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7: Accessible self-defence training

Accessible self-defence

People of all abilities have the right and need to learn to defend themselves. Self-defence isn’t about fighting, it is about dealing with conflict, verbal and physical. Everyone encounters some form of conflict in their life, and it is important that people of all abilities learn the skills needed to manage conflict and protect themselves. A guest interviewer, Grace, interviews Tactix founder Sean from Newcastle, and he talks about his approach to inclusive self-defence training.

Episode 7- Accessible Self Defence


Nicky Weeks, Sean Oultram, Grace Paine

Intro 00:02

Welcome to the Personal Strength Podcast: building confidence for life. Here's your host, Nicky Weeks.

Nicky 00:14

if you've been thinking about starting a martial art or self-defence, or introducing your child to one, are you concerned about the accessibility of training for you or your child? Hopefully this episode will provide some insight. Today we have a guest interviewer Grace Paine, who works with us at Personal Strength. Grace will be interviewing Sean Ultram from Tactix Training in Newcastle. Tactix Training provides mixed martial arts, Brazilian jujitsu, self-defence and bullying prevention training. Tactix prides themselves on being able to deliver training to everyone regardless of situation or disability. Here are Grace and Sean.

Grace 00:51

Well, I just wanted to thank you for being on the podcast Sean, very happy to have you here and learn about Tactix training. To get started, I would just like to know where were you before you started Tactix Training.

Sean 01:04

Okay, so thanks for having me on, by the way, I'm really excited. Looking forward to getting to it. So, before I started Tactix, I was – I've done I've done a number of jobs, probably most importantly for, you know, just moving forward in the interview is I was a security guard for a long time in nightclubs, and I was a doorman. So, I used to deal with people coming in and having a lot of confrontations. Yeah, which is, which was a great experience. And I learned a lot doing that. And I was also a youth worker for a long time. So, I worked for a company, who, when I worked for them, mostly dealt with behavioural kids with or without disability. So, I actually ran a house in, uh, with a couple of, well there was always two boys in the house with disabilities and they had behavioural issues. So yeah, that was a that was a fun one to learn a lot with those guys.

Grace 01:53

You would, definitely very experienced in like, the bodyguard, disability sector, it sounds like.

Sean 02:00

Yeah, yeah. So that was sort of my, my background for Tactix.

Grace 02:04

Awesome. And so, what motivated you then to start Tactix Training in the first place?

Sean 02:11

So, because I've been involved in martial arts for a long time, like I'm currently a brown belt in Brazilian Jujitsu, and I've done mixed martial arts and kickboxing and all that stuff. I sort of, actually getting back to [my previous workplace] I had a client who, he was pretty overweight, he didn't do really anything. And you know, we've I tried everything to get him moving and doing exercise and what have you. So, he came to me one day and said that he wanted to do karate. And I was like, oh mate, that's fantastic. Let's get right onto that. So y’know, I started looking around, and I’m like, surely someone's doing that for kids with disabilities. And there was no one, you know, not only in Newcastle, but like anywhere. Y’know. I couldn't find anyone really in Australia that was doing it. So, I was like, oh, man, well, you know, I'm not a karate guy. But I, you know, I've worked with people with disabilities for a long time, I do martial arts. So that's something that I can definitely bring to people. When I realised that you know, if I could run a business and get a lot of people, get a lot of guys, that wouldn't ordinarily be training, I was like, oh, let's, let’s go, So yeah.

Grace 03:08

That’s really good. Definitely stumbled on something that hasn't been done much before. Which is why we were so interested in talking to you about it all, which is great. So how long have you been running
Tactix training for then?

Sean 03:20

I believe it was May 2015.

Grace 03:24

Okay, so while now?

Sean 03:26

Yeah, a while now, got a pretty, pretty full book which is good, keeps me very, very, very, busy now.

Grace 03:30

Yeah, I can imagine – what does like a normal group training session look like then? Like what would happen in it?

Sean 03:37

So basically, my group guys you know, so I'm involved with a bunch of different, like really – all my groups are all smashing, all my guys are great, I love them all, but I've been involved with a Aruma, formerly house with no steps, and Clear Sky Australia, which is, I think they’re Newcastle based now but I'm sure they’re expand they’re awesome and healthy change challenge. Basically with, it really depends. We tailor it to clients specifically, right? So, it's not like a one size fits all type of deal. So, if I would use you know, my Clear Sky guys, for example, I've got maybe eight to ten men come in with all sorts of different diagnoses – Down Syndrome, Autism, all sorts, and we get those guys wrestling a lot, boxing, and they don't box each other of course, they box me. Which they thoroughly enjoy. They really give it to me, actually. Oh, it's so, so good. So, yeah, they wrestle each other really hard. Then, you know, other groups, they might not – like it might not be safe for them. If they've got, you know, different physical disabilities. Yeah, just the different diagnoses. So other group sessions might look more like a modified exercise circuit, you know, doing a lot of mobile- mobility in core stuff, a lot of squatting to different size balls and jumps and, y’know all that sort of stuff. So, it really depends on what, what they kind of capable of and the goals too.

Grace 05:00

Yeah, that's awesome. And you said Clear Sky. Can you just explain what that is?

Sean 05:05

Yeah, so they're, they're a day programme. I mean, I shouldn't limit them to a day programme, they, they do a lot of stuff they've got like, so they got, they've got day programmes, y’know men's and women's groups, which are really cool. So, I do lots of stuff with those guys, but they've also got, it's called Clear Paws. So, they, it's a dog grooming, essentially a business that started with the participants, you know, under their employee, you know, just to get to grooming dogs or learning, learning different skills and that sort of stuff. So, they get there, they get stuck into everything.

Grace 05:39

That's awesome. Yeah, good place. Um, they give you a lot of clients, I imagine, or you get clients from there?

Sean 05:46

Uh, yeah, yeah, most I mean, I'll get them – the boys group once a week, and the women's group once a fortnight. And then of course it like you said, they've got guys that want to just keep training and training. Um, there’s a lot of potential there.

Grace 06:00

Which is really good. And so, I guess a lot of what tactix training is about, it's a lot of self-defence training. So why do you think people should engage in self-defence training?

Sean 06:14

Uh, I’d like to watch myself here or else I'll carry on, yeah, well that’s lucky, so yeah, I'm really passionate about self-defence, it's, you know, I just happened to be in the space to be able to provide it to people with disabilities, predominantly, but I teach, you know, everyone else – other women's programmes, men, everyone. But I feel it's important because you are going to get confronted in your life, know, over and over and over. And it's, you know, it doesn't just go it's not just your best – your safety, which is obviously very important, your self-esteem and confidence and that sort of stuff. You know, it's surprised me that more people don't get kids involved in, in martial arts like, you know, straight off the bat. Yeah, y’know, like, it's, I just feel like it's important. It just, it's just gonna happen, you know, even, even if it's not a violent confrontation. It's just it, you know, what I tell the teachers, or a couple of schools, you know, a confrontation begins not with a fight, with a conversation almost. Yeah, that's time. So, a confrontation could be your teacher giving them grief about some math homework, or someone that you don't know, in the street, pulling you up about something or just giving you grief. So, you know, you won't find anyone that hasn't been confronted, intimidated. And, you know, nine times out of ten, or probably more, most people don't know what to do at all, you know, like, when I was a kid.

Grace 07:41

I definitely agree. I definitely agree. It's an, I guess, an inevitable part of life. Like, there's gonna be some kind of conflict. And it's good when, like you said that people just feel more equipped and confident in their abilities, I guess, in reacting in this situation, which is great.

Sean 08:02

Yeah, we need a plan like this. Whether it's, you know, whether you've been doing martial arts, or whether you can really handle yourself, I should say, like, and then I'll say, again, for self-defence, I don't I think has – people think that if you can fight, then you're capable of self-defence. Like, that's not really the same thing. Because if you're in a fight, like if, in a sporting arena, say, you know, a boxing match, I know if I box someone, I'm gonna fight that person. You know what I mean? Whereas someone comes up to me in the street, I don't know what they’re thinking. So, it doesn't fight- that doesn't start with a gun. Right-o, hands up. It's: we're conversing. I'm trying to figure out what your intention is. And yes, it's very complicated. Yeah, it's not just as simple as oh I can, I can fight, oh sweet.

Grace 08:43

Yeah, sounds like it, definitely good that you're able to, I guess, teach that and use that in your practice as well, for the whole range of clients.

Sean 08:54

Yeah, yeah. Well, it’s the same as same as the exercise stuff. What do you tailor it to different, different sorts of people? And yeah, you know, confrontation, you know, I would expect to be confronted differently to the way you would be confronted, do you know what I mean, like, if it was a man, woman, you know, whatever. So, it's, yeah, it's very important to tailor to you.

Grace 09:13

Yeah, of course. And I guess with you saying that to tailor it to people. And you were saying before, how you have different, I guess, plans for different clients. How would you say at Tactix training you accommodate to the different needs of clients? Like do – do you like a write up a plan at the start, or do you get the plan from their provider or something like that?

Sean 09:35

Uh, well I try to talk over specifically with my guys with disabilities, I try to talk to as many professionals that deal as possible. So, particularly with physical disabilities, I've a couple of guys now who had problems with their legs, so I talked to their occupational therapists, physios, all sorts, yeah. So, I've just really tried to get as much background information as I can, and then usually I'll run an assessment. So, a lot of the time, you know – different kids with autism, for example, take us a long time to form a relationship sometimes. So, you know, the first couple of sessions, we're basically getting to know each other, I’m doing an assessment, see what they're capable of. Yes, just a bit more of a tricky process, rather than, um, you know, so if you came up to train, like, right at what have you done in the past, what are your goals, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom – it's very black and white. Whereas, you know, a lot of the time a person with some sort of diagnosis can’t just straight up tell me that. Yeah.

Grace 10:34

Gotta build that rapport. Yeah, that's awesome. And so, well, like you were saying before, you have a lot of strength based and self-defence training programmes available? What kind of – was that, like the majority of the training sessions you have available for people with disabilities? Or do you have like other kinds available too?

Sean 10:57

So, my guys with disabilities, we, it usually goes back to their first assessment. So, if I think we're going to get the most out of our sessions, doing boxing or something, we'll do that. If it's weights, we'll do that. So, you're basically – we usually break it down, we'll do, you know, martial arts based stuff, strengthening, conditioning, or mixture of both? Yeah, that's about it. We just basically whatever, whatever’s gonna work.

Grace 11:21

Yeah, yeah, that's great. You just, you definitely modify it to what they want, which is what you need as well. You don't want to be implementing a programme someone doesn't want to participate in so that's good.

Sean 11:31

Yeah, well like, yeah, you do – you do whatever you need to do, like, a great example is the new space we're looking at. One of the first things we're going to be doing is like a Star Wars based programme for autistic kids, oh, I'm so excited, like, I've actually…

Grace 11:49

What's that gonna be like?

Sean 11:50

Well, so I've got one of the guys already that I’ve already trained, Ben, O-Ben Wan Kenobi. Even his brother, I've already done sort of like, uh, light-saber training, and that sort of stuff like that, yeah. And I just researched online, got stuck into it and really enjoy it. He's, you know, just an enthusiast. He's like, ooh, he’s just finishing school. So, he's like, 18. But what really got my juices flowing with that, was he was talking about how there's a lot of mindfulness and meditation involved. So, you know, I'd love to see like a room of 20 kids with different, like, on the spectrum in capacities or sitting around doing Star Wars stuff, but meditating, at the same time. Yeah, imagine it. So, you know, they begin and end with that, too. So, you got to use the force, I mean, you can’t, yeah.

Grace 12:41

Oh yeah, you totally gotta to use the force. I mean, that’s what, you know, has to happen in a Star Wars place. That would be such a good way to engage. What, kids on the spectrum, they would just love that. Like, especially if they're into Star Wars. Yeah, that’d just be fantastic, oh my gosh. Okay. So, when individuals have been training with you for a while, what benefits do you hope to like see, and like for them to get from your trainings?

Sean 13:08

It really depends. Usually, confidence, honestly, and self-esteem. Because I find, if we can build confidence, then the person we're training is just going to keep going on to do bigger and better things. You know? So even, as well, like, a lot of the time, when we're doing strength stuff, it's, it's, we want to create goals that they can achieve, so like, a box jump, like, “hey, you reckon you can jump on that box?” You know? “Oh, no, it's too big.” And then, you know, two weeks, two or three weeks later, we're getting him jumping. So, it's just building and building and building. Yeah, I would say that's the biggest thing, is confidence and self-esteem. Like I've got a young guy, Tyler, we’re training for a while, he's got cerebral palsy. So, he can't – he's got very limited use of his right arm and right leg, but we've done, you know, boxing, he's actually got really, you know, he can only use his left hand, but it's strong, like so we’ve done, we, oh yeah.

Grace 14:01

So that’s good. You don't want to get in the way of the left hook – that's like, danger zone!

Sean 14:04

Oh, big time. He used to put the little, little gloves on, you know, like the, the different sized gloves – the bigger the glove, the bigger, the easier you can cop it, a bit better, doesn't hurt as much. So, he had to start wearing the big gloves because he was, hitting me every now and then, yes, yeah, for my head. So, you know, we were doing that and then started doing weightlifting, got into deadlifting, loves all that, now he's into running. So, we just did a, he hasn't competed yet, but he did a half marathon for 20 odd k’s in a couple of hours. So, he just kept going on doing better things. And, you know, he's done it all. But I'm very proud that we sort of started him off on that journey.

Grace 14:46

Yeah, of course. That'd be great.

Sean 14:48

Yeah. And he just, he took off from there.

Grace 14:49

Yeah, that's, that's awesome. Do you like – do they usually do like running on their own, or is that something you guide them?

Sean 14:57

Oh, nah, he’s – that's probably the first of it, he’s done purely by himself. So um, yeah, he just, he just took that on and just decided it was that he wanted to have a go. And he did, he started with another guy I train, or used to train, sorry, and yeah, just went for it. So, the world, the world’s his oyster.

Grace 15:17

Yeah, sounds like it! That's awesome. You definitely would have helped build him build up that self-esteem and confidence in him to be able to do that on his own. How is your – his Tactix training, I guess physically accessible for say, like people in wheelchairs or any other people with disabilities?

Sean 15:35

Yes, so we, we run out of a gym called Alpha mixed martial arts. And luckily, alpha, you know, it's got huge big doors that open up your old roller door, go through the front, there's no stairs or anything. So, it's like, oh, it's so yeah, you, there's literally the carparks’ 10 metres away, if that, from the front doors. And um, yeah, we get up all our guys with different walkers and wheelchairs, and they just swoop right up and they’re going for it.

Grace 16:03

Yeah. Awesome, straight- straight into the training. Yeah, that's great. And so, if people wanted to use the, like, NDIS programme to train with you, what do they need to do to be able to do that?

Sean 16:17

So that's a bit of a tricky one from my end. Have you done much stuff with the NDIS?

Grace 16:22

I have, I worked in disability a little bit.

Sean 16:25

Yeah. Yeah. So, it's, it's tricky to say the least. So yeah. And then always moving the goalposts too. At the moment we’re, we're not providers, so definitely hope to be in the future. What I do usually, if people have an NDIS or they – most my clients have an NDIS plan – we go through their planning manager, and they can usually figure out the best source of funding, whether it's the cost or whatever. Otherwise, I get written, I can be written specifically into plans, usually focusing on mobility and quality of life. That's good stuff. There's ways around it now. I think, was it, plan-managed, agency-managed and self-managed, the only one of those would have trouble accessing is agency managed from memory. But I think that to start with when the NDIS was rolled out, that was the bulk of people. And now that's, that's pretty minimal, I think it’s only about 20% If that, that use AMC manage funding, so yeah.

Grace 17:34

Well, that's awesome. So easy to access and work with you guys then, definitely.

 Sean 17:39

Yeah, it’s made it a lot, lot easier.

Grace 17:41

Yeah. Is there a favourite class that you get like from your clients? Is there any particular ones that they enjoy the most?

Sean 17:50

Probably sumo wrestling?

Grace 17:53


Sean 17:55

Yeah, I'm just trying to think… So, I mean, we have fun, no matter what, but the guys really seem to froth on the sumo wrestling stuff. So, we just, you know, we do, we don't just chuck them in there to start with, but we get them – gives them some skills to sort of stay on their feet and get good in the wrestle. And then we set out a circle made of just like cones, and then rather whoever wants to go, like right-o, you know, Lee and Chris really go for it. And then everyone's cheering and carrying on. It's really, yeah, it’s heaps of fun.

Grace 18:26

Bit of a community, everyone just cheering everyone else on.

Sean 18:29

Oh, yeah. Once it- once it starts up yet, like, yeah, we've got a couple of groups like 10 to 15, 10 to 15 guys in there.

Grace 18:36

Fantastic. That's so good.

Sean 18:37

Yeah, it's on, and it might even work out a few little niggling issues along the way. You know, maybe someone's been giving someone else a bit of grief. So, they jump in and… (laughs).

Grace 18:46

Ok, definitely work though their issues there!

Sean 18:52

Yeah, working out a bit of stress there.

Grace 18:53

Yeah, well, you got to. That’s awesome. So, if our listeners wanted to find out more about Tactix Training, where would you say they should go to get in touch?

Sean 19:02

Uh, probably, or the Tactix Training Facebook page. That's, the Facebook page is probably updated the most.

Grace 19:11

Okay, cool. The most active out of all of them?

Sean 19:13

Yeah, pretty, pretty well, that's the easiest one for me to sort of get on real quick and, and chuck some stuff on and get back into coaching and all the rest of the stuff. So yeah, if they, if they’re keen to check us out, get on there or just flick me message and say g'day, they're more than happy to talk to people.

Grace 19:28

Yeah, that's so great. And is there anything else you'd like to add about Tactix Training for our listeners?

Sean 19:33

Oh, no. Maybe for the Newcastle guys just keep an eye out for our Broad Meadow space opening up. I want to, well, say soon-ish in the future at some point, that's, that's probably the most exciting thing on the radar. Yeah, I haven't made any official announcements yet. But.

Grace 19:53

Big thing to look forward to, just a hint to everyone that's listening. Well, that’s great, thank you so much. And hopefully some people listening might be more motivated to engage in self-defence themselves now. So, thank you so much.

Sean 20:10

Yeah, big time. Thank you very much for having me on, I really appreciate it.

Nicky 20:12

Self Defence training needs to be accessible to everyone. People with disabilities and people with a history of abuse are at greater risk of abuse than other people. So, it's very important that they understand their rights and how to defend them. It's so fantastic to know that places like Tactix exist. If you're in Newcastle, please look Tactix up. All links and references for this episode will be available online at Until next time!

Outro 20:42

Personal Strength is in Gordon on Sydney's North Shore. We run workshops and weekly sessions including personal training and group classes for children from four years old, teenagers, and adults. We also have a range of eBooks and online courses available at

Brandon Szeto
Been training in martial arts for 15 years, I appreciate the quality of Sensei Tim's instruction and the depth of his skill. Incredibly honoured to be a part of the academy
Brandon Szeto
Leo Li
Had no idea what i was getting into upon engaging this class for my daughter, at her own request.. But it's been the best few years worth of memories of our lives. For my little girl and for me as well ! Thank you very much sensei Tim🙏.
Leo Li
Nadia Batchelor
My daughter does kick boxing sessions weekly at personal strength. She enjoys the supportive and safe environment whilst having fun keeping fit. Tim has created a great space for young people to be the best version of themselves.
Nadia Batchelor
UPDATE: it's been almost 5 years since I left this review. We're still going strong! I'm still training with Tim 💪 My now 10-year-old son is still doing Ninjas classes 👍 Great local gym with a very welcoming environment. I've been training with Tim for almost 2 years and I always enjoyed his personalised approach which helped me to achieve my goals. Tim is always very encouraging and makes each training session challenging, but rewarding. Apart from training adults, Tim is excellent working with kids and my 5.5yo son is always looking forward for his next Little Ninjas classes, which he started as a 3-year-old. Kids classes are always fun, with a mix of games and various exercises teaching self-awareness and safety. I would definitely recommend FunFit to everyone.
Karen Wakil
Fantastic mix of fitness, self-defence and life skills in a fun environment. Builds confidence, respect and strength - both physical and mental - in the children. Highly recommend!
Karen Wakil
Estelle Demontrond-Box
My boy really enjoys Tim's teenagers' fitness classes: Tim is very encouraging and motivating and has a good sense of humour! The class is very energetic and fun! Highly recommend!
Estelle Demontrond-Box
Edward Kim
Tim always keeps the workouts fresh and interesting and was always committed to safety. Workouts were always challenging but catered to the level you were at. Never a boring session and looked forward to them always. Great community feel and music too! Only reason I'm not going anymore is because I moved to the other side of Sydney.
Edward Kim
Ruth Hawkins
Both my 4 year old girl and 6 year boy absolutely love the classes. They've done lots of other activities over the years but there's something about being a little ninja that makes them light up and they enjoy every minute of the class.
Ruth Hawkins
Michael Darcy
Great classes. My daughter loves them. They're a good mix of fun, fitness, knowledge and skills. An awesome find.
Michael Darcy
Pablo Lillo
Very friendly people and staff, classes are fun and engaging!
Pablo Lillo