More than 20 martial arts clubs from around Australia and the United States, including three in the Bunbury area, have come together to throw their collective weight behind the Pink Belt Project.
The Pink Belt Project is a unique initiative started by an Australind black belt mum and designed to empower women.
The project provides women in need - particularly those healing from the trauma of domestic abuse and/or sexual assault - with a one-year scholarship, allowing them to train for free at their local martial arts club.
Scholarships are provided through a combination of crowd funding and martial arts instructors, who agree to cover expenses such as uniforms, belts, and membership fees.
The campaign was started in 2018 by Kristy Hitchens, who began training in Taekwondo at age 40.
Hitchens said the style of training provided a unique combination of health and well-being benefits that went far beyond the expected lessons in self-defence.
In addition, she saw how the training helped a friend impacted by domestic violence.
Hitchens then researched the phenomenon, and developed a model that could encourage more women to participate by removing the financial barrier.
Five women across Australia completed 12-month scholarships in the project's first year, with another 20 commencing training under a 'Pink Belt Scholarship' in 2020.
Fundraising and a publicity campaign is now underway to help as many women as possible in 2021, with applications open until November 16.
Pink Belt Scholarship graduates have so far reported outcomes such as recovery from depression, increased feelings of confidence and personal safety, and a reduced sense of isolation.
Pink Belt Project has received tremendous support from:
- Sydney 2000 Olympic Gold Medallist for Australia in Taekwondo Lauren Burns;
- 3x Olympian and Taekwondo World Champion Carmen Marton;
- 2018 Commonwealth Taekwondo Champion Kate McAdam;
- Marvel Avengers stuntwoman Ky Furneaux.
"I am grateful beyond words to have the support of such highly decorated national and international athletes for this project and only demonstrates just how much they embrace the ancient tradition of martial arts, not just as a sport, but a way of life," Hitchens said.
Burns will be hosting a small-audience online chat/life coaching workshop at 6pm on October 25, raising funds for the Pink Belt Project.
To find out more about the Pink Belt Project or make a donation, visit pinkbelt.com.au. To apply for a scholarship, email firstname.lastname@example.org.