A Simplified Guide To Safeguarding In Martial Arts

Safeguarding should be at the heart of everything your club does. Unfortunately our industry still doesn’t seem to really get what safeguarding is or how best to get onboard with the obligations it raises. There’s never a complete guide to safeguarding as it’s a constantly evolving topic, but here’s a brief introduction to safeguarding for first time instructors and clubs.

This guide is far from comprehensive or all-encompassing. It’s designed to offer a ‘flash’ overview of some key considerations which, we hope, will raise more questions you’ll want to go and satisfy in your own mind!


1.) Understand Your Obligations

The first thing you must do is understand what your obligations are with safeguarding. The only way you can really get to grips with this is via a safeguarding qualification. These courses are designed to take you through what safeguarding is, what it involves, what your obligations are and how to deal with concerns. We’re not going to try and squeeze all of that into one paragraph, but we will make it clear that you have both an ethical and legal duty to safeguard effectively at club level.

If you haven’t already, take the time to pick up a safeguarding qualy. There’s even very affordable online courses available if you don’t have the funds to travel to one in person.


2.) Take The Time To Budget For The Right Qualifications & Checks

Much as we’ve mentioned above, it’s all about the quality of the instructor’s training. Would you cut corners where your technical development was concerned? Skip gradings, not buy the right protective equipment for sparring, and so on? No – of course you wouldn’t. The same should be true for your safeguarding approach, too.

As an absolute bare minimum you need to have the appropriate level of Disclosure & Barring Service (DBS) check and a recognised Safeguarding Qualification for either children and young people or adults at risk. If you teach both groups, you’ll need both.

You will need to price up the necessary checks through your own chosen organisation or governing body but typically an enhanced DBS check will set you back around £56. These are generally acceptable for 3 years from date of issue. A safguarding qualification can cost anything from £85 for ‘on-the-day’ courses through to £8.60 for the BMABA’s specially discounted e-course ran through our licensed safeguarding provider.


3.) Take It Seriously, And Implement Best Practice

It’s not just a tick box exercise, however much you might have heard that from the old-school clubs and associations. Safeguarding is as serious as your students physical safety. It should be prioritised above the content of your classes or the success of your branding, whether you like it or not. Find an organisation that can provide you with knowledgeable guidance on safeguarding specific to martial arts, and follow it. By engaging with your NGB’s guidance and developing your own understanding you’ll be able to implement best practice at club level. Being efficient in this way is one of the best ways of avoiding safeguarding issues in the first instance.


4.) Follow The Guidance Of A Credible NGB or Association

Much as the previous point, this is about finding a point of specialist contact you can turn to for guidance and support. Any good martial arts association ‘worth its salt’ will have a lead designated safeguarding officer at the bare minimum, and this person will be able to help you with best practice guidance, not just critical issues.

By following the regulation set for you by your association you can take comfort knowing you’re doing all you can to safeguarding effectively and that you’re following the advice of a well thought out safeguarding programme by an NGB that really understands what you’re doing.

As the title suggests, however, this does require that the association or NGB you chose to join really does both understand and prioritise this!


5.) Keep Records

This is a big issue in martial arts. Admin is rarely an instructor’s strong point and so few instructors and clubs keep effective records. For all of your safeguarding policies and assessments, qualifications and training, CPD, DBS checks and incident logs – keep records, and keep them safe.

You must store this information in a secure and private way under GDPR and Data Protection laws, but it’s really important for your own defence that you do keep this information retrievable. If an allegation is made against you or your club – sometimes many months or even years after the alleged offence – having a solid paper trail can be the key to proving your innocence.

Keep everything, securely, for at least 7 years.


6.) Assess Your Club Through The Eyes Of A LADO

If you didn’t already know, a LADO is a Local Area Designated Officer. We all dread hearing from one – regardless of whether you’re an instructor, club or association! The reason we dread it is because the LADO is the local area’s officer responsible for all matters concerning safeguarding. For a LADO to get involved, it’s usually serious.

Imagine you are a very busy LADO whom has a complaint or concern raised about you to them. They may have no knowledge of martial arts and will struggle to understand that there’s absolutely no compulsory regulator. When they do realise this, you can bet your bottom dollar that they will come down on you critically.

Stress test your public and internal structure under the imagined eyes of a LADO. If one was to visit you, would you be able to produce all the key criteria? Qualifications, insurance documents, safeguarding training, DBS checks, safeguarding policy, recruitment policies and so on. If you’re in any doubt assess your concern fully and repeat the step again!


7.) Consider Joining The Safeguarding Code

The Martial Arts Safeguarding Code is a Sport England / National Lottery funded safeguarding program set up for martial arts. It’s designed to help parents find trusted, safeguarding-aware clubs. Whilst there is quite a lot of debate around the programme in the industry we think it’s a great idea. It’s requirements are below that of the BMABA’s core licensing criteria but it’s a great tool to help you double-check your club’s safeguarding readiness.


8.) Don’t Be Afraid To Report Concerns

This is one of the ‘big-ones’. Too many people in the past have failed to effectively stop the cycle of abuse by failing to report. If you stay quiet when your gut, professional knowledge or best practice guidance tells you otherwise you’re not only ethically failing in your role as an instructor but you could also be facilitating on-going harm to the child or adult at risk.

It’s not your job to carry out an investigation, to make assumptions or prove somebody’s guilt. It’s your responsibility, however, to report concerns without delay as per your club’s safeguarding policy.

If you don’t have this yet but you have a concern, raise it with your association’s safeguarding lead immediately. If the concern is with regards to the association, go to your LADO immediately. If there is immediate concern over the safety of a child or an adult at risk, call 999. If you report and it turns out to be nothing then there’s no real harm. If you report and there is a crime being committed you could be the catalyst for intervention and change on the victim’s behalf.

This will be covered in your safeguarding qualification, so make sure you pay attention and keep notes on the relevant points of contact.


9.) Review Everything Annually

Safeguarding evolves and changes regularly in terms of best practice and recommended action. If you can, take a short refresher every year. You need to be reviewing your own policies and procedures on an annual basis too. Read back through your policy and processes. Is it still in-line with your most recent training and your organisation’s safeguarding policy? Date your documents so both you and the public know you have recently reviewed them. This all sounds so simple but it’s easy to put this off, especially if you’re busy growing your club.


10.) Hiring Other Instructors?

This is an entirely different subject altogether but, don’t forget, if you hire an instructor (and this includes if you bring an instructor in whom isn’t an employee to teach for you, or you take on volunteers or back room staff) you must ensure you’re fully vetting everyone. This is a real requirement that you must adhere to. Don’t think because you are up to speed your club automatically is too!


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As with all of the guidance and articles shared throughout our website, this information should not be considered professional advice and is for informational and discussion basis only. You must always take your time to ensure any provisions made at club level are correct and accurate to their intended needs. Only you can do this. We’re available to talk if you’d like to learn more.