Mallica Skyler Cooper
Who am I and what do I do?
My name is Mallica Skyler Cooper and my goal is to empower personal, physical, and emotional growth in kids, teens, and adults. I see each person for who they are, meet them where they are and create programs that facilitate their growth and ensure their success.
The programs I have created are designed to motivate, energize, boost mental health, and de-stress. Through a variety of services, including classes, camps, specialized services, such as “Life Skills Training”, other “Family Support” services and enrichment programs, I help my students/clients build their self-esteem, so they are equipped, prepared, and ready to live life with greater levels of confidence and feel successful!
How did it all start?
I have been passionate about sports and exercise since I was four years old. That was when my father, Vassie Naidoo Hanshi, first introduced me to the ancient practice. He's an 8th Degree Black Belt, and Vice President of Goju-Ryu Karate Do. So, I had a great teacher!
I experienced first-hand how having exercise and focus in your life can help you overcome difficulties and stress when my family moved from Durban, South Africa, to United States in 1982. Karate grounded me and enabled me to make new friends while adapting to a country very different from my birthplace. I still remember the feeling of not belonging and being an outsider.
This experience shaped me, and as I grew up, I knew I wanted to help kids who might be feeling what I felt. Having two kids of my own and wanting nothing but the best for them, my passion for kids later led me to work for the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) with special needs students ranging from pre-k through twenty-two years old. I was asked to train and instruct in their CBI (Community Based Instruction) program which was a new program within the school district. The program focused on hands on life skills training in areas of domestic daily living, vocational preparation and assisting each student to grow in their independence.
Additionally, I was teaching karate at my dad’s studio to neurotypical children. As my karate class grew and parents learned about my work in the school district, I noticed that parents of kids with different disabilities started to enroll their children in my class. Often, families were hesitant to share that their child had a disability, and as I found out later, they were nervous I would turn their child away. Many sports and enrichment programs advertise “All are welcome” but lack of training, experience, and adequate staffing have often led to negative behaviors, which resulted in students feeling even worse about themselves. This was a problem.
What did I do?
I channeled my disappointment into addressing the problem. In 2009 I developed and implemented karate and camp programs, specifically for kids with special needs with optional inclusion classes as they leveled up! I also noticed that many neurotypical kids have never been exposed to kids with disabilities, at least not in a close setting. It was important that kids had a better understanding about others in the world who are different.
Through my Karate and Camp inclusion programs, kids learn how to embrace others with special needs and engaged with each other in a variety of fun group activities. In turn, those with disabilities feel included and not as an outcast.
But that’s not all…
Being a woman in the world of martial arts is not easy, and I wish there were more female martial artists! Throughout my training I have seen women come into the dojo (karate studio) only to leave sooner or later. It has simply been a man’s world, which can feel extremely uncomfortable for many women, especially if they are treated differently and disrespected at times. Women are often the target of intimate partner violence and sexual assault. I feel it is essential for every woman to participate in self-defense programs to gain the confidence to protect themselves. While women are underrepresented in martial arts, there is power in numbers and my goal is to grow a community of women who love themselves, feel empowered, believe in themselves, walk with confidence, and can support each other through a network of like-minded people. I am working on opening self-defense programs for women and girls. “Fighting like a girl” is a testimony of the hard work women endure to excel in martial arts!
Each day is a new beginning where one can shine with teachings of martial arts and self-care. Confidence starts with believing in yourself and your abilities.
~Start somewhere; start with YOU~
EXPERIENCE AND CERTIFICATIONS
Program development and implementation
Family and individual children/ youth counseling
Individual and small group instruction for children with special needs
Life Skills Training
Sports Education & Adaptive Wellness
Organizing & Managing People & Teams
HIGHLY SPECIALIZED SKILL
Experienced in running 70 plus strong teams to implement programs
Los Angeles Unified School District Special Education Certification
Community Based Instructions (CBI) Certification (Life Skills Training)
Goju Ryu Karatedo Seiwakai USA Shodan (1st Degree Black Belt)
Goju Ryu Karatedo Seiwakai USA Nidan (2nd Degree Black Belt)
Goju Ryu Karatedo Seiwakai USA Sandan (3rd Degree Black Belt)
Director of Children’s Ministry