Holistically changing the community through martial arts

Founder of Kaizen Martial Science Academy, Nolan Berry, uses martial arts to make a difference in society.

Kaizen Martial Science Academy has created a holistic approach to teaching martial arts to students from a community affected by many social ills.

Founder Nolan Berry, 57, initially from Grassy Park, and now from Rocklands, also known as a sōke, which means headmaster or head of a family, has been doing martial arts since he was a young boy.

Mr Berry told the Plainsman on Thursday June 1 at their dojo room at Seaview Primary School, in Rocklands, that he has been doing martial arts for 49 years.

He did traditional martial arts for five years, and later joined for self-defence. The Kaizen Martial Science Academy started 30 years ago and is home to 60 students, junior and senior.

Mr Berry wants martial arts to be more holistic and realistic for students.

“This martial arts I have created is for our environment and needs. I wanted a more holistic approach that works on the physical, mental and emotional. People focus on one form of strength. What we face in our community such as the social ills, it is our reality and what we experience,” he said.

He teaches students to know their strengths, weaknesses and potential.

“The awareness programmes don’t work in our community, there is a lack of self-awareness which can make a difference on the focus that must be developed,” said Mr Berry.

Kaizen continuously encourages improvement through small changes. “If you want to change you must do it in small ways,” he said.

Kaizen’s programme is for both children and adults. They deal mainly with children who’ve been bullied and survivors of abuse.

Kaizen had to close their previous dojos at the Weltevreden Community Centre, Caravale, BP Garage and also teaching from home. After the Covid-19 pandemic they started operating at Seaview Primary School.

“What we do kindles the fighting spirit within us. It’s natural to fight. It helps you express yourself, because if you rule by fear you don’t express yourself. Some of our students have to face their fear by doing a routine for the first time in front of the class,” he said.

Kaizen is not a sport, as you need to find your own weakness and strength in it, he said.

“If you want to change the children for the better, you must create a different environment from home and school. This is a disciplined environment. They need this space that belongs to them, their dojo,” he said.

Their self-defence philosophy is based on the Filipino martial arts, such as circular movements and converted weapon movements into empty hand movements. The students will do traditional martial arts movements in the beginning and use it for basics which they will then evolve into Kaizen movements, said Mr Berry.

Priscilla Maart, 62, from Portland, a grandparent and student at the Kaizen Martial Science Academy, said the Kaizen space helps keep her fit and focused.

Priscilla Maart, 62, from Portland, a grandparent and student at the Kaizen Martial Science Academy, said the Kaizen space helps keep her fit and focused. With her is Sōke Nolan Berry.

She had her grandsons, one of them with special needs, joined the dojo and they enjoy every minute of it.

“Sōke Nolan Berry knows how to handle the children and he is an amazing teacher, he brings out the best in them,” she said.

She did karate many years ago, joined the academy this year and she enjoys it so much, she said. “I joined so that I could become fit again and build up strength, facing any circumstances. This academy brings out the power within you, the confidence you didn’t know you had,” she said.

Jeshurun Smith, 31, from Portland, another parent, said the training has helped with her son’s confidence.

Aiden, 11, was very shy, and nervous in front of people but ever since he joined the academy his confidence increased.

Aiden, 11, from Portland, said he feels more focused, confident and disciplined.

“I’ve seen a change in him. He speaks up and his discipline is on another level. This has helped Aiden in so many ways,” she said.

Aiden said: “I feel more focused, confident and disciplined. When we are graded and receive our new belts it makes me feel proud.”

This programme teaches students to grow, mature, to defend themselves and teaches them about protection. He has received an orange belt and recently received his grey belt, said Ms Smith.

Mr Berry’s wife, Shantal Berry, said: “He always had a way of speaking to the students by building their confidence and (teaching them) how to deal with the challenges in life. I’ve know Nolan for 25 years and he has always been doing martial arts. We are so proud of him,” she said.

For more information contact Kaizen Martial Science Academy on 074 863 2089 or 068 350 4812 or email kaizenmsa007@gmail.com