Art junior classes (for kids aged 5 – 7). I had myself been training in Arakan for a couple of years and had noticed that when I practiced at home he was showing a great interest in it. At the time Sam had also been diagnosed to Autism and advanced ADHD which basically meant he was VERY energetic and curious.
We found his weekly Arakan lessons were a great way for him to burn off energy and have fun but as time went on we discovered Arakan helped so much more with his development. One of the aspects of Sam’s Autism was that he found it extremely hard to engage other children in conversation or to get to play with him. In addition to this as he was an extremely small and young looking kid (due to a lot of health issues at birth), many kids at public parks would just dismiss him as a ‘baby’.
We found the environment of the junior Arakan group classes very friendly and nurturing. The instructors have a great awareness of each child as an individual and Sam quickly found he was included in all activities and his fellow students warmed to him and were very inclusive which then helped his self confidence greatly. As this was done at such an early age, Sam now has great social skills and confidence and easily makes friends wherever he goes and I have no doubt that these early Arakan group classes contributed greatly to this.
But this is not the end of the story… Sam seemed to cruise along for a couple of years and even tried out some other things such as Gymnastics and another martial art but he really started to struggle in these groups. He found he was often left behind socially (even though he could physically keep up with and often outperform his fellow students) and this frustrated him greatly. He became the target of bullying by other students at times and his need to connect was simply ignored by other students and the instructors.
A couple of years ago we got Sam back into Arakan and it has helped greatly. Unfortunately the symptoms of his Autism have become much more obvious and he has now been diagnosed with extreme sensory processing disorder which is on the spectrum of Autism related conditions. Sam suffers a lot of issues with frustration, meltdowns, etc. due to his disorder and needs daily assistance at school just to get through the day. We are currently working with specialists to help build resilience in him and all of his specialists have agreed that regular training in Arakan is an important part of his therapies. Due to the unique way that Arakan is taught, we find that it forces Sam to focus on the task at hand while moving all parts of his body. This is causing neurological pathways to develop and strengthen that would otherwise not happen without this training. For Sam specifically it is helping him build neurological pathways to deal with stress and anxiety.
In a recent lesson, I observed Sam was extremely stressed and what we call ‘code red’. This was due to it being a hot and muggy day (heat is one of his main triggers with his sensory processing disorder). In a normal situation, we would see a predictable chain of behaviours where Sam would become stressed, angry and eventually melt down and need to have a lot of techniques applied to bring him back down and in control of himself.
However in this particular Arakan lesson, I noticed something interesting and amazing. As Sam was going through the lesson as they were performing drills on the pads (combos were yelled out that they had to perform), I would see Sam start to ‘fall apart’ and then a look would come into his eyes, he would all of the sudden become focussed and ‘snap back’ into the moment and perform the drill. It was the first time I had even seen Sam be able to self-regulate his emotions and have control of them. Later in the lesson another drill was being performed where the kids had to run, walk or skip and then quickly get into their stance when the instructor yelled ‘stance’. During the walking or running part, I would see Sam start to fall apart but as soon as the instructor yelled ‘stance’ he would instantly snap back into focus and get in his stance instantly.
Currently, it is a very difficult to see Sam struggling with life in general as is common for many kids with ASD when they are around 9 or 10 years old and things seem to get worse for them. We are using a number of therapies and techniques with Sam and also working with his psychologist and occupational therapist and one thing we all agree on is that Arakan Martial Art is a key component is his therapy plan at the moment. To us, Arakan is simply more than self defence and a fun activity for Sam. it is literally changing the way his brain works and building and strengthening neuropathways which will no doubt have a major impact on him for the rest of his life.
As a parent of a child with Autism, I highly recommend Arakan Martial Art to other parents. If you are like me then you are willing to try anything for your child and I believe Arakan can benefit them in amazing and unique ways that other sports or activities don’t.
Dave Mason, Sam’s Father
Rhys has autism along with other physical problems which include very poor muscle tone. When he was a baby, he didn’t have enough strength to even chew food and at school was unable to write properly as he couldn’t hold a pencil. He had tried many sports but had such poor hand/eye coordination that he couldn’t catch or kick a ball, couldn’t run without tripping, was unable to ride a bike, even a tricycle when a toddler. When he walked, his back was stooped as he shuffled (rather than walked), his arms limp at his side as they didn’t naturally flow.
By Year 10, school was tough for Rhys; he was in the special education unit away from the main stream students, he was bullied and the brunt of many cruel jokes. He was not allowed to walk around the school on his own for his personal safety and spent his break times eating in the doorway of the special education unit where he could be monitored. The education department and his medical team had all said that he would never enter paid employment and should be placed in a sheltered workshop to work with people intellectually and physical impaired.
As his mother, I was distraught. I was convinced that there was more to Rhys but numerous therapies, sports, interests; medical specialists offered no hope for any type of future in the main stream of life. Then an Instructor from Arakan Martial Art came to Helensvale High in 2005 offering Arakan for the teenagers in the special education unit. Still willing to try anything that may improve his quality of life, I signed him up; although I was under no illusions that a miracle sure was ever going to happen. When the course ended, Rhys was hooked. For the first time, he was really interested in a physical activity. There was no way that Rhys was ever going to be at a level to take a class, at least private lessons would make sure he was not embarrassed as his floppy wrists patted the pads and he fell over more times than not when attempting a kick.
The progress in Rhys was slow but after a year things started to change in subtle ways. He no longer burst into tears with frustration of not being able to do so much, his teachers noticed his self-confidence improve and he was able to walk around the school independently.
He started group classes and I know most people think ‘so what?’ but they would have no idea how hard it was. He was so intimidated to be in a class with ‘normal people’. Many nights he spent five minutes deep breathing in the car park, unable to get out of the car and walk into group. Scott, his incredible group instructor would just say “come on mate, class is starting” and with a quick wink to myself, lead Rhys into the class. The anxiety was so strong that some days Rhys would be on the phone to his Aunty or I, getting half hourly pep talk to get the courage to go to the classes. On one occasion I said “well we don’t have to go” and nearly fell to the ground when he said, “mum I am a man now; I have to face my fears.”
Rhys can now confidently walk the streets, either alone or with friends which he was previously unable to do without supervision or a carer. Rhys was even able to pass his driving test and can now drive himself to his lesson, a feat we honestly never expected.
Rhys did work experience in a sheltered workshop but through his grit and determination, he was able to apply for and secure a job in a main stream factory. Work has been a struggle as he learns how to mix socially with his co-workers however he worked with a company that truly is incredible and applies principals similar to that of the Arakan Club. With untold patience, they persevered and his self-confidence multiplied daily. This remarkable company has an Arakan lesson at work each week. Rhys, who a few short years ago could not make a fist, has his work mates all aspiring to get to his level.
He manages the money he earns. The self-esteem from his new found confidence and employment had contributed to another milestone… Last year on a family BBQ, his uncles, tough men, had tears in their eyes as Rhys held his own in a friendly football game.
He is no longer under the care of a plethora of specialists; he has muscles, his body is tanned, his skin is clear, he has no stoop in his back, he walks without a gape, with arms that swing naturally when walks, he is fit and extremely healthy; he is no longer plagued with illness year round.
Rhys now has the ability to look after himself and because his body language no longer says “victim” he no longer gets picked on (though in some way I am sure he, just like any teenager, secretly would like the opportunity to show off his Arakan skills). Hi grandparents, who helped with his care, now call on him to help with jobs they are having trouble doing. The roles have now been reversed and the carers are now being cared for.
The Arakan Martial Art Instructors have been inspirational. When people who have not seen Rhys for a while meet up with him they are truly astounded, not only physically but mostly mentally and by his maturity. People cannot believe that this all stems from one small gesture: an idea by a martial arts club to take their art to “special people”.
Lil Batstone-Smith, Rhys’s Mother
My name is Dylan and I am 16 years old. I enjoy singing, acting, writing, video games, reading and watching movies. I also have cerebral palsy. I met Ryan in May 2013 at an expo in Robina and I was invited to come for an Arakan introductory free lesson. It took until September before I was able to take up the invite and I haven’t looked back. To be honest, prior to starting Arakan, I avoided a lot of physical exercise always looking for an excuse not to do it. When I first started working with Ryan I was pretty unfit, I struggled to jog for a length of time and I was a disaster on the monkey bars. In the five months I have been working one on one with Ryan I have seen my fitness levels improve. I can now jog a lot further and for a longer time and I made is all the way across the monkeys bars the other night. This might seem like a small feat but for me it was a huge achievement. I also really like the defensive skills I am building and my growing confidence that I will be prepared if a situation arises. I feel stronger and fitter and motivated to get better. Arakan has also increased my mobility, fitness and stamina which have had a positive impact on movement and performing. Ryan, my instructor, is always supportive and encouraging, motivating me to try harder and push through. He is very knowledgeable and teaches with patience and humour. He is an awesome instructor and I enjoy working with him very much. I know I have a long way to go, but I can see the difference Arakan has made to my physique, my confidence and my fitness level. I am glad I took up Ryan’s invite and I would recommend that anyone regardless of fitness level or disability give it a go.
Arakan Martial Art Instructor Jayson Osborne has been working with our 9 year old autistic son for the past couple of years. Through the initial period the lessons were extremely challenging for him as he finds change confronting. However throughout this period Jayson was patient and understanding whilst being firm to ensure Beau was benefiting from the experience.
The lessons have been such a success in terms of communication, gross motor skills and management of frustration that we no longer see a Speech Pathologist or Occupational Therapist as we feel we achieve betters results from Arakan Instructor Jayson.
It is always a pleasure to deal with Jayson and we sincerely believe that his relationship will Beau both personally and professionally will continue to blossom for many years.
Donna Rummery, Beau’s Mother
We started Zara (7) and Austin (5) training in 2010 with Bill in family lessons.
Steve, Father of Zara and Austin
Thank you so much for the wonderful Arakan activity on Asia Day. Your boys/young men are so wonderful with the kids.
It is amazing how many of the girls love the activity! Nearly all of them said that it was not long enough!
Thank you again. We really appreciate it!
Jennifer George - Year 6 Leader - Somerset College
Arakan has helped develop Zak into the child that he is today both physically and mentally.
Anya, Mother of Zak
I enrolled my daughter Ava into Arakan a few months after the sudden death of her father who passed away in a car accident in 2006. I chose sport as a therapeutic medium for Ava to release her grief and Arakan was a powerful healing tool for her in the first year following her father’s death. Five years on she misses him naturally but Arakan has been a fantastic outlet for her in many ways & has helped her move forward into a brave, new & positive future - my little Urban Warrior
Sheree, mother of Ava
I started the boys in 2005 to train Arakan to learn about self defence because no mother would like to see her sons bullied.
Maddy, Mother of Diego and Thibault
Blade has benefited a lot from Arakan. He has got a lot of self confidence and his fitness has increased, he now has the ability to look after himself if confronted by bullies or if he is ever picked on.
Damon, Father of Blade
Logan has been undertaking Arakan Martial Art training since early 2008. We began the training as a way of focussing his energy. He has loved every minute of it, and has gained in confidence, focus, self esteem, strength and general fitness. Logan has a private lesson and a group lesson every week.
Kelly, Mother of Logan
Arakan has helped Talia immensely.
It has given her discipline, greater confidence, focus and self-esteem. She now has greater awareness of bullies at her school and is assertive when required.
It has been the best activity that I have invested in for my child.
Amy, Mother of Talia
My son Deklan is a naturally kind and gentle boy, who as an only child has never had to endure the competition and ruff and tumble of other siblings. Reading how daunting and challenging schools can be these days I was very keen to get him involved in self defense but wasn’t sure what was going to be the best fit for him.
In a chance encounter at a community fate we saw the Arakan stand and after talking to the guys I was really impressed with how friendly the team was and how passionate they were to get Deklan into his first lesson. And here is the part that grabbed me the most, the training is done outdoors in parks and school grounds while wearing shirts and shorts and everyday shoes, now that’s real life training. We booked in straight away for our complimentary lesson and Deklan couldn’t wait to get started.
On the day of his first lesson Deklan was quite nervous but Ryan his instructor made him feel completely relaxed and the lesson was a great mix of training and learning through fun games. At the end of the lesson Deklan ran straight up to me and asked if he could do more training tomorrow and the next day, which was a sure sign he loved it. He has now been training for over 3 years and as much as Arakan is about learning self defense and getting fit I have seen Deklan grow in confidence, co-ordination, self respect and self belief.
Deklan now jumps at every opportunity to do extra lessons and group training and he totally loves going to school holiday training days and he wears his Arakan uniform with absolute pride.
I can honestly say I have been totally impressed with how Arakan has taught him practical, useable skills in real life environments and we look forward to many more years involvement with the Arakan family.
I started my daughter in Arakan Martial Art in order to boost her confidence in her ability to handle herself in potentially confronting situations.
Cindy, Mother of Cheyenne
Mark Barlow and family