“Without BJJ I would have killed myself.” The raw emotion dawned upon him as we drove. “Without It I would be dead”, he said. “18 months ago I was 95 kg and overweight, sitting in my room hoping it would end. Now I’m 72 kg and a blue belt with a future.” This young guy now 17 and a force to be reckoned with on the mats is a charismatic young student of a high school I run, called Sowilo Community High.
Sowilo is one of several CARE schools in WA. Whilst a CARE school is unique in itself Sowilo stands alone in it’s alternative approach toward Curriculum and reengagement. We cater for youth, which for whatever reason, don’t fit into mainstream schooling. Reasons vary from students experiencing bullying, kids that that have been in and out of jail or suffer from various levels of mental health issues. Whatever the reason for being with Sowilo, our aim is to prepare them for life, as well as assist them in achieving their academic goals. Whilst I could go on about all of the wonderful things we do, I am here to explain the amazing impact BJJ has had in relation to healing and growing our students.
BJJ is offered twice a week at Sowilo and was first started many moons ago when I was a new white belt. With dodgy old mats that had seen better days I started teaching a very small group of kids. Taking the lesson I had learnt the night before from my then, amazing instructor, Mike Featherstone, and repeating it the next day. This is when the ‘Sowilo mobs’ journey began.
I am now a brown belt and run BJJ with black belt Kyle baker and blue belt Mike Shalley. We deliver bjj under legion 13 to around 20 of the 60 students we have at our unique school.
BJJ is often used as a levelling system in our school. Many a tough ‘Kelmscott kid’ has succumbed to the force of this gentle art, often delivered in vigour and finesse by the hand of a higher ranked female opponent. This action assists in settling our community and also in helping new students in respecting the staff and students that practice it.
Our school is largely manned by counsellors of various disciplines and the parallels from BJJ are used functionally within the counselling rooms often contributing to life changing events for the student, giving them hope, courage and belief where there was once none.
Whilst BJJ is not practiced by all it, it sets a precedence of a certain culture within the school that assists in the growth of not only BJJ in itself, within the doors, but that of humbleness, humility and a certain level of toughness that comes with the sport.
Building community through BJJ has been on our school’s vision for many years. Often students arrive at Sowilo with only knowing one way of life. I believe in providing an opportunity to expand culture and community in an aim to increase positive people in our student’s lives. Having legion 13 amongst other past supporters in assisting in the growth of a positive culture for our students has provided amazing outcomes. Grayson West, Arron Cadd and Josephine Masiello have provided unconditional support for many years. These people have not only provided BJJ knowledge for our students but have assisted in ‘opening the students eyes’ in realising there are communities that accept, understand and care. This ability to introduce our students and involve them in this culture has been a wonderful and heart-warming experience.
Senior Social Worker
Our 2016 BJJ ‘Sowilo Mob’ kids: Cob (Blue), Jordan (green), Sam, Shania P, (yellow) Shania B, Cohl, (grey), Liam, Kayla, Narri, Rian, Jackson, Brian, Indee, Pug, Damien (white)…….Osssss!