Break the Fall

“The true science of martial arts means practicing them in such a way that they will be useful at any time, and to teach them in such a way that they will be useful in all things.”
― Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings: Miyamoto Musashi

Last blog post I wanted to focus on some of the hesitations I have seen in getting people (disabled or not) involved in martial arts. I have even been called out saying that I was promoting a false sense of security and that I was telling people they could be a Power Ranger or Neo from the Matrix. In fact, I was merely explaining how practicing martial arts has helped me in life and how simple some of the techniques can be when practiced a few times. I do advocate that people try it out and learn some self-defense so they do not become a victim.

I want to point out that there is another common misconception when it comes to martial arts and self-defense. Most people think you are training to defend yourself from a potential attacker, an abusive person, or a mugger in the parking garage. Best case scenario; you go through life and never need to use any of the defensive techniques against another person. You never know; your attacker may not even be a person or even a living creature. You will more and likely need to defend yourself from your own surrounding. You may come face to face with a brick wall, trip over kids toys left on the floor, or get hit with an automatic door closing too quickly.

WHO LogoAccording to the World Health Organization (WHO), falling is the second leading cause of accidental or unintentional injury deaths worldwide. It is estimated that 424,000 individuals die from falls each year. Adults who are older than 65, suffer the greatest number of fatal falls. Each year there are over 37.3 million people that fall and require medical attention due to the severity.  One of the WHOs recommendation for fall prevention: “community-based group program which may incorporate fall prevention education and Tai Chi-type exercises or dynamic balance and strength training;…”

Breakfalls
Found image on Pinterest

As part of the nightly warm-up routine in the jujitsu class I trained in for several years; we practiced break falls and rolls. We did this every night before learning the night’s lessons. We started out doing forward facing break falls. The class would line up and they would fall to the ground, slapping the ground as they made the impact. The purpose behind smacking the ground as you land is that it helps minimize the impact when hitting the ground. Next, a person would get up and repeat the technique all the way across the room. Once everyone was on the other side they would do backward break fall. They repeated this for each type of break fall, forward roll, and backward roll.

 

I have heard countless stories where learning how to break a fall and rolling kept people from getting seriously injured. In fact, I fall a lot. Luckily being 3 feet tall, I don’t have far to go. However learning how to fall properly has kept me from hurting myself or from getting hurt too bad.

There are times when I go through automatic doors that open up as you get close to it; the door begins closing before I am all of the way through it. There have been times I have had to step around the closing door as if I was fighting an opponent to avoid getting hit and knocked off balance.

I know of a teenager who had an issue with her balance; she kept falling and hitting her head. In less than a year time, she had 3 concussions. The doctor ordered her into physical therapy. I later found out they taught her the exact same methods on how to do break falls and rolls.

There are other techniques besides break falls that will keep you from getting injured. I found out first hand one day as I tripped on a porch plank and started heading towards a brick wall. The overhead block is a technique that I have practiced countless times over many years. The overhead block is in several katas and is constantly being utilized. It was the simplest move to execute. The block kept my head from slamming into the wall. Yeah, I scratched up my arm a little bit but that is better than busting my head open – again. My best friend witnessed the incident. The first thing he said when I regained my balance; “Dude, that was an awesome use of an overhead block!”

Another technique I learned in karate is how to step forward and backward and avoiding an opponent’s foot. The same technique used in katas comes in handy when trying to navigate a child’s bedroom floor at night time. There is nothing more aggravating than going into a room and your toes hitting on the side of a bed or smacking your shin into the side of a dresser.

All you need to do is lower your stance slightly by bending your knees. Shift your weight to the leg you are not stepping with, and barely lift your foot off the ground. Let the toes barely touch the ground. In a forward motion trace half of a circle with your foot. Set the foot down firmly on the ground. If your toes encounter an object, return your foot to the original spot.

As I said in the last post, from practicing martial arts and self-defense a person can learn situational awareness and avoid conflicts with a potential attacker. However, the attacker may not even be a person or a living creature. It could be the very floor you are walking on and the rug snags your foot. Do not be a victim; do not become another statistic on the WHOs website. If anything, take a few classes to learn how to protect yourself and break the fall.


If you enjoyed this article please reshare to your family, friends, co-workers, sparring partners, or on your social media accounts; it would be a good complement for me. Feel free to join me on the following social media platforms:
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Dealing with Misconceptions

The other day I was interviewing Brandon Ryan of Adaptive Defense Methods for Karate Talk. Mr. Ryan brought up an interesting point about how disabled people are hesitant to try martial arts. I continued to think about his comment and several other thoughts occurred. I soon realized that there are a few common misconceptions people who are abled and disabled alike seem to get wrong when it comes to martial arts.

One thought that occurred was a conversation I had years ago on a Facebook group for people with dwarfism. An individual was interested in participating in a physical activity. I naturally suggested martial arts. I was explaining how martial arts can provide cardio and strength training. Plus I explained some of the self-defense techniques are simple and how people with dwarfism could easily perform them with little effort. Another individual called me out saying I was spreading a false sense of security by encouraging other dwarfs to try out martial arts. The person on Facebook commented that not everyone could be a Power Ranger or Neo from the Matrix. He is correct; the Power Rangers and Neo are fictional characters. Though the way the characters fight on screen is fun to watch; however is not what learning martial arts or self-defense is all about.

redranger flying kickSelf-defense is about learning the tools you need to change the outcome of a situation so you do not become a victim. It is not about going after the bad guy and doing flashy spinning aerial roundhouse kicks and punches all while letting out loud Heee-Yaaa! In self-defense, you are learning situational awareness (you know learning to get the spidey-senses to tingle) and knowing what you can use in your environment that can help you defend yourself and not becoming a victim or a statistic.

As I have pointed out in a previous post, martial arts is 98% mental. This means understanding situational awareness is the most critical aspect of learning martial arts or self-defense. This is where most conflicts are won by simply avoiding it when possible. What is situational awareness? It is the ability to know what is happening around you and in your environment. In other words, you will be able to identify potential threats and avoid getting into any type of conflict.

oodaloopIn situational awareness, you will learn to utilize the OODA Loop. Observe, orient, decision, and action. Observe what is happening around you. Get to know your surrounding by orienting yourself to the environment. Make decisions based on your observations. Then act on those decisions. The best example of the OODA Loop being used is from the movie Finding Dory. Don’t worry I won’t be giving away spoilers if you haven’t already seen the movie.

finding-doryThroughout the movie every time Dory got separated from her family or friends she would observe what was going on in her immediate surrounding. She would stop and orient herself to the environment. If Dory saw another fish that could offer her help, she made the decision to ask, and then go ask for assistance in finding her family or friends.

At the time I had been practicing jujitsu for almost a year. I had been working techniques that did not take a great deal of strength or mobility to redirect my opponent’s attacks. Many of these techniques I feel were simple. Despite a person’s range of mobility, they could do the technique and possibly change the outcome of an attacker’s intent. Some of these techniques included moving your head to the right or left a few degrees when a punch is coming to your face. Or moving to a 45-degree angle and gently redirecting the attacker energy into the wall that was behind you. Or bending the attacker’s wrist towards his body and causing him to go into the direction his hand is going.

The reason why you would want to practice defensive techniques is because avoiding the conflict may not be an option. It is better to practice defensive techniques and hope you will never have to use them. The idea is to prepare for worst case scenario.

My parents once asked me why would you be in a situation where you would need to know how to protect yourself? I know for a fact there are people out there in the world who do not have good intentions. They see a disabled person and they feel they need to show that their power over them by hurting them. If it had not been for a good friend of mine watching my back one day, I would have been the recipient of someone’s trying to prove they were superior over someone smaller than themselves. I know of disabled people who have been victims because someone could assert their power over them.

taichiI am an advocate of disabled people learning a martial art or some form of self-defense. From the aspect of practicing martial arts as a physical activity, there are many benefits. It is a good form of physical therapy if you have a limited range of mobility. A style such as Tai Chi is really good for restorative care. Another benefit is that it is a way to get healthy. I have known people who started practicing in order to control their weight, gain strength, and stamina. When a person has developed some proficiency from learning with an instructor it is something that can be practiced on their own or with another person.

DISCLAIMER: If a person (disabled or not) decides to learn martial arts (or self-defense); I won’t guarantee them 100% safety. Chances are they will get hurt during training and most likely in a confrontation. To be honest I have been hurt a few times during my years of training. I have dislocated a finger in jujitsu, I bruised my tailbone in karate, and I have hit my head a few times on the ground. I have had friends break ribs, toes, feet, noses, dislocate shoulders, and get black eyes. I have also been kicked across the dojo. Occasionally some nights after class, people tend to walk out with their pride hurt. It is better to be hurt in a controlled situation rather than a non-controlled situation.

During my years of practice, I have only seen one person go to the hospital after a class. The injury that was sustained in class was not even related to a martial arts technique. The assistant instructor was standing off to the side of the room barefoot on the tile floor. He had a jump rope in his hand was thinking about incorporating the exercise into our routine. A lower ranking student advised him that jumping rope barefoot on tile floor was not a good idea. He didn’t listen. After two seconds of jumping his foot was in extreme pain.

Other times I have seen when people are hurt during class; is when the students do not use control. Prime example; a student throws a punch as hard as he can and overextends his reach. Physics tells us that an object in motion stays in motion until acted on. In this case, sometimes it can be a wall behind the opponents back. Or losing your balance and going to the ground. New students are usually paired with higher ranking students during sparring matches and practice drills. The higher ranking student can show the newer how to control their moves. Also, the higher ranking student is usually conditioned to take the hits from a newer student.

matrixfightsceneLearning martial arts; a person becomes aware of their surroundings and they are more cognitive about what they can do with their own body. Why practice martial arts if someone is going to get hurt during training? Think of it as conditioning and preparing the body and the mind. If a person is in a confrontation they will more than likely get hurt. It is the degree of severity that changes if one knows how to defend themselves. If a person does face an attacker, they can sense it before it starts and leave the situation; or if not a possibility they have the element of surprise by fighting back. That may be enough incentive for an attacker to realize they need to disengage and leave them alone. Most people will pick an easy target. Another thing I can guarantee, they will not look like a Mighty Morphin Power Ranger or Neo from the Matrix that is CGI.


If you enjoyed this article please reshare to your family, friends, co-workers, sparring partners, or on your social media accounts; it would be a good complement for me. Feel free to join me on the following social media platforms:
Facebook and Google Plus where we can continue the discussion and you can share your experiences.
Twitter and Instagram so you can keep up with the adventures of the Karate Kickin Dwarf.
YouTube Channel! Watch various videos the Karate Kickin Dwarf and be sure to subscribe!

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Woah, I Know Jujitsu

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Me a few weeks after I started karate in 1999

Last summer I was asked to write an article for a magazine on how martial arts helped my self-esteem. More specifically I focused on what karate did for me when I first began practicing in 1999. After a year of practicing martial arts, I was able to walk without the use of a walker. As you can see achieving a milestone such as this can be a big boost to a person’s self-esteem. However, that is one story on how practicing martial arts has impacted my life.

 

In life, you evolve. In martial arts, you evolve as a practitioner. There are ups and downs in life – even in martial arts. From the very beginning, I was told that I will hit plateaus in my training. As I have learned at one time or another you will hit that plateau where you do not feel like you are learning anything. Every day will feel exactly the same. When that happens, confidence/self-esteem will begin to fade.

bigstockphoto_moon_meditation_silhouette_3306208-410x274Earlier in my martial arts training, if I was going through a rough patch in life I knew going to karate class and practicing would help me out. The moments before and after class we would sit and meditate – focus on martial arts and nothing else. Usually by the end of class or shortly afterward I had a solution to whatever issue I was facing earlier in the day. However, it was around 2009 when I hit a plateau. My family and I had a series of ups and down all year. Going to karate class to meditate and workout did not help me find solutions.

In fact, I was faced with a few more aggravations once I stepped through the doors of the dojo. Some of the aggravation was internal and some were external. Internally – my self-esteem was fading. I no longer felt comfortable about myself. I was gaining weight and having issues breathing. You may remember me mentioning that in previous posts Way of the Gun. Being overweight had slowed me down considerably and I was not as mobile. Externally – I didn’t feel as welcomed in the class as I had hoped. Then again it could have been my self-esteem and my clouded perception at the time was the reasons why I felt that way. Class would start and I take my place in the front of the room where black belts and brown belts stood. We went through PT1 and PT2 exercises. We even did kata. The instructors would go to all of the other students and work with them and discuss what they needed to correct. I guess my technique was perfect. None of the instructors ever offered any type of criticism or told me what I needed to correct. None of the instructors ever walked up to me. – Was I invisible?

During class, we would break up into groups to work on kata, kumite, or other techniques. My best friend (fellow brown belt at the time) realized what was going on. He simply walked away from his group and we made our own group. We worked kata. He knew I was having issues. My technique was getting sloppy. He did his best to explain to me what I needed to work on. To bad, it took 3 more years to realize what he was saying. Better late than never.

I continued to stick with karate for a few more months. However, in the spring of 2010, an unforeseen incident with one of the instructors that resulted in the class being closed down indefinitely. The dojo closed two weeks before I would test for my black belt. I contemplated joining other classes in the area. A dojo opened up a few months after my dojo closed. I considered going there even though it was not my style of karate. I enjoyed focusing on the traditional art whereas they focused on competition. Competition is a little harder for me to participate in due to the rules about not hitting below the belt in sparring matches. Plus there are no other dwarves in the area I can spar. After talking to the instructors I did not agree with their requirements for earning and maintaining their belts.

I went a few years without attending a martial arts class. Occasionally I would check out some Tai Chi videos online and try to follow along but that was about it. Early in 2013, a good friend of mine had heard about a jujitsu class that was 20 minutes up the road from our home. He came over to my house and asked if I knew anything about the class. I told him I knew the people who ran the class. He said he was going to check it out. I decided I would tag along with him.

I sat there as a spectator during class and watched the students roll around on the ground and throw each other across the room. The instructor had told me that night that Judo was an element he focused on in class. I sat there and watched two guys 6-foot tall throw each other around. I thought to myself, there is a lot of things going on here I don’t think I can do. As much fun as the class looked I didn’t think it would be for me.

My friend and I left the class that evening. I went home and told my wife about it. She encouraged me to go back the next week and try the class even though there were techniques I didn’t think I could do. My buddy came back over to the house the next week and said he was going to the class this time to work out. He asked if I wanted to go. I reluctantly said yes.

As I have said in one of my previous posts; the hardest part is walking through the door.  During the first 10 minutes of class, the instructor told me he would teach me some judo techniques. I remembered what I had seen the week before. I was about to protest but before I could he said he was going to modify the technique. That night I learned how to throw people who were 6 foot tall. I now have a better understanding of the phrase; “the taller they are, the harder they fall.”

I am so glad I went to the class that night. It was one of the best decisions I had made in a long time (as it relates to martial arts). I loved every second of it. From the very beginning of class, the instructor started modifying all of the techniques. Even though it was my first day, he made me feel like a part of the class. Something I hadn’t felt in the karate class a few years before.

Learning new techniques and sparring in ju-jitsu class every week revived my love for martial arts altogether. My perception on karate changed dramatically. The kata’s I had practiced for several years took on a whole new meaning. I would learn techniques in jujitsu class then I would go home and practice my Shorin-Ryu kata’s and pick out where the judo and jujitsu moves would fit in.

i know jujitsuThe jujitsu class was a big boost in my self-esteem. When I was in karate I was unsure of myself. As I continued to practice jujitsu I felt like I had a better chance of winning a fight if one was to ever occur. All of the issues I had when it came to sparring in karate during my early days; I had found an answer for in the ju-jitsu class. Each week I would come home and I would look at my wife and say “woah! I know jujitsu” kind of the same way Neo from the Matrix did when he learned Kung-Fu.

IMAG0219I still faced everyday problems in life. I was able to go, class, meditate, workout, throw some people around for a while, get thrown around myself, and by the end of it, I had a solution to my problems. I stayed in the class for almost 2 years. I even earned a purple belt. Unfortunately, life happens and I had to step away from the dojo for a while to take care of financial related matters and deal with health issues. Last summer I was about to make my return to the class then disaster struck the local area. The dojo was flooded along with the entire town.

Even though I am no longer in the class, I am still as confident as I was in class. I continue to practice on my own and with immediate family members. Karate helped me figure out how to use my body but I didn’t feel equal among my peers. In jujitsu; I figured out how to make myself equal to everyone else. That was the biggest boost in confidence.


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The Front Page

Photo taken by Mike Keller 2001

Previously on Karate Kickin Dwarf…

Thanks to a newspaper article written about me in early 2001, a television producer wanted to feature me on the Maury Povich Show. The show was filmed in New York City. I almost didn’t get to go because of the terrorist attacks that took place in September 2001. I eventually got to fly to New York City, ride around in a limo, eat good food, play with a woman’s leg, and I made my television debut.

The show aired two weeks after I got home from filming my segment. I was sitting in my Tuesday morning class at West Virginia State Community Technical College.  I was taking a special topics course for people seeking to get the CompTIA A+ certification – which I never got. I had informed the professor that the show I was being featured on would air during class. When the time came the entire class left the room and went down the hall to another room that had a TV. I sat there and watched the show. As the show led up to my segment I got nervous but I was also excited.

After the show was over my classmates told me how much they enjoyed it. I think they enjoyed it because they didn’t have to sit there and listen to the instructor go on about Kevin Mitnick and government conspiracies. My classmates asked me what it was like to meet Maury Povich. I explained to them that the only time I even got to meet Maury was on camera. I told them I went to shake his hand and how his hand was huge. We talked for a few more minutes about the production of the show and all of the things I did while in New York City. Then the class was dismissed. I remember sitting there getting ready to leave the room and my brother in law at the time leaned over to me and said, “I think you left out part of the kata.” I explained to him that I had too. I told him how I picked the shortest kata I could think of and I had to make it shorter.

roll-in-tvThe next day in my math class the professor walked into the room pushing a TV stand that had a VCR. He held up a copy of the tape and announced that he would give everyone in the class extra credit if they stayed and watched the show. We all cheered and watched the show. Of course, I was nervous and excited. Afterward, I took the time to tell the class about the events that led to the producers calling me, my trip to New York City, and how the show was produced.

Later, I learned that every class the math professor taught that day got to see the tape. All of his students got extra credit. Apparently, this is something the professor did every semester in all of his classes all the way up until his passing. To this day I run into people who had this particular professor; they tell me how they got extra credit for watching their fellow alumni doing karate on the Maury Povich Show.

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Click on the image to read the article

A few days after the show aired I got a call from a local reporter for the Graffiti Magazine. It is a West Virginia publication. The reporter tells me he heard about me being on the show and wants to write a small article about my experience. I agree to do the interview. We talk a few times on the phone and we meet in person a few times to talk about the show. I even get asked to come in for a photoshoot. I didn’t realize this was going to be a full-scale photo shoot. While getting my pictures taken the reporter tells me that I will be on the front cover of the magazine. Come to find out I would be on the December issue.

The reporter pulled out a kids size Santa Clause outfit. He looked at me and asked if I would be willing to wear it for the photo shoot. He prefaced it with “I completely understand if you do not want to do that because I don’t want you to play into the stereotypical little person playing as an elf.” I agreed to do it. I had a lot of fun. They set up some Christmas props in the studio. He told me to do all of the katas and anything I could think of while they took pictures. I have a copy of the pictures and I still use them for various projects. You have probably seen them posted on my social media accounts. I am much younger, skinnier, and do not have a beard in the photos. The pictures have become useful for explaining to my children that I used to be the chief of security for Santa Clause.

In December my debut on the front page cover with a two-page article in Graffiti magazine was released. My face was everywhere in the state of West Virginia. Nothing like being out shopping for Christmas presents with family members at a store and people walking past the window, seeing you, running up to you going “Hey, you’re that little guy on the front cover! It’s nice to meet you!” I looked at my sister and said, “So this is what it is like to be a local celebrity?”

Shortly after my article appeared in the magazine Warwick Davis (the guy who plays Willow and The Leprechaun) contacted me and asked if I was interested in appearing on a Christmas special in England. Due to other commitments, I had to turn it down. However, in the last 15 years, I have not made any other appearances on television. Occasionally I talk to the guy who was on the Maury Povich show with me. Unfortunately, the lady who was there to surprise me on the show passed away.

Since I have started Karate Kickin Dwarf, I have done an interview on the Justin Harvey Show, and I was featured in an article written on Way of Ninja. I have been in the paper and on the news for other achievements unrelated to martial arts.

I hope you have enjoyed reading about my experiences about my 15 minutes of fame.

No matter what religion you prescribe to Happy Holidays and have a wonderful season of being merry and being with family and friends. I’ll be back after the new year with more content.

Featured Photo by: Mike Keller 12 – 2001

Join me on the following social media platforms:
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National TV Debut

Previously on Karate Kickin Dwarf…

I wrote about how early in my martial arts training I was featured in the local newspaper and how it got the attention of producers of a talk show in New York City. Due to the terrorist attacks that took place on September 11, 2001 I almost did not get to be on the show.

A few weeks later I get a call from the producers from the Maury Povich Show to tell me they still wanted me to be on the show. They would fly me to New York soon as airplanes were no longer grounded.

maury povichThe episode of Maury Povich I was on called “Little People with Big Talent.” Keep in mind, this show was filmed 15 years ago and did not deal with paternity cases like they do now.

I explained to my mother I still wanted to be on the show. Since the attacks she had her reservations and said she could not get on an airplane. I told her I completely understood. I walked away and called my sister who is an adult and is married with kids. “Hey sis, want to go hang out in NYC with me for a day?” She was excited I had asked her and agreed to go with me. Mom put her foot down and said “No!” She said she would go with me instead of my sister. If something were to happen to us in New York City, she would not be able to live with herself if her grandkids did not have their mother around.

In the first week of October, I boarded a plane with my mother and we made our way to New York City.

When I talk about my martial arts experience I love to tell the story of being on a nationally syndicated television show. It isn’t so much as being on the show but the adventure that takes place.

You know in movies when the character of the story gets off of an airplane walks into the terminal, and there is a limo driver holding up a sign with the person’s name? Well, that’s how it was for me and my mom. We got off the plane and behold, we had a limo driver waiting for our arrival. He was holding a sign with my name on it. I was big city living. Keep in mind, small simple things like this is a big deal for people who are from a much smaller city such as Charleston, West Virginia.

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We were taken to our hotel so we could drop off the bags. There we were met by one of the assistant producers. She gave us our per-diem cash and told us that they would tape my segment of the show the next day. She said we should go out to eat and enjoy ourselves.  Now, I had been to New York City 9 months earlier. I was as a senior in high school with the yearbook staff attending a conference at New York University. So I had an idea on how to navigate the streets of New York City but for that evening we stayed near Time Square.

The next day we were greeted by the assistant producer at the hotel. We climbed into a van and taken to the studio. We were led to an office where I had to sign a bunch of legal documents. They asked if I would be demonstrating any karate on the stage. I said I would. They asked if I needed any background music. I said yes and that I preferred the song More Human than the Human by White Zombie. Less than an hour later they said no. They said they wouldn’t play that song for me. I grinned. They left the office and I changed into my gi.

I was a little nervous about being on stage and asked if I could see a list of questions I might be asked. They printed off the questions from the teleprompter. I reviewed them. I was then taken to another room to shoot a promo video. I was in the room for about 30 minutes punching, kicking, blocking, and doing all of my katas for the camera. I didn’t realize I would get a workout. After that, I was led to the stage for a quick rehearsal.

Before I get to this part of the story I must tell you something. When I am training and teaching mode I am focused. I am also serious about what I do. In this time of my life, I am oblivious to the art of flirting. It would be 5 years into marriage when my wife explained to me how oblivious I was when I was younger.

Mom is sitting in the audience section talking to the assistant producer. I am on the stage with the producer who is a tall good looking blonde in high heels wearing a skirt. We are discussing what I should expect when we are filming my segment of the show. I run through the kata Anaku (Shorin-Ryu style of karate) I plan to do. They tell me it is to long for the segment and I need to scale it back a bit. The producer is standing in for the talk show host and asking me the questions he is going to ask. I find out I have to teach the show host how to do a front kick. I go into teaching mode:

“Ok, here is how we do a front kick, left foot forward, right foot back. Bend your front knee until you cannot see your toes. The first thing you need to remember is that there are four parts to a….” I see the producer is not standing the way I want her to stand. Without thinking, I instinctively reach over put my hands around her leg and move it into place.

She responded; “Oh, so I stand like this?” I nod yes. She then asks “So, do I kick like this?” I am still in teaching mode and I go to tell her the correct method of kicking. She looks at me and said this is where I am to have fun with it. I didn’t need to be serious. I am to have fun with it.

I finally snap out of my teaching mode. I could hear behind me my mother, the assistant producer, and the camera guys laughing hysterically. It wasn’t until after the show on our way home mom looked at me and asked “Why did you have your hands all over that lady’s leg? Whatever you were doing you had everyone in the room cracking up laughing.”

After rehearsal, I went back stage and met another little person that was going to be on the show. He was from Missouri and did broadway plays during the day. He was on the show to sing for the audience. The segment of the show he was on had a clip of him doing a comedy sketch and signing at a bar. It was funny.

I finally went up on stage. As I walked around the wall I saw Maury Povich wearing a gi top. Come to find out I am the first person in the shows history to get Maury to wear something different from his usual gray sweatshirt. I walked over and I shook hands with Maury. His hand was huge. Went over and I took my place and I did my kata. I answered the first few questions as per the list I had reviewed earlier. I even taught him how to throw a front kick. I fought the urge to go into full fledge teaching mode. Then there was a change. The conversation moved from talking about my martial arts experience to talking about a person I had met earlier in the summer. A friend I had met earlier in the summer at the Little People of America Conference in Toronto came out and gave me a big hug. She went over and began playing the piano. She was very talented in playing Beethoven’s Fur Elise.

012_10aOnce we were finished filming all three of us piled into the limo and were taken to Hard Rock Café for lunch. Once lunch was over Mom and I returned to the hotel where we rested for a little bit. We set out and explored New York City once more. I later found out that most people are flown on the day of the taping of the show and then sent home. Since the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001, the producers were giving guests a few days to stay in the city to help bring back tourism.

The next day a town car met us at the hotel and we made our way to the airport. Mom and I boarded the smallest commercial airplane I had ever seen. Once inside I looked at my mother and said that our 20-foot motorhome was larger than this plane. There was only 1 other passenger on the plane at the time of our flight. I looked at mom and said, “Well, I think we know who the air marshal is on this flight.”

Stay tuned for the next installment as I tell about the aftermath of learning that I was not the father on the Maury Povich show …I mean when I returned home and was featured in a local magazine.

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My National Debut That Almost Didn’t Happen

Today is September 11, 2016. I am sitting here reading on Facebook all of the posts about what people were doing on the day the Twin Towers fell 15 years ago. I think back to that day and how my life changed. I think about all of the people from my generation and how their lives changed from that day forward.

The days leading up to September 11, 2001, were very exciting for me. After an interesting phone call, I realized that practicing martial arts was becoming more than just a hobby.

I was at my desk in the backroom of my parent’s house. I was already a freshman at my local college and I was attempting to do homework. More and likely I was popping the top on a Blue Pepsi and turning up the airflow to my customized computer so I could play Quake 3.  I answered the phone and on the other side of the phone, the lady said she was a producer with a nationally syndicated TV show. They had found an article written about me earlier in the year. The lady said my story had captivated her and the producers. She asked if I would be willing to make an appearance on the TV show to demonstrate my martial arts moves or at the most just simply talk about my life

This is the point where you visualize a memory bubble appearing over my head as I sit there contemplating my answer. I flashed back to the article that had been written about me. In early January 2001 my history teacher asked if she could share my name and phone number with a newspaper reporter. The newspaper reporter was looking to write “A Day in the Life of…” article for the local paper.  The teacher explained that I had a positive attitude about life and that I am an inspiration to many people and that’s why she wanted to tell the reporter about me. I agreed.

A few weeks later I received a call from the reporter asking if she could follow me around school for a day or two. Throughout the week she would call me and ask me questions. She watched me interact with my friends and would pull them to the side and ask questions about me. She found out that I did karate and asked if she could go to class with me and observe. A week later a two-page article about me appeared in the Sunday paper. Click here to read the article from the WV Gazette.

forest-gump-crooked-back-memeMany people from my area loved the article. I did find out that I had a few critics. I learned I needed to be careful about what I say to reporters. Apparently, I offended various politicians when I quoted Tom Hanks character Forrest Gump as I explained that my spine was crooked as a politician. At that time my parents worked very close to many local politicians. Oops!

Looking back now that I am older and after have worked for many politicians over the past 13 years; I do not think any of them are as crooked as my back.

So here it is months after this article was written I am getting a phone call from a producer of a syndicated television show. I am asked to make an appearance because they found my article to be inspirational. They wanted me to share my story and possibly demonstrate some of my karate moves.

I moved from having a flash-back to an internal conversation with myself. I asked the following questions:

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Photo by Mike Keller

“If I go on this show, am I exploiting myself?

 

Are people going to make fun of me on the show?

What are the risks factors involved?

If don’t go on the show, how else am I going to inspire people?”

I asked myself the most important question; “Is there a chance a movie producer will see this and have me co-star in a Jet Li movie?”  

“Hello…?” the voice on the other end of the phone line said. I answered her question. I said I would do the show. “Great!” she said loudly in my ear. She explained to me that the show was filmed in New York City. She went on to tell me that they would pay for my flight, the hotel, a car from the airport, any food I wanted to eat, and my return trip home. She looked at her calendar and asked “…would be available to fly out on Tuesday, September 11, 2001?” I told her the date would work for me. She hung up and I started jumping around the room. A few minutes later she called back and said there was an issue with the scheduling. She would have to fly me to New York City on Wednesday, September 12, 2001, instead.

I make my way to school, West Virginia State Community Technical College, on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. I was in an 8:00AM class – special topic course for the A+ Certification exam. I can only assume the professor is in front of the room lecturing about hardware components. I am sitting next to my brother in law (at the time) quietly whispering about the upcoming trip and discussing the latest Dragonball Z plot. Suddenly a faculty member bursts into the room and announces that an airplane had crashed into the Twin Towers in New York City. This particular faculty member was kind of a jokester and we could never tell if he was serious or not. We stared at him waiting for a punch line. After a few seconds, we realized he was not joking. We all sprang up from our seats and ran downstairs (I took the elevator) to the nearest TV. By the time we got there, another plane had crashed into the second tower.

Suddenly a faculty member bursts into the room and announces that an airplane had crashed into the Twin Towers in New York City. This particular faculty member was kind of a jokester and we could never tell if he was serious or not. We stared at him waiting for a punch line. After a few seconds, we realized he was not joking. We all sprang up from our seats and ran downstairs (I took the elevator) to the nearest TV. By the time we got there, another plane had crashed into the second tower.

I was saddened by what I saw on the television. My heart was broken for the people that were suffering, dying, and the ones that had lost their life instantly. I watched in disbelief as my world changed. After a few minutes of watching the horror unfold as the news replayed the scene of planes hitting the buildings and the people of New York City running for their lives; I pulled out my clunky cellphone and called mom at her office. I told her “We are not going to New York City tomorrow.” I didn’t care about being on a show.

This is my 9-11 story. This is what I remember of that day. If you want to read about my national television debut appearance then stay tuned for next month. The next article will be about the 15th anniversary of my appearance on television.

nyc911

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Mommy, why does that boy have a beard?

…and other Frequently Asked Questions

Mommy, why does that little boy have a beard?
Why can’t I have a beard?
Mommy, why is that man short?

IMAG0211These are some of the questions I hear when I am out in public and there are little kids around. Sometimes kids will point at me and start asking questions. The parent usually shhh’s them and redirect their eyes and whisper “Stop that!” It doesn’t bother me if they are curious and they ask questions. I prefer it rather than hearing a parent scold their kid telling them “be quiet, don’t stare!” Most of the time if I spend a few minutes with them, the kids are cool with seeing someone that is fully grown at 3 feet tall. Except for the little boys – they get really upset because they are as tall as me and cannot grow a beard.

Kids often ask me “why are you short?” or “why do you look like that?” Depending on their age and maturity level depends on the answer. If a kid is around 3 – 6 years old I just politely tell them that I was made this way. There have been a few times when I’ll look at older kids with a shocked look and say “What! I am short? OH NO!” Of course, I only do that in good fun and make sure they know I am playing with them. They get a laugh from it and I can give them a more detailed answer.

The most memorable experience came happened in the summer of 2001. I was in Toronto, Ontario for a Little People of America conference. I was at the mall running around on my scooter. There was a lady who was from India walking with her 4-year-old son. She approached me and asked, “Can my son touch you?” She explained to me that in her culture that if he gets to lay his hands on someone who is different, then it would be an honor for them and will be blessed with good luck for the rest of their life. I agreed. It was years later when I realized I resembled a deity in their culture.

 

Another memorable moment I was at my nephew’s birthday party at Chucky Cheese. I was hanging out minding my own business and some guy walks up to me clutching his son’s arm. He pulled his son towards me and says “My son has something to say to you. As we were walking by he started laughing hysterically at you.” The father looked at his son and waited. The boy apologized. The father went on to explain to him that people are born differently and he shouldn’t laugh at people who are different. The father apologized to me and went back to the rest of his family.

More often than not I am at the mall riding around on my scooter. Most kids will start staring and pointing. Parents will begin to redirect their eyes or try to quiet them because they are embarrassed. As they are walking hurriedly away, I can hear the kid wanting to know “why does he have to use that?” referring to my scooter. At this moment the parent realizes that their kid isn’t concerned about me being short, but wants to know why I need a scooter. Their voice changes to a quizzitive tone and they are like “well, I don’t know, let’s go ask.” I’ll take the time to explain that I can walk but it’s hard to keep up with the fast walking people I am with at the mall (my wife and kids). Plus the mall is large and I walk slowly; it would take me forever to get through it. I love it when toddlers in their strollers look up and their pacifier falls out of their mouth with this jealous look as if they are wanting to say – “mommy, can I upgrade from stroller to that thing?”

I like it when parents take the time to bring their child over so they can ask questions.  Or the parent can explain to their child that I am a little person. Or that I have to use a scooter to get around. Children should know that everyone is different and try to understand that is acceptable no matter what you look like on the outside. Children should get to know the person on the inside. I also hope when I talk to children that I inspire them to want to help other handicap people when they get older.

Talking to Adults about Dwarfism

It is easy to deal with kids and explaining to them why I am short. When it comes to adults and explaining to them about being a dwarf; it can get entertaining. Adults usually have more questions. Just the other day I was in my office and a co-worker sat at my desk for almost an hour and I explained to him about being a dwarf and all of the issues I have had in the past and what I know about the other forms of dwarfism.

I figure you probably have read several stories on my blog and have a list of questions of your own. Here are the frequently asked questions from other adults.

  • Question: Do you have brothers or sisters?
  • Answer: Yes, I have sisters
  • Question: Are your mom, dad, and/or siblings short?
  • Answer: Nope, just me and I am not short. I am a Diastrophic Dwarf.
  • Question: Oh, is dwarf the correct term?
  • Answer: The correct term is “Dwarf” or “a Little Person”.
  • Question: (usually asked in a hushed voice) What about the M word?
  • Answer: M word? Oh, you mean Midget? Not a good word. It is a dirty word.
  • Question: Are those your kids or your wife’s from a previous marriage?
  • Answer: Those are my kids; they act too much like me. I was there for the conception for each one.
    • Recently, friends of ours were asked how me and my wife had sex. Our friend responded “I don’t know, I have never been around them while doing it. I am pretty sure they have it figured out.”
  • Question: (If the adult does not see my kids the usually ask) Are your kids short like you?
  • Answer: Nope, but there is a greater chance their offspring will be a dwarf.
  • Question: Do you know this other dwarf (they provide a name)?
  • Answer: What just because I am short I know all of the little people in the area? Yeah, I do know most of the little people in the area. I know who you are talking about.
  • Question: I see a lot of little people who have proportionate arms and legs to their body, what type are they?
  • Answer: Those are Achons. Achon is short for achondroplasia. Peter Dinklage (or Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones) is an Achon. Matt Roloff from Little People Big World is a Diastrophic Dwarf.

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Me and Warwick Davis at LPA Toronto in 2001

After the adults ask all of their questions I usually move on to the fun facts about dwarfism. I like talking about the Little People of America convention held every year around North America. Though I have only been to one convention. I will say it was an awesome experience to look at people at eye level. I also like to remind adults that little people are capable of living a full productive life. There are little people that are martial artists, lawyers, doctors, actors, teachers, students, writers, singers, artists, gamers, counselors, IT specialist, business owners, engineers, athletes, dancers, standup comedians, activist, and work for Presidents of the United States of America. We go to school, we get careers, we own our own homes, get married, and have families.

 

I personally enjoy being a little person. I get a kick out of the small things in life. For example those mini bottles of Coca-Cola, I love holding them up and asking “Soooo – is this what it’s like to be average height?” The look on their face is priceless. They do not know how to respond. I love making “small” talk and short jokes. My favorite thing to do is knock on the door to a co-workers office and announcing that I am representing the lollipop guild when they answer. I did this the other day and one guy began laughing hysterically and paused in horror and said; “oh no, I am going to hell for laughing aren’t I?”

Do you have any questions about dwarfism? Feel free to leave me questions in the comments section below or send me an email. You can also leave comments on any of the Karate Kickin Dwarf social media accounts.  Are you a little person who has had similar experience and want to share? Feel free to share your story in the comments section below on any of the Karate Kickin Dwarf social media accounts.

Dwarfism Resources

For people who are interested in u dwarfism, here are a few links.

Little People of America
LPA National Conference
Understanding Dwarfism
Dwarfism Athletic Association of America
Diastrophic Dwarfism (that’s my type of dwarfism)

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Disaster in West Virginia

Bruce Lee once said, “Water can flow or it can crash.” Water began crashing on Thursday, June 23rd and 24th the town of Clendenin and several locations throughout West Virginia. Inside Clendenin on Main Street, there were two dojos that suffered a severe damage, Dento Bushido-Kai Martial Arts, and Elk River Boxing Club. Both of these dojos have played a major role in my martial arts training. I am reaching out to my readers and fans to share with you about the devastation these dojos have suffered and the people of Clendenin.

Elk River Boxing Club is working to restore the gym and is planning to reopen. Elk River Boxing is accepting donations. Click here for their GoFund Me page. Dento Bushido Kai is closed until further notice. If you would like to donate any equipment to either of these wonderful organizations it would be greatly appreciated. You can contact me at KarateKickinDwarf@outlook.com and I can get you in touch with the owners. Or if you would like to donate to all of the flooding victims click here at www.wvflood.com

 

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Weapons of Opportunity

I have mentioned before in the Way of the Gun that carrying a firearm would not be advantageous for me. My arms are not long enough to keep the slide of the gun from coming back and smacking me in the face. I love guns and I find them fascinating. However, I am in the mindset that a gun will not always be around when one is needed. What if I am in an area that has a strict no gun carry policy? I am also 3 feet tall so keeping a gun down at a level so I can reach it would not be a good idea since I have children in the house. So chances are a gun would have to be kept in area high above out of reach of my children and ultimately mine too. In the event of a situation, there are other weapons I can utilize besides using a gun. There are many everyday objects that make great weapons. A broom handle makes for a good bo-staff. Rolled up magazine would be a good kali stick.

In my last post, I wrote a brief history of my experiences in attempting to use traditional martial arts weapons. A weapon such as the bo-staff is easy for me to use provided that I am not doing a traditional kata. A bo-staff is a practical weapon and easy to use. Bladed weapons were fun to practice with once I found the knife I could hold in my hands. Though there are not many classes provide extensive training for civilians in my local area. I have attempted using kali sticks but didn’t work out too well for me because my hands cannot fully grip the sticks. However, the art of kali has given me insight to possible non-traditional weapons that could be used for self-defense.

dressingstick
Dressing Stick
Sock-Aid
Sock Aid

As a person who has a limited reach, I use a variety of assistive devices. Devices such as a dressing stick to help me with pulling up my pants. Dressing sticks have push and pull hook system on one end and another regular but small hook on the other. The stick is usually a half inch to ¾th of an inch in diameter. Easy for me to get a firm grip on to use and pull in an upward motion or push in a downward motion. I use a sock aid device for pulling my socks onto my feet.

Over the years, I have been using the dressing stick for a variety of other applications throughout my house other than helping me pull on pants and socks. Since the stick is about 2 feet long, this will reach the majority of the light switches. If there is a salt and pepper shaker in the middle of the table, no worries, I use my stick to pull them closer. It is good for helping me pick various objects off the ground.

I have been watching videos from Funker Tactical’s Doug Marcaida and I have realized that there are a ton of everyday objects that make good weapons (see below). After watching these videos I began thinking about my environment and the potential weapons in my immediate surrounding. For example at home the dressing sticks and the way the big hooks are shaped look like Kama’s or another type of kali stick. I imagine if done right the hooks can be good for hitting pressure points or for pulling someone’s foot out from beneath them. Worse yet, groin strike something similar to Master Ken’s Eagle Claw (see below). The downside to the dressing stick is that the ½ inch to ¾ inch diameter stick will break easily if too much pressure is applied. However when they do break, there is a jagged point that could be used for stabbing. The sock aid would make for a good chain whip, or a garrote assuming I can get it around my assailant’s neck. I have watched some of Doug Marcaida’s videos on how to use the scarf has given me some ideas on other uses for the sock aid.

Using everyday tools and objects as weapons is something that martial artist was proficient in. Weapons such as the kama’s, nunchucks, bo-staff, sectional staff, tonfas, and sais were all farm tools. Farmers used their tools as a way to defend themselves. Now these days the once used farm tools are taught in martial arts classes. I will admit they are fun to learn about and to use. But are they practical in today’s non-agrarian society? Unfortunately, we can’t walk down the street with a sword strapped to our side. The only ones who can really use tonfas are law enforcement officers but even they use a weapon that is easier to conceal – the telescoping baton. Most people don’t carry an ore unless they are near water and going to a boat. A more practical of all the martial arts weapon is the mop or broom handle.

In today’s society, people carry knives and or maybe a gun. Most people do not get sufficient amount of training to wield either. I love bladed weapons and guns but I consider worst case scenario when it comes to either. What if you are in an area where a gun or a knife is prohibited? What do you use then, your selfie stick? Car keys? iPhone? What could you use if you need to defend yourself and running a way isn’t an option?

I am interested in hearing or reading what other practitioners and people with disabilities use for weapons for self-defense. Are there any disabled people who have figured out to use their assistive devices for self-defense? If so care to share some of your techniques?

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Not So Lethal Weapon

A few weeks ago I was participating in a martial arts related discussion group on Facebook. One of the members had been reading my posts. They mentioned that they were interested in reading about my experiences with weapons. My training with weapons have been sporadic over the years.

Before I began my official martial arts training my former brother in law introduced me to various types of martial arts weapons he had received training on while living in another state. I remember one of the first weapons he showed me were kali sticks. He demonstrated the “Heaven and Hell”  combo drill that he personally liked to practice. He explained how you can practice the drill by yourself and how you practice with a partner. In an attempt to help him practice I held a kali stick in my hand. As soon as I made contact with his kali stick mine flew out of my hands and across the living room. – I do good to hold a pen in my hand let alone an inch and half to 2 inches in diameter round stick. Wrapping my fingers around a kali stick has proven difficult for me to do.

Not wanting to give up the idea of learning how to use the kali sticks; I have spent years wondering what would be the best way for me to keep it from flying out of my hands. I recently had an epiphany while watching Marco Polo on Netflix. Thanks to the character One Hundred Eyes, I understand why the Tai Chi sword has a sash coming off the handle. As One Hundred Eyes explained; “it is not there to be pretty, it is there to wrap around your hand and sword so you can learn how to hold it.” – Though I am not as proficient in the Chinese martial arts, so I have not checked the accuracy of that statement from the movie. Feel free to comment below if you want to provide feedback. – I am hoping this concept will work for me. I am in the process of trying finding the right sticks and a couple of sashes.

While growing up and years before starting martial arts I always regarded the samurai sword as the ultimate weapon. What can I say, I was young and naive.  My former brother in law explained to me that in modern day society you don’t find people walking down the street carrying a sword. He explained to me that the most practical weapon is the bo-staff or jo staff. There are many everyday items lying around that can be used as a bo-staff such as a pool stick, mop or broom handle, a wooden or metal pole, and so on. He explained how in some styles of martial arts such as Aikido they train you how to disarm swordsman. This concept had me interested.

I learned in my early years of karate how to use a bo-staff. My instructor found a lightweight staff and cut it down to size for me. I learned a few basic striking and blocking techniques. I really enjoyed working with the staff even though I never got to learn how to disarm someone with a sword. Shortly after receiving my bo-staff I came home from school one day and found that my mom’s dog used it as a chew toy leaving one end slightly pointier. I was upset at first, but my dad sanded down the end that had been chewed on.   It was awesome going into class with it. I went from having a bo-staff to having a spear. My sensei was very concerned that I was planning to turn my classmates into a shish-kabob with my staff

IMAG0984However the only time we worked with the bo-staff is to do the bo kata or the bunkai. I did not care for this kata. As you can see by the picture of my hand, I do not have much dexterity and it is hard for me to curl my fingers around an object. My arms are not long either, so raising a bo-staff over my head for a block is out of the question. I learned very early in karate there is no changing or modifying a kata. I did the best I could with the kata because it was a requirement for advancing to the next rank.

Despite the fact that the only time we worked with the bo-staff was to do kata, I did feel comfortable using it as a weapon. I would go home and work on the striking and blocking techniques that were easiest for me to do and still maintain control of the staff. Before too much longer I began collecting broom handles and dow rods and placing them around the house. I even had a stick in one of the corners at the office I worked in. It was provided for me so I could use it to press the elevator buttons since they were slightly out of reach. Anytime I needed to go to another office on the second or third floor, I had my stick in hand. After working for the agency for several years, one of the elected officials realized I knew how to use it as a weapon and would steer clear of me in a jokingly manner of course.

The Time I Almost Used My Skills

I will say that having a stick around the office was beneficial. I worked for a local government agency and regularly had to deal with the public. Not all citizens were full of sunshine and happiness coming to our office. On one such day, my boss and I were sitting at the main conference table having a chat. The rest of the staff was either out to lunch or out in the field. A citizen came into the office upset over a noticed that they had received. They made complaints and accusations about a particular staff member. There was a partition with a counter top that separated me and my boss from the citizen. In a fit of anger, that citizen came around the counter very fast. As they made their way I jumped up from my seat and grabbed my stick. I got in front of my boss with my stick in hand in a ready position. I had already sized up the person and knew which areas of the body I was going to attack. That person didn’t get any closer once they realized I was ready to defend my office and co-worker.

The bo-staff isn’t the only weapon I am familiar with using. In my jujitsu class, we learned how to defend ourselves from batons, clubs, and edged weapons. Since we are “civilians” we learned a few striking techniques with the weapons so we would know what to do once we disarmed the attacker. As far as I have seen in my local area, if a person wants to learn a specific weapon system then there is the Iaido (samurai sword) class. Again, where is the practicality of samurai sword class when people do not regularly carry swords? Unless your names are Conner or Duncan MacLeod then you might get away with carrying a sword everywhere. However some of the dojos in my area do offer a more in-depth training session on weapons. These classes and seminars were mostly designed and advertised for people working in the public safety profession.

Defensive Bladed Weapons Seminar

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I am using energy, not strength, to hold up Professor Ernie Boggs from hitting the ground. This was taken at the West Virginia Public Safety Expo 2013.

A few years ago I was fortunate enough to attend such seminar. This seminar was specifically developed for law enforcement officers and public safety officials. The focus was on edged weapons. The seminar was taught by Professor Ernie Boggs. I was excited to find out that I would get to learn from him. Many of my classmates I practiced karate with over the years had been to several of Bogg’s seminars. My classmates only had good things to say about his seminars. I also knew that Boggs would have an assistant instructor with him. I was most excited to work out with the assistant since that instructor knew me from a very young age and had been following my progress in martial arts. This was the person I remember my father telling me about when he was working road patrol.

I practiced a variety of offensive and defensive techniques with a knife for 8 hours. The best part is that Professor Boggs understood I had limitations. He and the members of his entourage worked to modify techniques so I could execute the moves effectively. Boggs even found a practice knife that would work for my hands specifically. I learned how to strike and block attacks. I learned where all of the vital areas in the lower half of the body.

In the last year, I have become fascinated with the Filipino art of Kali and learning as much as I can from YouTube videos with Doug Marcaida, Brian Johns, and Jackie Bradbury. I would like to continue exploring various weapons and try to find one that will fit my needs perfectly. Maybe perhaps I will take a page out of ninjutsu history and use everyday items that are within reach as weapons for self-defense. The next post we will look at using assistive devices that people with disabilities can use for defending themselves.

I would like to hear from you the readers about your experiences with weapons. Have you been able to adapt a weapons system to your disability? Feel free to comment below and share your story.

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