Foundation School of Martial Arts is a community that uses movement, and elements of Japanese culture and values as tools to help build resilient and confident people in Liverpool City Region.
The classes and programmes that it runs are rich in variety; from ninjitsu, traditional weapon training, sparring, to calligraphy and taiko drumming. Founder Simon Melhuish emphasises that a class of 30 kids will all have different needs and it is the job of the club not only accommodate every student, but help them to thrive.
Social value has underpinned the foundation’s work from the beginning, first with children and young people on the Barnardo’s Young Carers Programme, running camps and activities which focus on giving its recipients respite and growing their sense of self. It has since worked with Advanced Solutions, which focuses on empowering neurodivergent children, and runs workshops in schools and for the NHS, promoting stress management, mindfulness and empowerment.
Simon says ‘a lot of the parents come to classes wanting to make their kids tougher and more disciplined, but the kids come out with unexpected assets; sense of self, social skills, resilience and trust’. He says that working with the parents in that process is an integral part of the work Foundation does, ‘it is often more the parents we’re teaching than the kids,’ he says. Parents must stay for sessions and, as a result, watch their kids grow, share their sense of achievement, resulting in strengthening familial bonds.
As a result, 90% of adults classes are populated with parents of children at the school, creating a community with a strong ethos of investment in nourishing relationships with themselves and each other, and in physical and mental wellbeing. The foundation boasts reams of positive feedback from whole families; all reflecting a sense of belonging, an increased sense of confidence, within a context that expands knowledge and respect of Japanese culture and tradition.
This sense of community is present in every aspect of its programmes and projects; many of the kids go on to become junior instructors. They gain valuable experience which sets them up for later in life but, beyond their skills, they are wonderful ‘as individuals; confident and compassionate, with a genuine concern for others’, Simon says proudly, ‘and those who go on to become instructors are the best we have – they get more gifts at Christmas time than I do!’
The goal of Foundation School of Martial Arts is simply to improve the lives of the people that it works with, through positive reinforcement and skills training. The growth of its students is organic, and looks different in every individual, young or old. The effect this can have on a child is enormous – from personal to educational settings. The lack of positive reinforcement at home or at school can so often leave people behind, when all that was needed was a change in tactics to let them thrive.