Development of the Program

Through the 10 years of Martial Arts programming at MAMBEC (Martial Art Mind Body Education Center) in Dartmouth, our instructors learned that some students were not benefiting from our regular lessons due to their unanticipated behaviors. These children were not able to sit and listen to instruction and follow through on directions. Those students were missing out on the benefits of our program. Through discussion with the students' parents, we learned that many of the unexpected behaviors were often due to developmental and attention challenges, such as ADD, ADHD, Aspergers' Syndrome and Autism. Other children who displayed difficult behavior had struggles in their home life.

It was evident that in order to teach these students proper martial art techniques, adaptations to our regular instruction were required. In order to best serve these children we developed a class just for the students who struggled with our mainstream program. This idea was received well by the parents. A pilot project class was launched, named The ADAPTS 360. ADAPTS is an acronym for Adaptive Development and Parent Teaching System. 360 degrees symbolizes the importance of creating a team with the students, their instructors and parents. We are enabling the parents of our students to reinforce the lessons learned in our class, to ensure that the concepts are engrained in the child's everyday life. We invited the parents to participate at various intervals in the program in an effort to expose them to what the students were learning in the program.

Pilot Project

The pilot project, ADAPTS 360, began in April, 2012 and ran until June 2013. It consisted of 18 students (14 males and 4 females; aged 5 to 12 years). The class focused on creating an optimal environment for the students. We ensured the class had a small instructor to student ratio, as well as making changes to the typical means of martial art discipline i.e. fewer push-ups and less frequently; opportunities to talk through unacceptable behaviors' and one-on-one instruction. We referred to a clinical Psychologist for assistance and education on working with children with various diagnoses and challenges seen in our students. We wanted our instructors to be well informed of strategies that work well with our kids, and also what would not work well.

The lessons used in the ADAPT 360 program were based on MAMBEC's program, which prepares children for martial arts testing with the goal of a belt. We adapted the lesson plans for the students to fit their learning styles, but also because the class consisted of students at different martial art skill level. As the classes continued, the students increased their martial art skill level. Another gain was noted throughout the course of the program, in that the students had become a close group of friends. These friendships created a fun and relaxed atmosphere, which allowed for focused learning that was not possible for these children in the mainstream MAMBEC program. Students had more confidence in themselves and demonstrated this confidence by responding to questions with brilliant answers and improved behavior. The students were able to advance in the MAMBEC belt structure. This was a feat that would not have been possible for these children in the regular program. Our instructors also reaped the benefit of the program, as they were able to learn about each student's strengths and needs in order to deliver an individual experience for each child as they learned the martial art/life skills program.

Success and Moving Forward

The evidence that ADAPTS 360 system works is in the retention of students returning to the program. All 18 children involved in the pilot project registered for September 2013 in their new belt levels. 3 of the 18 children are in Leadership Roles with MAMBEC. We also have new students enrolled in the ADAPTS program. We have created a new working relationship with the experts in child behavior at the IWK Autism Centre, in addition to our standing relationship with Dr. Kiran Pure (Dr. Kiran Pure & Associates, Dartmouth) to refine the ADAPTS 360 program as it evolves.

A secondary gain from our experience in developing the ADAPTS 360 program is the development of a new society, consisting of parents, community professionals and instructors. This society is called Active Healthy Children for an Active Healthy Society (AHC).

Why is Conflict Education Important?

Because violence is the last resort. We want our students to know how to avoid, and manage conflict without resorting to violence. We balance the physical self defence with mental self defence because we recognize that violence among young people is increasing in our society and both skills are necessary.

Children who learn about conflict are better prepared to deal with potentially dangerous situations. They are more confident, and able to use words and other skills rather than violence.

We can reverse this terrible trend of violence if we take it seriously and get help from qualified professionals like Active Healthy Children. AHC uses holistic education for children to understand conflict and create healthy relationships founded on self-respect, respect for others, and knowledge.

What Are The Critical Issues Facing Our Children

Bullying and violence are rampant in the world today. Indeed, they are among the most critical issues facing our children. Unfortunately, young people are victimized more than any other age group.

What causes conflict and how can the ADAPTS program help?

Conflict happens anytime people disagree. It becomes a problem when the people involved are unable to control their anger and emotions. Conflict can be resolved peacefully and usually is. However, people often have difficulty recognizing why there is conflict and how their emotions and behaviour may be part of the problem.

ADAPTS students practice mental martial arts by role playing conflict situations to learn the skills to safely handle conflict.


RNS (Recreation Nova Scotia) should try to utilize its resources in order to enhance the human and organizational capabilities of this outstanding program. Presently, this Program is based mostly in Metro, but could be delivered throughout N.S. If this were to occur, more of our children and youth would be exposed to this initiative, and as a result we would have a better society.
Therefore, marketing of the program could be done through the Newsletter, Conference, and by word of mouth within the RNS network. However, if this program were to expand geographically, Lavonne would have to have greater human resources developed in order to meet the increased demand. This could possibly be accomplished with a Service Canada program, and RNS and the local organization. Another possibility would be a grant from NS HPP. This should be examined in more detail.
In conclusion there is a big upside for this initiative, and hopefully the future will allow the program to expand so that more N.S. children and youth become exposed to this information and apply it to their daily lives.

Philip M. Hochman, Director of Recreation
Municipality of the District of Guysborough
33 Pleasant Street, P. O. Box 79
Guysborough, Nova Scotia   B0H 1N0
Tel:  902-533-3705 Ext 223
Fax: 902-533-2749


MAMBEC has done three years of presentations in our after school programs.  Lavonne has provided our students with valuable information and skills to protect themselves and their friends from bullying.  MAMBEC has given the EXCEL students knowledge and skills that will enable them to be safe and stay safe throughout the rest of their lives.

Excel After School Program (Scott Ingram)
Halifax Regional Municipality

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When Lavonne asked me to write a short testimonial describing how the MAMBEC classes have helped my son I jumped at the chance. My oldest son Sammy was diagnosed with ADHD about a year ago and one of the key suggestions made by his care team was to get Sammy involved in a fitness program that would not only retain his interest but also boost his self-esteem. There are many sports to choose from but only a limited number in which a child with a short attention span and little sports experience might excel.

When Sammy entered MAMBEC in September it quickly became apparent to Lavonne and her teaching assistants that there was something about Sammy that set him apart from others. I called Lavonne early on to get her input on his group conduct in class and told her about his ADHD and treatment. She talked me for over an hour as an instructor, as well as a parent and came up with a plan to help Sammy focus. Lavonne centered an entire class around Sammy with the intention of helping the other students be more accepting, as well as making Sammy realize how important his involvement is to the other children, and how his disruptive behaviors can negatively affect others. At the end she gave him a small reward for his excellent behaviors. Sammy left that class feeling like a million bucks! While I'd love to say that his listening skills have remained excellent in every class anyone with experience with ADHD would know I was lying. But no matter what happens, I know that Lavonne has the ability to deal with him fairly and compassionately. She goes the extra mile to include him in the group, and to offer support to us, over and above what goes on in class. She readily agreed to go along with our home behavioral plan, and continues to encourage us keep her up to date with Sammy's treatment to see if she can offer further encouragement and support.

Signing Sammy up for the MAMBEC program was one of the best decisions we have made. As the oldest of four children, (and the only child in the family with ADHD), Sammy is inevitably the first to try a new sport or program. His (and our) experience with any program will be the deciding factor when it comes time to re-register, or to sign up any of his younger siblings. Thanks to the wonderful support we've received from Lavonne, not to mention how valuable the program content is, we have recently signed up his five year old brother in the beginners group. I sincerely hope that all four of my children are able to participate in the MAMBEC program, as I believe that the life skills they offer in conjunction with the martial arts training to be invaluable, and knowing that Lavonne and her assistants are so supportive means I never have to worry about leaving my children in her capable care.

Sarah Pace - MAMBEC (Parent)

When looking for activities for my son after he was diagnosed with ADD, MAMBEC was recommended. My son could not participate in team sports so we were looking for something on an individual basis to which he could gain confidence and excel. MAMBEC has given him independence and confidence to handle himself in many different situations both inside and outside of school. I am pleased each and every week when my son wants to go to MAMBEC. We never had that with the other activities we enrolled him in. For an ADD or ADHD child this program is awesome. I am thrilled that we have found this and will continue to support this program both with my son and my daughter.

Dawn-Marie Hiltz(Parent)

It began with a simple question to my son's teacher: Is there a summer day camp program that you could recommend for Jack? Her response was a simple, "Yes, MAMBEC". Thus began our 6 year (and counting) association with MAMBEC. Jack began his MAMBEC journey when he was 7. He attended the day camp at Cole Harbour Place for several weeks that summer. We were reassured by the presence of adults, and with the structure of the day, which included outdoor activities, martial arts workouts, pool time and "Life Lessons" lessons. We were impressed by the professionalism and the organization.

When asked if he would like to return to MAMBEC in the fall for more intense martial arts training, Jack's response was an enthusiastic "YES!" And so he did. Fall became winter, winter into spring, and then it was summer again. Jack attained his first belt, and was inspired by others who achieved their belt boards. He had a goal for the first time in his life. At each level of progression, Jack's confidence improved. MAMBEC became important to him, something that was his, a tangible testament to his personal development. Eventually, Jack was asked to join the animation team and was honored to do so. Then the day came when he excitedly held his own belt board. And this past Mother's Day, we proudly watched as Jack achieved black belt status. This summer, he is part of the leadership program, working in the day camps where it all began for him when he was a little boy who thought he knew it all!

It is never easy to parent. It is very challenging to effectively parent a child who has a learning difficulty paired with a diagnosis of ADHD. Jack often suffers from low self-esteem and frustration that are by-products of his condition. We are fortunate that our son is otherwise healthy, has had teachers and health care professionals who know and care about him. But still, for families such as ours, the road is rocky, twisty, hilly, dusty and we trek it DAILY! There are often setbacks, but we try to regroup, assess and move forward.

MAMBEC is important to our family. The program has helped Jack improve concentration and focus. Along with enhanced fitness levels, he has gained confidence while learning ways to help manage his frustration. The Life Lessons aspect of the program has helped him with situations that have arisen at school and at home. The solid foundation MAMBEC has given Jack will unquestionably serve him well in the years ahead.We are grateful I asked the question of that teacher 6 years ago, and even more grateful that she gave MAMBEC as the answer.

Clare O'Brien - Parent