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The idea behind Ikkaido was born over 20 years ago when the CEO and founder, Ray Sweeney, an ex-businessman with autism, uprooted his family and moved to Spain. He started a karate club on the basis that the rich would pay more and the disadvantaged would pay less - or nothing at all. It soon became apparent that social services were sending disabled and disadvantaged people to the sessions. The club grew exponentially to become the largest in the Community of Valencia, despite being in a small village. People were travelling 30 miles to come to the sessions and had a wide range of disabilities and health conditions.
When Ray returned to the UK, he was contacted by someone from Oxfordshire County Council who told him that they had heard about what he was doing in Spain, and asked Ray to meet them to discuss setting up disability karate sessions. Ray started the first sessions of disability karate in England with just one person attending. Two weeks later, there were 25, and a month later, 125.
Since then, the charity has grown and now offers a whole range of services to improve the inclusion and consequently health and happiness of persons with a disability and/or people with disadvantages. The vision behind the charity has always been the same: to empower marginalised groups to lead their healthiest and happiest life.
What we do:
Originally, we created education for coaches in order to make martial arts more inclusive and increase access to health enhancing physical activity. But Ray realised that more was needed; education should be made available for people with all kinds of disabilities. Education leads naturally to employment, so what would be better than an organisation that employs, trains and is managed by people with disabilities? We trained and employed a workforce that consists all of people with varying disabilities and people who are disadvantaged. Employment then led to entrepreneurship, which involved empowering people with disabilities to become self-employed change-makers in society.
Before the COVID-19 global pandemic hit, Ikkaido was flourishing and offering support to the most marginalised people in our community.
We develop training, courses, and qualifications, all of which are informed and used by any person, regardless of disability, background, ethnicity, etc. They are delivered through an inclusive e-Learning platform.
So far, these have been used by coaches to adapt their coaching methods to be inclusive. As a result, plenty more persons with disabilities have been able to access health enhancing physical activity.
Additionally, one of our inclusive online holistic well-being programmes has improved the overall well-being of the children and young people with disabilities who were struggling in a post-pandemic society.
We also deliver sessions of inclusive martial arts to people with and without disabilities that rely on our weekly sessions to maintain their fitness and increase their mobility, as well as remain in touch with people in their community. Last year, we engaged 9823 disabled and non-disabled people in inclusive martial arts.
The impacts of our work include:
- Increasing physical fitness and mobility.
- Improved health literacy.
- Improved mental health.
- Improved social connections and community engagement.
- Improved civic and professional engagement.
- Improved well-being
- Increased access to health enhancing physical activity.
- Increased employment and training opportunities.
- Increased access to inclusive education.
- Helping to overcome physiological and psychological trauma.
Our services change the lives of the people work with. The stories of the people we have helped over the years are unforgettable.
“At a very young age I suffered sexual, physical, and emotional abuse. My dream was to become a PE teacher. From a young age, sport had always been an outlet for me and a way of escaping. At 15 years old the childhood trauma I had suffered began to surface and coping became a real struggle.
It was during secondary school that I suffered not only verbal bullying from my peers, but physical abuse daily. This had a terrible negative impact on me and the abuse and rejection I had suffered as a child resurfaced. From this point I began to self-harm as a way of coping, physically injuring myself to try and realise my internal emotions.
At 17 I was told I was no longer able to run or take part in high impact sport as the damage I had sustained to my knees would only get worse. My self-harm increased, and my mental health declined even further as I no longer had any outlet for my negative thinking.
At 22 I met my children’s father and at 23, during my pregnancy my mental health took a huge decline. I began to burn my legs with a hot iron. I sought support from several different counsellors to try and help but talking about the issues and difficulties I had made my mental health suffer more.
After my son was born, my health visitor referred me to my GP with post-natal depression. My GP concluded that I also had severe recurrent depressive disorder. I was referred to a psychologist and began taking anti-depressants which made me feel awful – I felt numb; there were times when I wanted to cry but couldn’t. I was left with no feelings other than feeling spaced out and I hated it.
At 28 I separated from my partner, who was investigated for abuse towards one of the boys. My self-harm escalated so much that I disfigured my face and legs with a cheese grater and tried to kill myself. I was admitted to a mental health day hospital for 3 weeks. Finally, I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder resulting from the trauma I had suffered in my childhood.
I was admitted into hospital for brain surgery (micro vascular decompression surgery). I was left with physical impairments on the right-hand side of my body and face, hearing impairment, speech impairment, visual impairment, severe nerve damage, loss of sensation in several parts of my body and a permanent CSF drain because of the operation. I was at an all-time low, my life had changed completely. I was suddenly no longer able to do a lot of things. At the same time my youngest son was diagnosed with Joint Hypermobiity Syndrome with the likelihood of having Ehler Danlos Syndrome.
I contacted Ikkaido so that me and the boys could do something together, learn together, make us healthier and hopefully help me too. It was amazing, a fully inclusive, accessible community and sport for all three of us. I began to feel more confident, and we were enjoying the support and social aspect of the sessions.
About 6 months in, I took my Activator qualification to help with some aspects of the sessions. It was the most eye-opening course I have ever done.
Time went on and I began helping more at the sessions and was given the opportunity to take my Level 2 Inclusive Coaching Qualification. I was petrified but I’m so glad I did it. The course taught me so much, not just about coaching, but about myself too. After the course, my confidence and self-esteem skyrocketed, and my mental health began to improve. I began to look forward, rather than look at my past; I began to see I had a future and something that I was good at.
I have grown so much in confidence and self-worth. I have found something that brings me enjoyment, but most importantly I have found something that no drugs or therapy was ever able to give me. I have found something that boosts my mental health, that gives me better mental well-being, and gives me a focus and a future too. My children have grown alongside all the other participants in martial arts, self-confidence and their mental health has improved alongside their physical fitness.
Ikkaido has become part of all our lifestyles and coaching has given me passion and renewed hope. I want to carry on with developing my coaching further and am enjoying learning and helping others to see the true benefits of what coaching and sport can do, especially through the lens of my own lived experience of disability and mental health.”
Melanie’s recovery journey led her to be invited to Buckingham Palace and In September 2019.
Why we need donations:
Our work over the past couple of years has led us to develop several inclusive engagement methodologies and materials that can be used to improve the well-being and quality of life of marginalised people.
- An inclusive empowerment methodology that was proven to improve positive mental well-being from 25% to 100%.
- A qualification pathway for managers to hire, train and develop marginalised people, and especially people with disabilities.
- A programme for teachers in primary schools to learn to how deliver digital sessions of physical and health education.
- A curriculum for educators and facilitators to use to equip women who are NEET with financial literacy knowledge and skills.
- A suite of inclusive coaching qualifications that develop marginalised and non-marginalised people to deliver quality inclusive martial arts sessions, underpinned by good practice in inclusive participation and engagement.
These are in the stages of final development. However, unfortunately, the impacts of both BREXIT and COVID-19 have affected our operational reach and limited our access to previous channels of funding. Covid-19 has further exacerbated this financial loss at a time when we needed financial support the most. During the pandemic we had to make fundamental changes to the way we worked to protect the health and well-being of our staff and invest in additional resources to support their mental well-being.
We now require funding to cover the temporary shortfall in our income to pay for the core costs of running our charity and fund staff whilst they finalise the development of our products and bring them to market. Funding will contribute to the training, skill development, and continual employment of people with disabilities and fewer opportunities and will play a vital role in them continuing to lead healthy and happy lives.
Inclusion is at the heart of everything we do, employing marginalised people allows us to address social exclusion through beneficiary-led projects and programmes.
We thank you enormously for taking the time to read this and for any donations that are made.