By Katie Toner, founder of The Mini Beast Movement
I’m Katie ‘Banshee’ Toner, I’m 25 years old and from the UK. I am the founder of The Mini Beast Movement, a program working with young martial artists, and owner of The Chocolate Ninjas, which creates custom Belgian chocolate treats especially for martial artists and sports fans!
I started my martial arts journey just over 2 years ago. At the end of 2017, my partner and I were looking to get into exercise to help our mental health and were considering CrossFit. A work colleague of my boyfriend suggested we might like the show ‘The Ultimate Fighter’. We ended up spending our entire week on holiday inside, away from the glorious sunshine, hooked on the show! As soon as we got home we booked our first BJJ class.
I train in BJJ, boxing, kickboxing and submission wrestling and I would love an opportunity to compete in MMA. However, due to personal difficulties I haven’t been as competitive as I would like, only competing in one charity Boxing bout and a handful of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competitions, and since August 2019 I haven’t been able to train at all.
My team @newcastlefightcentre and Coach Peter Irving are and have been incredibly supportive to me during my hard times and I know I’ll be back as soon as I’m able!
During my time out of the gym, I knew I still wanted to feel connected to martial arts, especially wanting to continue helping junior fighters. I was fortunate enough to be an assistant coach for my teams junior bjj squad and so I created: The Mini Beast Movement.
This is an online program designed to encourage, inspire and educate young martial artists around the world. It has really helped keep my mental health during this hard personal time and I’m honoured to say that we have also been able to help lots of young Mini Beasts too – and THAT’S even better!
About the Mini Beast Movement:
The programme is designed to build confidence and be a platform for children to see their role models, become role models and make friends, as well as gaining exposure. The process involves us helping junior fighters in a number of ways including:
1. Through our featured fighter program “Mini Beast of the Week” – a 3 post, week long, highlight reel culminating in a monthly public vote ‘Mini Beast of the Month’.
2. Through our Mentor program – connecting professional or high level amateur combat sports athletes with juniors from the same sport. Allowing them to impart knowledge and answer questions, helping the young fighter on their journey to the top!
3. Via our donation page – creating sponsorship opportunities and fighter grants.
4. Our fight show excursions – allowing fighters to be in the crowd for some of the biggest nights in UK (and soon international) combat sports.
5. Logo design – providing logos for fighters and gyms at a reduced cost/donation system.
6. Our sponsorship assistance service, helping with social media advice, sponsorship letters and communication skills, helping fighters to be more successful when approaching potential sponsors.
Our Mini Beasts are at various stages of their martial arts journey but one thing ties them all together – the Mini Beast mentality. This means they work hard inside and outside of the gym, they don’t give up and are motivated to do their best. They are kind to others. They might not always win, but they never ever quit!
The Mini Beast Movement is about helping children recognise that it’s not only what happens in the ring that makes them a champion – it’s all the things they do inside and outside of the gym too, the preparation, sacrifice and passion, grit, determination and most importantly, their heart.
Having been around competitive children my whole life, it now breaks my heart as an adult, seeing young children being so hard on themselves when they place somewhere other than Gold – especially, for example, a big stage like worlds – where just being there is a huge achievement, let alone to medal. The Mini Beast Movement is about shining a light on skills, attitude and self confidence. Of course wins will be celebrated – they are a big achievement!
One of the great success stories of our page is our mentor program – this is where we partner up a fighter/coach with a junior fighter from the same sport, who has their sights set on getting to the top spot. Putting them in contact for general advice, encouragement and providing a powerful role model in their life.
DISCLAIMER: In no way designed to go against any current coaching, simply an extra mind to help the young fighter grow. An addition, not a replacement. Full transparency is used during all communications between athletes, with parents and coaches included.
With that in mind – we compare our program to the ‘big brother/little brother’ community program – but for martial artists. The program is predominantly online, rather than meeting in person and doing activities together, which is the traditional ‘big brother/sister’ model.
There really is no big time commitment for fighters, which means we have created successful pairings across time zones, and with fighters from a range of top promotions, including UFC, ONE FC, Bellator, Cage Warriors, Yokkao and more.
With 100 successful pairs now completed, the mentor program is closed for the year 2020.
The Mini Beast of the week program has also been extremely popular, holding a current waitlist of over 250 children!
As a female in martial arts, I feel very empowered by the support I have received by so many athletes, parents and coaches.