Mercury Bay rangatahi gain life skills and get active in self-defence programme

08 Jun 2021

Confidence, standing tall and how to better interact with their peers are among the life skills Year 7 and 8 students at Mercury Bay Area School are learning through self-defence classes delivered in collaboration with the community.

Around 180 ten to 13-year-olds are participating in the six-week programme delivered by Billie and Buddy Hunter and their instructor team at Evolution Fitness gym who were excited to partner with the school and Sport Waikato as part of the initiative. “It’s a big undertaking and it has been full on, but so worthwhile,” says Billie. “We are seeing a really high level of engagement, the students are committed to giving everything a go, it has been such as positive experience for us.”

MBAS Deputy Principal, Anne-Maree McDougall, says the idea for the programme was inspired by several students who were taking martial arts classes run by the gym. “We noticed significant changes in how the students were carrying themselves as well as how they engaged with others, particularly in challenging situations,” she says. 

Anne-Maree went on to investigate whether funding could be sourced for a school programme. “Sport Waikato has recently changed the way they fund sport and activities with a goal of getting more people active and recognising that not everyone is going to want to play team sport,” she says. “There is a greater emphasis on identifying and supporting a range of things that kids want to do that will help them be active and fit. We put an application together on that basis and they agreed to fund a pilot programme. 

“We decided as a school that our Year 7 and 8s would benefit most as they are in that transition phase, there is a lot happening for them in terms of development. I have just collected the feedback from the first three weeks in order to help make a case for further funding so we can hopefully roll it out for our Year 5 and 6 students also.”

Billie says the lessons are founded on Jiu-Jitsu, which has a strong emphasis on self-defence and mental strength, and have been specially designed for the students. “It empowers them in terms of being confident in themselves and their ability to look after themselves as well as the discipline and self-control that goes with that,” she says. “Our instructors are loving working with the kids, we are all buzzing seeing their confidence grow each week.”

Anne-Maree says there were wider benefits from the programme. “We see these positive connections with the community as a vital part of learning for the students,” she says. “For many of them it’s their first time visiting a local gym for example, so they are seeing what that is all about and connecting with another way to stay fit and healthy.

“We are also very lucky to have amazing people in our community to provide positive role models for our rangatahi. The more time our students can spend with great people like Billie and Buddy and learn for them, the more they will benefit. They are also seeing the jobs that people are doing and how there are careers dedicated to helping people look after their health.”

Pictured: Evolution Fitness gym staff with Mercury Bay Area School Room Hei 2 students at a recent self-defence class offered by the gym and funded by Sport Waikato.