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Blog: “Adaptive Martial Arts aims to remove participation barriers”

Activity Alliance enables organisations to support disabled people to be active and stay active for life. Today’s blog comes from CEO and founder of Adaptive Martial Arts, Gina Hopkins. Gina tells us how Adaptive Martial Arts are working to address participation barriers for disabled people.

Adaptive Martial Arts session

Hi I’m Gina, the CEO and founder of Adaptive Martial Arts (AMA). We seek to provide fair and safe competitive opportunities. Importantly, we aim to remove barriers to participation in various martial arts disciplines too.

Martial arts has always been in my life. It’s provided me with confidence and focus. I’ve used it as a tool in accessing fitness and rehabilitation. And reaping the benefits that sport and physical activity can bring.

I have always found a great deal of benefit in exercise although having Dystonia. It was clear to me that post neurosurgery was even more vital to my long-term health. With my school trying to stop me participating with my friends in P.E., this made me even more determined to play! Martial Arts has always helped me to cope with some of the darkest days of my life.

Most martial arts are not governed by National Governing Bodies (NGBs), and not funded by external regulated bodies. Therefore there is a lack of consistency around accessibility, knowledge and qualifications. With my academia experience and qualifications, and having travelled to the USA for competitions, AMA was born.

Our priorities are to build an individual’s confidence and self-esteem. We offer a friendly, relaxed and accessible environment. We provide, promote and support disabled athletes, injured athletes, and athletes with long-term health conditions to access exercise and martial arts training.   

We currently have two established clubs. Culverhay Leisure Centre is home to our Bath class, and Shine Community Hall has become our adults class. We are also working with the beautiful views of Netham Park Pavilion to build another community club.

I knew from being disabled myself, the opportunities for disabled people to compete in sport was limited. Participation barriers are a major part of this. There’s so many of them, and they vary with each individual. For me, I can categorise these barriers into four -physical, mental health, perceptions and lack of knowledge.

Take physical barriers - if you don’t have a genuinely accessible venue or equipment. This can include venues who do accommodate for disabled people but have forgotten basic concepts in the process. An example of this is having accessible equipment for wheelchair users but not enough space to get a wheelchair to it.

A lack of knowledge and confidence around disability is a major barrier. Having a coach who is confident and knowledgeable around inclusiveness can make all the difference to a disabled person and their confidence.

At Adaptive Martial Arts I’m proud to say we are working to address such barriers, and to encourage more disabled people to be active.

We are doing this through inclusion and accessibility. This is at the heart of our organisation. Our instructors are qualified, as well as experienced. We do support our instructors to regularly take on extra training to boost their skills and knowledge. We also find it important to regularly ask for feedback from our students. Knowing what works well, what our students would like to see more of, and less of, is crucial to maintaining a positive experience.

I would describe us as a very close group of students and instructors. We all work closely to ensure everyone is getting the most from AMA. We are constantly looking to improve our offering to our students and always looking for new courses for our instructors or additional learning. Our next course for everyone will be the British Blind Sport instructors course.

We have big plans for AMA’s future. Our long-term goal is to have our own purpose built, fully accessible premises, to teach and train all aspects of fitness and martial arts.

Find out more about Adaptive Martial Arts here.