This project concerns the preparation, development and setting up of the “BXL living martial arts lab” around martial arts as an emancipatory tool for young people from Brussels within existing initiatives. This project pays particular attention to young people in a socially vulnerable situation. The living martial arts lab will, among other things, work on the development of ” theories of change”.
These theories provide a framework to map the operation of a program in a more systematic way and to subsequently evaluate its impact. The objectives of the project are situated in 2 areas: providing practical contexts in Brussels for offering insights for VUB researchers and students; and the realization of a specific scientific knowledge transfer in support of existing practices.
The objectives of the project are situated in 2 areas: providing practical contexts in Brussels for offering insights for VUB researchers and students; and the realization of a specific scientific knowledge transfer in support of existing practices.
Central to the 2-year project is the establishment of a living martial arts lab to support existing (or start-up) practices and to advise them in their operation on achieving a social added value for their target group. The concept of a living lab offers a unique opportunity to conduct research with practitioners. It can also contribute to optimize the different aspects of the functioning of existing and new practices (including reaching specific target groups and increasing their active involvement, working more systematically and impact-oriented, deconstructing the negative stigma and legitimizing the effect on others, …).
This is primarily a “virtual” lab because it will embed itself in a number of existing Brussels martial arts practices. It is important here that these initiatives will be stimulated to constantly reflect on their own existing functioning and on their underlying assumptions of active factors. Students will also be actively involved.
Experiences show that “harder” martial arts disciplines (such as kickboxing, Thai boxing (Muay Thai), Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and mixed martial arts) often better appeal to certain groups of young people. The “full-contact” nature of the techniques within these styles often fits well with the world of certain groups. But in contrast to more “traditional” martial arts (e.g., judo, taekwondo, aikido, wrestling and karate) that can generally count on broad social recognition, there is a predominantly negative general perception of the harder types. This mainly concerns ethical and medical concerns. This also applies to boxing, despite its Olympic recognition. However, there are also other views on such harder martial arts styles, among other things because of the possibility of addressing young people who are often difficult to reach in general. In addition, there is also an increasing belief in a positive socio-educational effect of social projects that work with martial arts for young people. Such initiatives are also increasingly found in Brussels profiling themselves as “social martial arts practices”.
Through the living martial arts lab, Brussels organizations are provided the opportunity to deliver, monitor and evaluate their activities in a more systematic and more efficient manner, which will benefit their legitimacy. It can also help them to break the negative image of the use of harder martial arts and the link with certain groups of young people. It also offers the VUB an opportunity to expand support and advice to other practices in this way. This approach whereby, among other things, a theory of change is developed together with and for a practical organization, as well as being able to visualize results in a more objective way, meets the growing need of initiatives to be able to demonstrate their reason for existence and specific added value.
Hebe Schailée, Researcher, VUB
Sport & Society (SASO – LK)(VUB)
Crime and Society (CriS – RC)(VUB)
Department of Education Sciences (EDWE – PE)(VUB)
Movement, nutrition and health / performance (BEGE / BEPR – LK)(VUB)
Multidisciplinary Teachers Training (MILO) Institute (VUB)
Group Ethnic Relations, Migration and Equality (GERME)(ULB)