Posts By :

Mel Hayes

Resilience and Wellbeing a Focus for Hunter Teachers 1024 683 Rock and Water Program

Resilience and Wellbeing a Focus for Hunter Teachers

By Master Instructor Brian Hayes

Teachers and health workers have seen a sudden and concerning rise in anxiety and a decline in social/emotional skills in the post covid environment. The Rock and Water program addresses these very themes and has seen a strong resurgence of interest in the Hunter over the last two years.

The Rock and Water Program had its beginnings in Newcastle in 1999 when Dutch educator, Freerk Ykema, was invited to present at a National Conference for Boys hosted by the Family Action Centre at the University of Newcastle. The program has since grown world wide, with over 70,000 teachers trained in the program in 40 countries. 

The program is still based in Newcastle after the Family Action Centre passed the responsibility for workshop organisation to Mel Hayes and Rock and Water Master Instructor Brian Hayes, principal of Rock and Water Australia. Over 50 teachers were recently booked into the Newcastle Workshop this March at Brians full time Martial Arts facility in Warners Bay.

This is remarkable, and says something about the awareness in the Hunter of this amazing and proven program. We taught a workshop in Hobart to seven teachers, and recently we taught 11 in Albany, so it is amazing to come home to such a strong support base. Teachers and support staff are looking for strong evidence based programs that develop social skills. So many of our children struggle with diagnosed and undiagnosed difficulties in coping with anxiety and trauma. Whether they have professional support or not, children need to learn to self-regulate so that they can cope with stress. They also need to learn to interact together positively in order to learn to co-regulate and develop calm and happy classrooms.

Participants in the Rock and Water program learn over 100 games using a psychophysical method where students are encouraged to connect with their bodies, monitor what is happening as they play and interact and learn strategies to manage their own emotions.

If you are interested in learning more about the Trauma Workshop we are running one this year! You can register here

Video Series 1024 560 Rock and Water Program

Video Series

We’ve had some fun videoing our Rock and Water journey this year. Brian and his daughter Anna, who just finished a Bachelor of Communications, have travelled to interesting and diverse locations in NSW, ACT and Tasmania. We’d like to share that journey with you, and some of the beautiful testimonials we’ve been able to collect along the way. Brian also has some highly qualified staff delivering Rock and Water in the Newcastle to Central Coast area and we’d like to share some of the expertise with you. If you are a Rock and Water facilitator it is nice to know that you are not alone in your efforts to share this wonderful and powerful program that has gone from strength to strength as teachers, educators, counsellors and parents look for powerful programs like this to challenge the increasing feelings of uncertainty and anxiety that afflict young people in this world. We hope you enjoy our journey. 

– Brian and Anna Hayes 

Testimonial Series:

Waratah NSW

On The Road:

Duri Public School,

Tamworth NSW

In Schools:

Focus on Girls at MacKillop College Warnervale with Kelie Fisher

2021 Compilation with Brian Hayes

Rock and Water in Taiwan 1024 768 Rock and Water Program

Rock and Water in Taiwan

I had the most amazing and enlightening experience recently, when I was asked by our Rock and Water coordinator in Taiwan, Shiow-Chyn Chung, to conduct the three day training at St. Johns University in Taipei. Apart from the obvious problem that I could not speak Chinese, there was also the sense that I was “taking coals to Newcastle”, in that so many of the wonderful games in Rock and Water are drawn from the Chinese arts of Tai Chi, Chigong and also other “harder” forms of martial arts. I assumed that all participants would have a sound understanding of the principles of centring through breathing, a good feeling of the course of vital energy through the body, and a propensity for introspection to seek ones way forward in difficult or perplexing times.

The first problem, of language, was actually easy to overcome, through the splendid ability of Shiow to translate simultaneously. I only needed to slow my speech a little, and to take slightly longer sentence breaks, and the wonderful Shiow was right there with her translations to Chinese. She even moved with me, and when I found myself on one knee making a hilarious lampoon of a histrionic child ( abandonment of one’s centre), I glanced around to see Shiow mimicking the very same gestures and facial expressions. She was superb and I am grateful to her. What I really learned though, is that language is a very small part of our communication, and we could all connect, relate, laugh and learn together though our primary modality of physical movement. Rock and Water teachers all know this, but for me it was a wonderful endorsement of the efficacy of the psycho-physical didactic.

The second assumption needs explanation. The participants were teachers, some from Beijing, and although many were very well grounded, and some even had extraordinary knowledge of Tai Chi and energy control, all expressed the same frustrations we feel in Australian schools. Bullying is becoming an increasing problem, children are disconnecting from their culture, young people don’t know what they want or where they are going, families are changing and culture is shifting. The education system has been “Westernized” and there is less time to explore the really important things that all educators know intuitively that children need; self reflection, self esteem, self control and internal and external communication to allow one to navigate a way forward. Social and emotional development are the foundations of resilience, and all educators know this. The frustrations of the Chinese participants were the same as those teachers express in Australia, and their epiphanies were the same. So many of the participants were delighted to find a program that offered permission to teach the very things they intuitively knew about the importance of developing physical, mental and emotional skills in order to develop the resilient child.

This journey in Rock and Water is a wonderful experience, and I am ever grateful that Freerk Ykema was coaxed to Australia nearly twenty years ago to share his program, that is now taught all over the world. And a big thankyou to Shiow for her amazing hospitality.IMG_0831

Focus on Girls and Women 1024 683 Rock and Water Program

Focus on Girls and Women


Master Instructor Liz Mahler presented an excellent Focus on Girls and Women workshop in Newcastle in September. Over 30 participants enjoyed two intensive days learning to apply the principles of Rock and Water to the specific developmental tasks and qualities of girls and women.

Liz drew on her vast experience as both an educator and a martial arts coach to teach the participants the various skills and understandings to support girls and women in finding their own strength and courage to live their lives. She introduced a ten lesson program that includes;

  • Becoming aware of your own body, attitude, emotions and response patterns.
  • Feeling strong in your own body and learning to direct this power from a calm standpoint
  • Learning to convert this power into actions
  • Dealing with stressful situations without losing contact with yourself.
  • Boundary awareness
  • Learning to take action in “paralysing” situations.

For many girls empathy often clashes with their ability to make their own personal choices in life. Making sacrifices, the daily drudge, pleasing others and an aggrieved feeling of maintaining imbalanced relationships (in their personal and work lives) all contribute to undermining the self image, self confidence and independence of far too many girls and women, leading to the creation of an inner vacuum and uncertainty. This gives rise to a vicious circle that is hard to break, and results in the loss of their mown power and happiness, the ability to make their own choices and to explore and discover their own self-selected path.

The above issues and more are covered in the two day training. Exercises from the Rock and Water basic program and many others are introduced in a gender-specific manner that is suitable for girls and women.

One participant wrote “.. this is the best PD I have ever attended.”

Liz has become an important part of the Rock and Water team through Lighthouse Education and she has taken responsibility for all Focus on Girls seminars in Rock and Water throughout Australia. For more information on Rock and Water programs offered through Lighthouse Education, go to our page at www.rockandwater.com.au .