A recent report from Kids Helpline showed a dramatic increase of 157% in the number of duty of care interventions initiated by counsellors in the last 4 years. Queensland rated the third highest in Australia. A staggering 1 in 4 young people are experiencing mental health issues, with just over 1 in 7 kids aged 4-17yrs assessed as having a severe mental disorder.
Kids are clearly needing more support and martial arts can give it to them. Martial arts encourages not only a healthy body, but more importantly a healthy mind. It builds confidence, self-esteem, and self-control. Kids can use these life skills and strategies to deal with the challenges they face every day.
Life skills are imperative for kids to navigate daily hurdles. Playing sport of any kind has been proven to help kids mentally, socially and of course physically. It is the core values of martial arts based on respect, integrity and perseverance that are fundamental to benefiting kids throughout the course of their whole life.
Natalie Westera, a local Occupational therapist, specialises in children’s mental health and says that our kids face many unique issues and challenges navigating today’s world.
“I think as a society we are really good at teaching kids academically but we are not good at teaching kids about relationships and resilience,” Natalie says.
An Australian Child and Adolescent Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing conducted by National Mental Health Commission concluded that one third of 4-17-year-olds needed life skills training but for the majority (60.9%) this need was not met.
Natalie explains that giving kids these invaluable tools early in life is imperative. “I think the longer you wait the more likely you are to get more complex mental issues arising like anxiety and depression.”
Natalie strongly believes integrity is the key when dealing with confrontational situations and explains how martial arts can be beneficial.
“Most people get anxious about standing up for themselves. Martial arts teach people how to do that and do it well. It teaches you how to stand up for yourself in a respectful way,” Natalie says.
“I have worked with a lot of kids with anxiety and depression and if you walk away, you are avoiding the issue, as opposed to dealing with it in a good way.” She explains that learning how to manage confrontation well and with integrity will greatly benefit these kids not only through childhood but also into adulthood.
Even for adults, confrontation is always challenging. One person who knows this only too well is head of curriculum at Matt Fiddes Martial Arts, Chris Weir.
Chris has the pleasure of moulding and helping kids every day at Matt Fiddes Martial Arts, with partners Mr Canavan and Sam Weir and an outstanding team of franchise owners and instructors.
It is clear Chris loves what he does. His face beams as he talks about the joy he gets from instructing kids. “It’s seeing a child really want to learn and engage.”
He has had plenty of practice. With three young kids of his own, family is everything. He has taken these strong family values and woven them to create an extended family at Matt Fiddes. His passion, energy and enthusiasm is contagious.
“Martial arts is a gift, it is infectious. It’s not just about one person. I think if you can introduce it into the family, especially the values of it, then everyone benefits from it. That’s the important thing.”
It’s Chris’s concern for the mental health of kids that forms the core of what motivates him.
“If I can have a child believe that I believe that they can do it, then so will they. That’s what I try and create.”
Having struggled with his own confidence and learning abilities as a child, he worked out from a young age the power of self-belief.
“I constantly see these kids come through that are showing behaviour that is not acceptable to others. They are so used to being told that they are doing the wrong thing, that they are not good enough. They are so used to being put in that box of ‘I wish you were better’ that they don't believe they can create something awesome of themselves.”
“I fear that if you got into some of the minds of these young kids that are depressed and are feeling really low, if you said, ‘Can you see a way out?’ I would doubt if they probably could. They would think that their world is dark and there are no other options, where as we all know there are.”
Chris has seen firsthand how martial arts can turn kids around.
“I’ve seen children who just needed that little bit of stimulant just to see that we believe in them and they grow from that. I’ve seen some amazing kids come through this organisation purely because of that change.”
Chris explains how the life skills program at Matt Fiddes gives kids the tools to address the daily challenges.
“Martial arts is a journey. It wasn’t always a positive experience for me. It was hard work and discipline but as I evolved through martial arts my confidence grew.I realised that I could deal with anything.There are steps I could take, goals that I could achieve. I gained more self-worth.”
“In my honest opinion, self-worth would be one of the strongest tools. If I could pour something into a child, it would be self-worth. To me it generates their need to be better and the need to improve, not just sit back and let the world go by.It gets you excited about the future and you want to get involved in it. Martial Arts has taught me that. I think a child with self-worth and confidence is a child that has a big future.”
The evidence is clear, the daily pressures children face is increasing and clearly for many Australian kids it is too much. Kids need good life skills to face the world today. With gentle persuasion, through the teaching of martial arts, kids can take back control of their lives for a happier, healthy and brighter future.
Chris leaves a powerful and memorable impression on these kids. He has given them a gift – he has shown them the secret to a healthier life, that they may not otherwise have learnt. His motivation to continue to impact these kids in a positive way evident. “I’ve seen kids on their first day, unhappy and lacking so much confidence, then three weeks later I see that same child running into the hall.The first thing they do is give me a high five and say ‘Hey Mr Weir what we are going to do in class today?’…that’s my big achievement. That’s all I want.”