What is Rock and Water?

What are the programmes about?

Rock and Water lessons, simply by their structure and rules, generate solidarity and unity (kotahitanga) whilst developing respect, social responsibility and a strong awareness of others (whanaungatanga).

Participants engage with each other at a physical level (they play and work together) with strict, safe rules that generate safety, respect and understanding. Research has shown consistently that levels of intimidation and bullying decrease, and levels of self-control, self-awareness and self-confidence (and consequently academic performance) flourish in organisations where Rock and Water is delivered. It can be delivered across schools, to boys and girls from five years-old and upwards.

The ethos, structure and skills developed in Rock and Water integrate fully with the New Zealand curriculum and the development of all the main aspects of hauora (total wellbeing), as well as complementing the skills developed in the Positive Behaviour for Learning (PB4L) programme, programmes such as Te Kotahitanga  or through Restorative Practices. 

What are the workshops like?

Watch our introductory video below.

Where did it begin?

The development of an enjoyable and effective social skills course for boys was the driving force behind the creation of the Rock and Water programme. It is widely acknowledged that generally through physical actions boys express their emotions, learn to recognise their strengths and weaknesses and develop social skills and networks. Similarly it is argued that boys learn more successfully through active participation. It is therefore logical to approach the development of a social skills programme from a physical perspective. In a world where physical activity is declining and interactions are increasingly undertaken through technology, there is a real need to teach our boys how to understand their body, how to understand their emotions (develop emotional literacy) and to develop social competency.

Females also really enjoy the Rock and Water programme in the same way that the boys do. Generally the exercises relating to body language, boundary awareness, assertiveness, self-defence and mental strength are hugely important, practical and enjoyable. By using the skills developed, girls develop the confidence to step into action (physically and mentally) if required in a clear and effective manner.

How is it taught?

Rock and Water can be taught individually, to small groups or more ideally to whole classes and year groups. Teaching the programme to single sex classes has distinct advantages, but the programme is also very successful in mixed classes. The exercises can be delivered as a stand-alone programme in the curriculum, or can be delivered in short bursts as energisers (or perhaps more as de-energisers and focusing tools in some cases) throughout the school day.

Who attends the training?

Rock and Water training courses are generally attended by teachers (primary and secondary level), Resource Teachers of Learning and Behaviour (RTLB), principals and senior admin members, guidance counsellors, youth workers, police officers and other interested parties.

All workshops are available as open workshops (anyone can register) or closed workshops (for a single organisation, or cluster).

In-house (or closed) workshops are a fantastic way to get Rock and Water running across your school or organisation, to achieve maximum benefits and maximum value from your budget.

About the programme


At a very basic level, the Rock and Water Programme is a social skills programme that develops whakamana / empowerment.


The programme uses physical exercises to develop self-control, self-confidence and a strong social competency. The basic elements of the programme can be taught from five years of age, but the skills are appropriate for people of all ages. Using Sir Mason Durie's work on Maori Concepts of Wellbeing as an illustration, by whakapiri / engaging the participants and teaching them about themselves (whakamarama / enlightenment), we can empower individuals to develop self-confidence, to make positive changes, to participate positively in society and to follow their goals and dreams.

The Rock and Water programme was developed by Dutch educator and founder of the Gadaku Institute, Freerk Ykema. Originally developed as a tool to help boys learn self-awareness, self-control and self-realisation, the programme is now taught in countries around the world to boys and girls, young and old. The Rock and Water programme is evidence-based (from NZ and beyond), with common findings from research indicating that implementation of the programme will lead to a reduction (or elimination) of bullying in the classroom, will increase self-confidence and self-control and enhance social and communication skills.

The programme can be used to focus upon many areas of personal development, such as:

  • Personal growth/self development
  • Confidence building/self-esteem
  • Dealing with bullying and violence (physical, verbal, sexual)
  • Emotion management
  • Relationship skills development
  • Communication skills/conflict resolution
  • Goal setting
  • Team building/cohesion (class/school/family/company)
  • Assertion skills
  • Mindfulness.

Rock and Water develops from an external communication focus (how your body language and behaviour can influence how other people feel about you, how you relate to others, how emotions are communicated through your body), to an internal focus (recognising personal strengths, weaknesses, morals, direction in life etc). The advanced levels or lessons of the programme look at issues such as sexuality, spirituality, the inner compass and solidarity.

Rock and Water is often delivered very successfully by facilitators within a school or organisation to groups or individuals on a needs-basis. However, within a school or community, the programme is much more effective if it is introduced organisation wide and with regular revisits. It is a programme that is best given time to develop and embed within a community or school system, to allow the development of skills for the students but also for the teachers or facilitators. In such a way the language and ethos behind the programme can become a common language.

Ideally all the staff of a school, along with parents, need to know the language, the background and to literally 'talk-the-talk and walk-the-walk' of Rock and Water. Students will develop strong social competency and become aware of who they are as a person, where they want to go in life, have an idea of how to get there and be considerate of those they meet along the way. The benefits for a school, organisation and the community will then be enormous - reduced violence/conflict, increased attendance, calmer environments and improved academic progress.


Rock and Water New Zealand Ltd provides NZ-wide professional development workshops for educators (teachers, youth workers, mental health professionals, police officers, anti-violence workers etc.) wanting to implement the incredible Rock and Water programme with their students and clients.

The training programmes provide a menu of games and exercises (all contained within the provided manual) from which trainees can develop their own programme to meet their needs and the needs of the young people and adults they work with.


How well-known is the programme?

The Rock and Water programme is taught in over 14 countries around the world, has been translated into four languages, and it is estimated over two million people have experienced a Rock and Water programme.