Courage is Real Through Martial Arts in Saik'uz, BC
In Saik’uz First Nation, BC, children, youth and adults come together at the PLAY program to learn the art of self-defence with Community Mentor Cody Teed.
“I’m […] from the Frog Clan. I was born with the name Nas’tool, which means ‘Wolverine’,” Cody introduces himself. “I’ve been working with the Right To Play program since September  and I’ve been doing my best to bring what the youth want and also what they need. […] I try to be that piece that’s missing. Some children are missing fathers, some are missing brothers, some are just missing a positive role model.”
As a brown-belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Cody uses martial arts and jiu-jitsu to teach important life-skills. “The class will come in, we’ll do the warmups, which is skipping, a lot of the calisthenics and kind of more of the fitness aspect,” Cody explains. “But then we’ll move into some techniques of the art, […] and then we’ll move into the [punching] bag work.”
“I’m just trying to infuse the greater ideals – the things we admire in others, that we admire in our heroes. That kindness, selflessness, courage. […] And people think these are all high, lofty ideals,” he says. “But they’re not. […] I always talk about it as if it’s something that’s a real thing: being brave is real; courage is real.”
9-year-old participant Brayden Teed from the Grouse Clan has been going to the program since it started in September. He explains what martial arts is: “It’s defence. We don’t pick fights, it’s defence. If people want to pick on us, we fight that,” he says. “I like it because it’s self-defence and it’s challenging sometimes. I sometimes like challenges.”
In addition to building life-skills among participants, Cody’s program draws all ages from 6 to 35 and works towards developing positive connections between youth and adults. He hopes his program will support healing from intergenerational trauma. “[…] One of the issues that comes with growing up on a reservation is you’re a youth, then you’re a teenager, then you’re expected to be an adult right away so quickly and unfortunately growing up as a First Nations person, the adults before us had a lot of tragic pasts. My grandma had gone to residential school, and those issues for people that have gone there trickle through into your family. We never really had training to be an adult. Because even they [grandparents] didn’t get that training because they got sent away to residential school and it was taken away from them.”
Brayden has experienced the connection that happens with adults at program. “I feel really good and [going to program with] my uncle, I really like it,” says Brayden. “He comes and trains and he punches the bag. He knows a lot of moves. He sometimes helps me with the moves because I can only get it a little bit – it’s hard.”
Through martial arts, the PLAY program is working for adults and youth alike in Saik’uz. “Helping little kids makes it better,” Cody explains of the impact on adults. “You grow that empathy. And then also it teach[es] little kids that adults can help you. These adults. It grows the empathy between us all,” he says.