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The 6E Strategy at Ikkaido: Empowerment

Our mission at Ikkaido is to engage and empower persons who are disabled and disadvantaged to ensure their full inclusion in society. We use a 6E process that takes people on a journey to eudaimonia. Empowerment is the second step in the journey towards reaching this. We believe that the process of empowerment is continuous and we provide long-term support for people to participate more actively in education, employment and entrepreneurship. Our programmes are accessible and inclusive to everybody. We embody a wholly inclusive approach through our innovative and accessible empowerment programmes, which are created, managed and delivered by persons who are disabled and/or disadvantaged.

2. Empowerment

Photo from one of our female empowerment projects, EVA-FEM. One participant commented, "I saw the power you have to make people understand that they can create their own path in life; I now understand that even though we may face huge problems, we can be strong enough to take a step forward.”

- Young woman trafficked into prostitution

Types of Empowerment:

Empowerment comes in different forms. Ikkaido aims to nurture empowerment in marginalised communities both on a personal level and within the wider community.

Individual Empowerment:

"Individual empowerment, also referred to as psychological empowerment, relates to a number of attributes which are needed for people’s personal capacity to be realised. This may include building people’s confidence or self-worth, boosting their self-esteem, developing their coping mechanisms or enhancing their personal skills in order for them to make health related choices. Individual empowerment basically means people feeling and actually having a sense of control over their lives" (Woodall et al, pp.9).

Community Empowerment:

"Community empowerment concerns power relations and intervention strategies which ultimately focus on challenging social injustice through political and social processes. The overall aim is to allow people to take control of the decisions that influence their lives and health" (Woodall et al, pp.10).

The NEED for Empowerment of marginalised groups

There is a persistent sense of powerlessness in groups that are marginalised, making tools for empowerment essential to achieving eudaimonia. Empowerment is a focal point for marginalised groups because their power is often undermined or diminished, leaving them more vulnerable in society. For example, persons with disabilities are often targets for violent crime, including intolerance, bullying and aggression. Research has shown:

  • Elder abuse is most widespread among elderly people who have physical or mental disabilities;

  • About 100,000 disabled women annually are victims of rape;

  • Wife abuse is an especially widespread problem in the deaf community;

  • There is a significantly increased incident of physical and sexual abuse of children with developmental disabilities.

This proves that these disadvantaged groups face greater threats to their power and safety than those from non-marginalised communities (Mardosky, 434).

Many of the people we work with have, at some point in their lives, experienced loss of control, powerlessness and/or had their personal autonomy jeopardised. There are countless physical and mental benefits of developing devices to armour yourself against threats you may face as a consequence of being socially excluded. Helping someone reclaim their power and autonomy is critical in the process to achieving eudaimonia and societal inclusion. Ikkaido have created different programmes that develop all facets of empowerment. We equip marginalised people with skills that empower and protect them, and inspire them to become positive social change-makers in their communities.

The SOLUTION - How does Ikkaido help?

Our Approach

We include participants at every stage of a programme. Each one is created, managed and delivered by people with disabilities or who are disadvantaged. It is really important to us that people are able to participate in all capacities. We encourage feedback, and over the years, have refined our programmes by creating innovative methods to ensure full inclusion. We also offer training to develop leadership skills through our coaching qualifications in Inclusive Martial Arts (IMA). People are then inspired to help others around them through what they have learnt. Our aim is for our programmes to be truly inclusive; everybody, regardless of background or ability, is able to access tools that facilitate empowerment.

Secondly, we recognise that there is no end to empowering somebody. The work we do focuses on the ongoing journey towards reaching eudaimonia and securing participants' longterm empowerment. Committing to the continual empowerment of marginalised groups is essential in contributing towards societal change. We endeavour to assist people beyond the initial steps of empowerment and aim to support them along their journey to use and develop the skills they have learnt to ensure the longevity of their empowerment. In other words, empowerment is not something someone can experience once and then be waved goodbye to - it is perpetually realised, maintained and protected.

Photographed: participants practising self-defence. One participant commented, “Now that it's been more than a year from that first contact with Ikkaido, and having done a huge self-reflection all these months, I can see how mentally unstable I was. This was the moment I would have given up on life and killed myself, but instead learned about myself and how to live.”

- University drop out after a one-week residential course

Over the last four years, Ikkaido has delivered several empowerment projects which we continue to carry out today. All of the activities focus on non-formal education, HEPA (health enhancing physical activity), mindfulness, recovery and self-defence. Our experience shows that these are the best ways to increase well-being and develop empowerment. We believe that a fully inclusive, community-led approach is essential for the empowerment of those who feel excluded from full participation in society. We work with persons with and without disabilities and from different backgrounds of severe trauma to both design and peer deliver their own programme of activities to recover from the bio-psychosocial effects caused by the issues they face. Including disabled and disadvantaged people in every stage of the process increases the empowering effects of the programmes and reflect our beliefs in true inclusion.

One of the main ways we empower people is through our Inclusive Martial Arts (IMA) sessions. Participants of all ages, backgrounds and abilities take part in sessions of non-contact IMA side by side so that everyone can benefit from the same feelings of empowerment and achievement, leading to improved confidence and self-esteem. Martial arts is a fantastic natural way to alleviate symptoms of trauma. Research has shown that people - particularly children - "who train in martial arts enjoy a vast improvement in their psychological health, especially in the way they cope with stress and anxiety" (Vlachos, 40). IMA sessions empower participants by decreasing manifestations of psychological trauma, increasing physical fitness and developing soft skills. They are fully inclusive so that all participants are listened to, and given a voice, in an equal and safe environment, generating opportunities to socialise and form a sense of community.

"My daughter is not self-harming and is managing her stress better." ~ Mother of participant with autism

There are countless ways that participating in IMA contributes to individual empowerment. We work on developing physical strength through increasing mobility and power and practicing control. Psychological benefits, such as boosting self-esteem, redirecting feelings of powerlessness and alleviating stress from the body, are consequential. IMA are unique as they "require practitioners to develop both their bodies and their minds. Because the martial arts give specific attention to both elements, they differ from most other sports and physical activities, which usually focus on purely physical training" (Bin Bu et al, 60). By practicing martial arts you receive all the benefits of physical activity, whilst also embodying a philosophy that drives empowerment.

The benefits that have been identified so far address the ways IMA are individually empowering. However, our sessions also grow community empowerment through our fully inclusive coaching methods which integrate all members of a community. We structure our sessions to encourage participant interaction and establish an environment where relationships are easily formed and maintained. Our sessions inspire conversation about the issues participants have, or continue to face, and how intervention strategies could bring about change in their community. Developing stronger inclusive support networks and expanding physical and mental strength armour participants with long-lasting tools for empowerment.

The self-defence techniques we teach help to combat the sense of impotence that marginalised groups often experience. Practicing "self-defence develops the mind to react instantly to threatening situations…if ever a disabled person is under physical attack, martial arts offer an effective means of self-protection and survival” (435, Mardosky). Because our sessions are truly inclusive, self-defense techniques are catered to suit the varying needs of the individual to help them feel best protected and most empowered. We employ non-formal education to engage everybody and so skills are learnt through accessible methods from trained coaches. Our sessions are all delivered by people who are all disabled and disadvantaged and have the knowledge and experience of coaching other persons with the same experiences.

One of our programme's, EVA-FEM, is for young women who have come from different cultural and disadvantaged backgrounds including single parent families, orphans, disabled females, suffering physical or sexual violence, stress or trauma, and refugees from conflict or disaster. Due to the diverse negative influences in the lives of participants in EVA-FEM, they may feel unequal, unprotected, unsafe and poorly motivated. To combat this, we engage these young women - who do not normally participate in sport & physical activity - through self-defence & martial arts empowerment tools, encouraging them to become more active, effective and self-confident people.

The skills learnt on the EVA-FEM project had a positive impact in improving their emotional and mental well-being, as young women from vastly different backgrounds worked together in non-formal activities. The promotion of equity and inclusion are important objectives of EVA-FEM in terms of removing barriers to equal access to physical activity and martial arts, and promoting the empowerment of young women through self-defence tools. EVA-FEM particularly develops community empowerment as it increases the understanding and tolerance of other people's cultures. Women who have experienced trauma or are in some way disadvantaged are empowered by learning that they are equally valued members of society.

The OUTCOME of our programmes

During these projects, we encouraged over 600 disabled and disadvantaged participants to complete the Warwick Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale before, one week after and two years after participating in them. This showed that we managed to reduce low mental well-being from 11% to 0% after a week, and we increased high mental well-being from 0% to 36% after two years.

M's Story:

M, whose journey we followed in the previous post on engagement, is someone who has and continues to be empowered through participating in our programmes. As illustrated in the previous post, M had suffered severe personal trauma including sexual abuse and became disabled as a consequence of a botched operation. After M and her son's were engaged in our IMA sessions they began to experience the empowering effects of participating in IMA. M said of the IMA sessions, "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". M soon began to experience the psychological benefits of engaging in IMA and with regular attendance her self-esteem drastically improved with the support she was receiving.

"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". ~ M

As M's mobility improved and as she became fitter, her mental state improved and her aspirations began to change. Feeling supported and inspired by the sessions, M was empowered to take her Activator qualification so that she could help others around her in sessions, too. She went from being severely depressed and at a loss with what to do, to having direction and a new set of ambitions. Learning skills to help others in her community not only gave M a new social network, but also gave her the confidence and self-belief to pursue her childhood dream of becoming a PE teacher. Not long after that was she at a stage where she could take her Level 2 Inclusive Coaching Qualification, bringing her one step closer to achieving her ambition of teaching others. M said:

"The course taught me so much, not just about coaching, but about myself too. After the course, my confidence and self-esteem sky rocketed, 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". ~ M

Ikkaido continue to support and have a strong relationship with M and have seen her journey of empowerment. Through participating in programmes with Ikkaido, M was able to empower herself to strive to achieve her dreams and realise her potential and true capacity. Today, she does her dream job of teaching PE and continues to utilise methods of empowerment that were realised through working with Ikkaido.



Bu, B., Haijun, H., Yong, L., Chaohui, Z., Xiaoyuan, Y. and Singh, M., 2010. Effects of martial arts on health status: A systematic review. Journal of Evidence-Based Medicine, 3(4), pp.205-219.

Madorsky, J., 1990. Self-Defense for People With Disabilities. West J Med, [online] 153(4), pp.434-435. Available at: <> [Accessed 14 June 2021].

Vlachos, E., 2015. The Benefits of Using Traditional Martial Arts as an Intervention Programme for Children with Behavioural, Emotional and Social Difficulties. Journal of Pedagogic Development, [online] 5(2), p.40. Available at: <> [Accessed 14 June 2021].

Woodall, J., Raine, G., South, J. and Warwick-Booth, L., 2010. "Empowerment and Health & Well-Being". Evidence Review. [online] Leeds: Leeds Metropolitan University, pp.9-10. Available at: <> [Accessed 14 June 2021].

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1 commentaire

Ray Sweeney
Ray Sweeney
18 juin 2021

Excellent work!

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