Martial art is mostly a mental exercise. It is recognizing which tools and technique can be useful in any given situation. So far I have covered that martial arts and self-defense are not always about being physical. You can learn how to avoid physical confrontation through the use of situational awareness. I have also explained that when it comes to martial arts and self-defense, you are not always protecting yourself from an attacker that is human. Sometimes your very own surrounding can be just as deadly. Practicing techniques such as break-falls can minimize your chances of severe injury or death when tripping over the electrical cord to a lamp.
I meet a lot of people and I talk about my experiences in practicing martial arts and how I use many of the techniques I learn in a variety of day to day applications. People usually respond in a positive manner and are awestruck. People then say things about how they would love to learn a martial art or self-defense system because it looks fun or that they do not want to become a victim. As always I reply back with an encouraging statement. As the conversation keeps going people begin to provide excuses on how they are not physically fit or they are not physically capable. My personal favorite “…I am not coordinated and I don’t have any balance…”
If someone is sincere and wants to try martial arts (or another sport/hobby/activity) they shouldn’t let their disability keep them from participating. Same goes for abled body people. For the people who are not disabled and use these excuses I usually look at them and say “HELLO! You are talking to a guy who has had operations from six months of age to the age 16. I am a dwarf and I have very limited mobility! If I can do it, so can you!”
Before you can say “I do not know what I am doing and I don’t want to look like an idiot.” Just remember, no one is expected to know anything when they walk through the door the first time. As I have written in a previous post, walking through the door is the hardest part about learning martial arts. I prefer when new students walk in, they do not know anything about martial arts or self-defense. I can take you from the very beginning and teach the basics such as how to stand, how to block, how to punch, and lastly how to kick.
Coordination, balance, and speed will follow the more you practice. No one gets it after two hours of training. That’s why it is called practice. What does practice make? Perfection! This can be said for anyone participating in any type of activity such as learning the ukulele, hacky sack, doing trick shots with a frisbee, to drawing, or even writing. It doesn’t matter if you are disabled or not, it is the mindset that you will do it and do it well.
I of all people can understand if someone has mobility issues. There are styles of martial arts that will be a better fit for some people than others. When it comes to martial arts there is no one size fits all. You need to find what works for you. A person with mobility issues or arthritis may want to consider a style that focuses on restoring mobility; a style such as Tai Chi, kung fu, or even karate. For me, practicing karate has been a good form of physical therapy and helping me regain mobility and it has allowed me to stay active.
Yoga is something else that can help people with mobility issues. Diamond Dallas Page former WWE wrestler created a yoga system that is specifically designed to help people who had been injured previously and have limited range mobility to having a full range of mobility. Some of the techniques he teaches I have used in the past when I started karate. The first few months in class I could not lift my leg more than a few inches to kick. If I threw a kick I was lucky to reach the person’s ankle. At the beginning of each class, I stretched out my legs slowly. I was careful to not overdo it and go as far as my body would let me go. As each class went on I was able to stretch further and further. Eventually, I could kick as high as my own hip or the upper shin of an average height opponent.
I never did anything that I felt was going to hurt me. I learned what my body was capable of doing. I learned that when throwing a punch only reach as far as the length of your arm. Do not overextend or you will throw yourself off balance. That is when you get hurt. If your opponent’s face is out of your reach then you didn’t need to hit at that moment. It is not worth you overextending your reach and hurting yourself by pulling a muscle or falling because your opponent pulled you the rest of the way off of your feet.
Remember, when it comes to martial arts or self-defense, 98% is mental and 2% physical movement. Take the tools you know you have and can work with ease and make them work for you. There are several modern styles of martial art such as Krav Maga, Jeet Kune Do, Kali, and Brazilian Jiu-jitsu that is good for adapting to people with disabilities. If all you have is a wheelchair, one good arm, and a stick for striking; then you have unlimited options. It is up to you to decide how to use each element to change the outcome of an attack.
It is all about attitude. If you want to do it bad enough you will not let anything hold you back despite the challenges. Take the opportunity to learn how to overcome the challenges and obstacles that come your way. You will gain skills that may make you uniquely qualified for something more rewarding in life.
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