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Making an impact

Recipients of a £10,000 award from our Birmingham 2022 Places and Spaces fund, Impact Fitness Academy provide a safe and inclusive space to practise martial arts. Their operations manager blogs about the impact they're having on their community, and how our funding has helped.

11th August 2022

by Sahara Mohammed
Operations manager, Impact Fitness Academy

Impact Fitness is here to make a difference in people’s lives through combat sports like freestyle wrestling and boxing.

Our aim is to make these sports accessible to everyone in the community and equip and develop our students' abilities into other life skills.

Our passion began on our doorstep, within the heart of Birmingham, in 2017. We offer a means of developing discipline, self-confidence and self-belief through our classes and programmes. 

We’ve successfully engaged countless local communities, reaching out and connecting with disenfranchised children and young people, aged from five to 17, and their families – particularly from black and minority ethnic communities, areas of high unemployment and areas with high health disparities. 

And we’ve opened our doors to over 600 children and young people, of which 200 have continued to competitive sport progression.

We’ve seen great success. Our young people have won 95 medals at national competitions, and five students have been selected to compete in an international competition in Estonia 2023.

We are breaking down the stereotypes of who takes part in contact sports from the grassroots up – we have the first qualified female Muslim wrestling coach in the UK and will soon start a female-only wrestling programme here in Birmingham.

Our aim is to make these sports accessible to everyone in the community and equip and develop our students' abilities into other life skills.

But it’s not just about medals. Impact is a space for everyone, regardless of ability.

Community is so important for us. We help teach kids ideas of respect and discipline from a young age.

By providing this safe and inclusive space for them, we ensure they’re on the right track to live active, healthy and safe lives in the future.

Children have come in with little-to-no experience and we’ve trained and nurtured them, to the point where we see them competing and winning medals while being good and respectful human beings. It’s so inspiring to see. 

The biggest success for us is that all these sporting achievements are from children, young people and adults from culturally diverse groups and communities living in inner-city wards of Birmingham who don’t have the same opportunities as many other people.

There are lots of barriers in their way and they face inequality on a daily basis. 

For example, Arslan Shah is a 24-year-old member at Impact Fitness that lives with spina bifida and we've worked with him to provide the best possible environment for him to practise and grow as a person.

"The coaches have helped me overcome my disability and I can match up with pretty much anyone else," he told me recently. "Everyone has really helped me a lot. It’s helped me with my confidence, my self-esteem and so much more. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done."

Adapting and growing

Even during the lockdown, we didn't stop supporting our students. All our programmes were transferred online, with lessons taught six times a week from coach Farid’s living room, focusing on the student’s mental and physical capabilities.

A challenging time like this meant students needed an outlet more than ever, and this ensured they stayed focused. 

The training and discipline of wrestling and martial arts helps them develop as healthy young people and encourages a positive mental attitude that will help them to get the best out of themselves.

Our programmes focus on being active, healthy, developing skills, as well as confidence, resilience and determination. 

We prepare our students for greatness, by supporting them to fall in love with sports and getting active. Helping them to express themselves and their emotions through sport means their lives are being transformed.

As they increase their fitness and skills, and begin seeing what they are capable of, they start believing in themselves. 

Our impact is also going far beyond just our central space and aims to reach people in different communities across the West Midlands.

Impact work with children in schools and after-school clubs to help tackle obesity rates, while making wrestling more accessible and fun.

These programmes take place in youth centres and wellbeing centres too, tackling antisocial behaviour in those often hardest to reach. 

With the extra funding from Sport England, we are investing in our facility and the ways we can help children and young people in Birmingham. 

We have a few punching bags and some mats already – but with the funding, we have been able to complete some building refurbishments, purchased wrestling mats and weight training equipment to help develop the children's strength and conditioning abilities.

We’ve also purchased a boxing ring for the young people to get a better feel of what it’s like to be in the boxing ring. 

Without investment from people like Sport England, groups like us wouldn’t be able to expand, offer more classes and reach even more people in our community. 

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