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Martial Arts for Disabled People

Posted Jun 18 2009 12:11am

A few years back, when I was at my previous school, the focus was on training kids, and for some reason many of the kids were autistic to varying degrees. Prior to meeting these kids, I really had no idea what autism was. I mean, in a very abstract way, autism was to me something that Rainman had... idiot savante type stuff. Crazy math skills and not much else.

Turns out, lots of kids are autistic and more are being diagnosed all the time. While it's unclear as to what is causing the dramatic increase in the number of autistic kids, I've heard and read many theories. While some will point to over-diagnosis and medical fraud, I just don't see it. The kids I met were clearly struggling to make his body follow his mind's instructions. The theory that seems most reasonable to me is the increase in multi-use vaccinations that use what is in theory a safe form of mercury, thimerosal, as a stabilizer/preservative. Some of the theories point to environment, food allergies, but we began using this mercury preservative and multi-use vaccinations in the late 80s and miraculously began seeing an upward trend in diagnosed autism. Now, this could be like the Global Warming/Pirate relationship outlined here. But it just seems reasonable to me.

On martial arts forums, such as or and elsewhere, the topic of other martial artists who have different disabilities comes up. Can a person in a wheelchair become a black belt in karate? Can a guy with one leg do a flying sidekick and make it work? Of course, the answer is, it depends upon the person, the disability and the particular martial arts style. It would be very difficult for someone in a wheelchair to grapple, for example. I have seen a person with only one usable arm do pretty well, however. I think this is an interesting question.

Another question that I find interesting is this. I'm deeply troubled by the entire idea of McDojos, 9 year old black belts and all of the bogus, money grubbing that goes along with it. That said, for kids with learning disabilities such as autism, is learning in a McDojo beneficial? Does anyone have experience working with autistic or disabled people in their schools?
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