Why Are the Martial Arts so Great for People with Disabilities?

Posted June 27, 2015 by  & filed under Martial Arts as Education.

As a parent of a child diagnosed on the Autism spectrum, I can relate in a different way and on a difference scale to those people looking for activities to get their child involved with that won’t cause them to feel ostracized, not able to keep up with peers, or like they are frustrating the instructors. Will little Johnny be made fun of? Will he be too much of a distraction for the others in the activity? Will Jane feel too badly about herself if she can’t do what the others can and keep up in the same way? Yep, I have asked myself the same questions as I considered what I could do to help my child become a more well rounded, self confident, positive contributing member of society. And, whether you or your child have physical, emotional, or mental disabilities, all can feel the discomfort associated with self doubt and putting one’s self or someone you love in harms way. The disability is hard enough to contend with, adding the stress of how others react to it can also, at times, do its own damage.I know for me, my son’s own struggles were more clearly evident in social settings. I was looking for an activity that would force him have to interact with peers as well as something that might assist with helping him to learn more focus because he also struggled with ADHD. As I did more research, I found that while there were many wonderful activities available to youngsters and adults alike, Martial Arts seemed like the best fit by far for a number of poignant reasons.

Martial Arts Benefits for the Disabled… or anyone!

It’s a great way to get exercise!

To begin with the obvious, it was nice to know that getting my son involved in martial arts as a way to get some much needed exercise would help him with stamina, flexibility, and strength. What I didn’t anticipate but happily found was that he quickly became much more coordinated. For those people that are dealing with a physical disability, the physical therapy they often undergo to increase strength and flexibility in their limbs is mimicked in some ways with the strict stretching regimen most martial arts schools have their students perform before starting class as well as the repetitive kicking, punching, holding, and blocking techniques they are required to learn in getting a base set of skills to learn how to properly defend themselves. These movements, over time, promote increased strength and coordination.

Need a Dose of Self Confidence Anyone?

Another wonderful benefit of martial arts is that in virtually every discipline offered, masters and instructors core curriculum includes exercises and teaching that helps to build leadership skills and self confidence. Students are learning in a praise rich environment where student and instructor are often being asked to look for the positive each effort given, whether correction is given or not. As kids begin to recognize that there are many things do well and see themselves progress, parents and peers often remark at how an inner self confidence begins to emerge evidenced by their child becoming more social in situations where they were often very shy and eluding to more friendships developing in their social circles.

The value of learning how to focus!

Having two children that struggle with ADHD and having endured it myself all these years, I can honestly say that finding anything non pharmaceutical that aids in helping a person to better focus on achieving goals and getting through tasks is a valuable tool indeed!

What does R-E-S-P-E-C-T mean?

To those in the martial arts, respect means a lot of things. It means showing instructors and elders a sense of appreciation for their efforts to teach. It also means showing their fellow students and competitors recognition for their effort and achievement. Students are often taught many ways to show respect to others in life in how they carry themselves. In martial arts class, students learn how being quiet and waiting patiently for another to finish speaking is a way of showing leadership and respect. Among other things, they are taught that always trying their hardest is also a way of showing themselves and their instructors respect. Making sure raise your hand before asking a question, saying thank you sir or ma’am to your instructor, parent, or other adult as a way of addressing them and showing appreciation is a way of displaying respect.  You will be surprised at how much more polite your child might become once enrolled in a karate class.

Yes, but how will they be able to do this with my kid since he/she is different?

One of the things that makes martial arts training more unique, as an activity to consider, than some others might be, and more effective as a result, is that many martial arts organizations have recognized the benefits of training for all and especially for those with disabilities. Because of this, there are a number of organizations that have offered instructors of their discipline specialized training in how to teach people with specific types of disabilities, whether they be cognitive or physical. There are often different techniques used to teach someone with impaired mobility, or lower cognitive function and certainly different techniques used to teach people with short attention spans. Such instructors have been trained in proven techniques that have helped their students reach into potential they didn’t even realize they had. You can learn more about some of these techniques at Martial Arts Training for the Disabled and Adaptive Martial Arts.

How will I know it is working?

Most students and parents of students note marked differences in themselves or their children shortly after martial arts training begins. Beyond the obvious increase in stamina, flexibility, and strength experienced, people have best described the personality changes noticed as a “coming out of ones shell”. I the case of my son, he stepped into an entire class of “misfit toys” and fit right in. Most of the children in his beginning karate class were a little quirky in their own way. They all observed the constant and continuous praise each student was receiving and were part of the celebration and clapping at the progress made by each. They were all trained at the same time on the many ways to show their fellow students and instructors respect. And they seemed to become closer for it with each passing class. As my son made many friends in his karate class and was forced into more and more interactions that required he communicate and do so in somewhat controlled conditions, he began to get better at it and find that his presence was enjoyed by his peer group. Once this happened it began to happen for him in his school setting as well. And I, well I just smiled a lot more at seeing my son actually had made some new friends that enjoyed spending time with him. Many parents have trouble relating to how much of an achievement that might be, but to me, and to my son, it was absolutely priceless.

How do I get myself or child enrolled in one of these martial arts schools?

Well you need to first find a school near you that offers the sort of martial arts you think would be best for you or your child. You can learn more about different types of martial arts disciplines here. You also will want to contact the school to make sure they have specialized training in teaching students with the specific sort of disability you or your child have. There are many good questions to ask that will help you know that the school you are considering might be a good fit for you. You can learn more about the best questions to ask and what to look for in a good martial arts school, please visit Find the Right Martial Arts School for You. And finally, to begin searching for a martial arts school near you please visit Find A School and begin your wonderful journey today.

Written by Mara Rudolph Fineshriber

Mother of  a 10 year old first degree black belt in Taekwondo

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Fake Martial Arts Schools in New York – How to Spot a McDojo, PART 4

This four-part article series highlights some of the obvious signs that your martial art gym – “dojo” – or class isn’t actually the genuine article.

Welcome to the final installment of this four-part article series on the signs that your martial arts school in New York may be a “McDojo” and not the genuine article you were hoping for. In the previous two installments, we covered the following points:

Sign # 1: There are 10-year olds running around with black belts.

Sign # 2: They offer a “fast-track” to earning a black belt.

Sign # 3: Your “master” doesn’t look very much like a Martial Arts New Yorkmaster.

Sign # 4: The classes are pithy with very little focus on actual combat.

Let’s take a look at two final indications before summing up the key issues with learning a martial art through a McDojo.

Sign # 5: The class content focuses mostly on warm-ups and exercise, rather than actual martial arts technique

If you find yourself spending the first 10 minutes of the lesson stretching, the next 30 minutes dancing around to a beat, punching and kicking the air and the final 10 minutes “warming down,” you might want to rethink your choice of martial arts school. If you’re not learning any valuable grappling, wrestling, punching, kicking and self-defense technique, then chances are you’ve walked slap-bang into a McDojo!

Sign # 6: There are a lot of kids everywhere

NYC martial arts schools that specialize in teaching youngsters are probably going to provide more of a watered down version, because it’s safer that way. The last thing they want on their hands is a furious parent threatening them with a lawsuit because their 6-year old knife-jacked the neighbor’s cat. These kinds of establishments are going to reward kids more easily, too, because youngsters tend to get bored and may throw in the towel if they don’t move up a belt level in the first few months.

Key Problems with Studying at a McDojo

This may seem fairly obvious: the problem with learning a martial art through a McDojo is that you’re not actually learning a martial art. Rather, you’re getting exercise through NYC Martial Artsclasses that are teaching you a watered down, even lazy version of the particular form of martial art you’ve chosen. The skills you acquire and the physical feats you achieve simply could not measure up to a student who is learning from a genuine master. Even if you have a black belt, you wouldn’t stand a chance against someone half your age with the same belt.

This is where the real issues arise: the false sense of achievement and of capability. While true martial arts teach the individual to avoid combat and ultimately, to seek peace, those with a half-baked education in combat technique will probably want to practice it on the first irritating drunkard they come across. This puts TWO people at risk, because that “drunkard” may be able to show you a thing or two about real-life combat your McDojo classes failed to.

And you don’t want to have to learn that lesson the hard way.

Ultimately, if you’ve signed up for martial arts at New York studio because you want to get fit and look amazing with your shirt off, then as long as you’re getting the workout you want, you should be fine. But, if you want to truly master a form of martial art and all the various tiers that come with it – physical skill, self-defense, mental control and code of ethics – you should be wary of signing up with a McDojo.

Fake Martial Arts Schools in Los Angeles: How to Spot a McDojo, PART 3

This four-part article series highlights some of the obvious signs that your martial art gym – “dojo” – or class isn’t actually the genuine article.

Welcome to the third installment of this four-part article series on the signs that a Los Angeles martial arts school may be a “McDojo” and may not be providing students with a genuine education. Previously, we discussed the following points:

Sign # 1: There are 10-year olds running around with black belts.

Sign # 2: They offer a “fast-track” to earning a black belt.

Black belt is the highest level of achievement in the martial art forms that offer a belt ranking system. It takes many, many years of determination, dedication and toil to achieve this belt. There is no fast track and children of only 10 are highly unlikely to have the physical strength, dexterity and stamina to compete with a genuine black belt master.

Let’s take a look at a few other warning signs…

Sign # 3: Your “master” doesn’t look very much like a master

This may fall under the axiom “don’t judge a book Los Angeles Martial Arts Schoolby its cover,” but it’s worth taking into consideration, especially if have noticed other suspicious signs. What does a true martial arts instructor or master look like? Well, sure, you can hope for an ancient Japanese dude with a beard, but chances are you won’t get him. A rule of thumb is this…

Martial arts expertise comes with experience and with many, many years’ worth of dedication. Therefore, an older master or instructor is usually a good thing. USUALLY. They must still be able to pull off the moves themselves. Additionally, they should be exceptionally fit. A fat slob of an instructor is not a good sign; it means they don’t practice their craft often enough or even at all. If they did, their vision of their toes wouldn’t be obstructed by a great rolling gut.

If you walk into a Los Angeles martial arts school and find your instructor to be in his or her early 20’s, you may want to find out more about their credentials and experience. Also ask about what their classes entail. If you’re only there to get a great workout, to lose weight and to improve your physical appearance, this is probably no concern of yours. But if you really want to master a form of martial arts, you are going to have to be a little judgmental. If it looks like your instructor couldn’t perform in real combat, they may not be able to give you the kind of education you want.

Sign # 4: The classes are pithy with very little focus on actual combat

The martial arts classes that LA Martial Artsare aimed at increasing fitness, while making their students feel like they’re actually learning a martial art don’t typically include much physical combat. A true martial arts class will have students learning a great variety of moves, maneuvers and combat techniques, which they practice on each other (obviously using mild force.) McDojos tend to specialize in classes with very little physical contact between students and with no grappling or fighting being practiced.

If this is the case, then what do they teach?

Stay Tuned for Part 4!

To find out what McDojos do tend to teach and some other signs your LA martial arts school may be a fraud, stay tuned for the final installment of this four-part article series.

Fake Martial Arts Schools in San Francisco – How to Spot a McDojo, PART 2

This four-part article series highlights some of the obvious signs that your martial art gym – “dojo” – or class isn’t actually the genuine article.

Welcome to the second installment of this four-part article series on how to recognize a McDojo and realize that you won’t get the authentic martial arts training you may be looking for. As we mentioned in Part 1 of this article series, there has been a rise in the number of San Francisco martial arts schools, classes and gyms over the past few decades, which can probably be attributed to the popularity of martial arts in the media. With martial arts film stars and action movies making us “ooh” and “aah” over the cool and probably physically impossible moves they pull off, it’s no wonder we all secretly want to become martial arts experts ourselves.

What’s wrong with this?

McDojo McNo-no

The problem with many of the martial arts classes offered by San Francisco schools is that they do not comply with the strict San Francisco Martial Arts Schoolscodes revered and upheld by true martial arts masters. Rather what they teach is a vastly “watered down” version of the original form and while you think you are learning the skills necessary to defend yourself, in a real life context, you’re likely to get your lights punched out.

Sure, you may find yourself getting fitter and slimmer, which is always a decent benefit, but the false sense of confidence brought about by owning a high-ranking belt in a martial art could get you into serious trouble. You may be a black belt in karate… but did you really earn that black belt? Could you go up against a real black belt opponent? Probably not. Even Chuck Norris might get his butt whipped by Bruce Lee.

So, what are the signs your dojo might be a McDojo? Let’s get to it!

Sign # 1: There are 10-year olds running around with black belts

It’s pure logic. If you walk into a martial arts school in San Francisco and there are young Martial Arts School in San Franciscochildren holding the same colored belts as their instructor, there’s something fishy going on. Mastering a martial art takes many years of dedicated practice and several hours per day honing your skills. It requires discipline, application and dedication. True masters of martial arts – those who hold real black belts – have dedicated their lives to learning and practicing.

While it’s really nice that there are martial arts schools in San Francisco that cater to little kids and, in doing so, provide them with good and fun exercise, it’s not the real thing and you’ll have to ask yourself if this is the kind of establishment you want to learn from. If you had to pit one of those 10-year olds with a black belt against a grown man with NO martial arts experience whatsoever, you can guess who will likely come out on top.

Sign # 2: They offer a “fast-track” to earning a black belt

If you have your eyes on the prize and want to earn the highest status in your martial art, it will take time and many years of practice, sweat and dedication. If your San Francisco martial arts school offers black belt status in two years or less, they’re probably a McDojo. There is no fast track. If you apply yourself full throttle, you can earn a black belt in three to five years.

Stay Tuned for Part 3

To find out more of the signs your San Francisco martial arts school may be a McDojo, stay tuned for the third installment of this four-part article series.

Fake Martial Arts Schools in Los Angeles – How to Spot a McDojo, PART 1

This four-part article series highlights some of the obvious signs that your martial art gym – “dojo” – or class isn’t actually the genuine article.

Learning a martial art in Los Angeles offers residents a whole spectrum of benefits. In addition to more obvious ones, such as rock-hard fitness and a body to match, you should be learning the ability to defend yourself against physical attack. You should also, under the guidance of your experienced and learned master, be learning how to better harness your mind through breathing exercises, meditation and the adherence to certain codes of conducts and ethics.

The martial arts are codified systems of combat tradition, philosophy and beliefs. Each particular form of martial arts – from Taekwondo, Kali and Krav Maga to Karate, Aikido and Kung Fu – has a history and a story. So, Los Angeles residents can expect to learn much more than simply how to high kick a punching bag.

Or can they?

False Martial Arts in Los Angeles: Rise of the McDojos

Los Angeles has seen an increasing number of gyms, studios and other workout venues offering what they term “martial arts classes” and what any true Martial Arts Los Angelesmaster of martial arts will call a “McDojo”. A dojo is a martial arts training class. A McDojo is the fast food version and just like it’s famous counterpart, its offerings are not going to nourish your mind and body the way true martial arts will.

The good news is that there are some very obvious signs a martial arts school in LA is a McDojo and we shall be discussing these in this four-part article series. But first, it’s important that we distinguish between martial arts inspired fitness classes and McDojos, so that the local gyms offering these fitness classes don’t think we’re calling them frauds!

Martial Arts Inspired Fitness Classes in Los Angeles

Learning a martial art form is an exceptional way to get fit and to develop the kind of beach-ready body Californians want. This is because the very nature of the activities and exercises demanded of its students work out every muscle in the body, while also developing stamina, strength, flexibility, speed and dexterity.

Rather than just doing a number of reps one some creaky gym machine that will only really tax one set of muscles, you can sign up for a 45 LA Martial Artsminute class that, using martial arts inspired moves and maneuvers, will give you a killer whole body workout. It’s also way more fun! But just because it may be advertised as “capoeira class” or “krav maga workout” or “kickboxing” doesn’t mean you are actually going to master these martial art disciplines.

Sure, you might learn a couple of cool moves, but the focus of the kind of martial art classes typically offered by conventional gyms in Los Angeles is fitness. So don’t think you can challenge the next beefcake who offends you at the bar.

Having said all this, there are some gyms in Los Angeles that DO offer the genuine article, so the best course of action is to speak to them as well as the person who runs the classes. If it’s a 29-year old Jane Fonda look-a-like wearing leg warmers and a sweatband, you’re probably not looking at the real thing, but rather a martial arts inspired workout. There’s nothing wrong with that, but recognize it for what it is and don’t expect to become the next Bruce Lee.

Stay Tuned for Part 2

Now that you have an idea of what a McDojo is and how true martial arts classes differ from martial arts inspired fitness classes, we can delve into how to recognize a McDojo in the second installment of this four-part article series.

Love Taekwondo? 36 Facts NYC’ Martial Arts Aficionados Should Know, PART 4

This four-part article series presents 36 different facts people who are interested in Taekwondo should know about this Korean martial art system.

Welcome to the final installment of this four-part article series, which presents 36 interesting and important facts about the martial art system taking NYC by storm: Taekwondo! From Part 1 through to Part 3, we have explored the combat techniques employed by Taekwondo; we have taken a brief look at its history and popularization in the West and we’ve found Taekwondo to be both a self-defense system and a competitive combat sport.

We have only 9 interesting facts left to explore, so let’s get started!

Fact # 28: Interested in putting your skills to the test? Whether you want to put your skills to the test in a formal environment, you’ll be happy to hear that there are many regional, national and international Taekwondo tournaments to participate in and NYC is home to many! If you’ve got your eyes on the prize, there are always the Olympic Games to prepare for.

Fact # 29: The divisions organized for NYC Martial Arts competition are based upon skill level and age, so no matter how young or old or Taekwondo Classes in NYCexperienced or inexperienced you are, you should have the opportunity to compete.

Fact # 30: If you sign up for Taekwondo classes in NYC, you can expect to learn quite a bit of the Korean language! This is because commands and prompts are given in Korean. The same commands are used in competition, which is why all martial arts studios will expect you to learn them.

Fact # 31: Skill and achievement in Taekwondo are reflected by the color of your belt. From the lowest level to the highest: white, yellow, green, blue, red and black. It will take you many, many years of dedication and practice to achieve black belt. If any NYC dojo, gym or studio offers you a “fast track” to the top, they are not to be trusted. There is only one way to become a skilled Taekwondo fighter and that’s through hard work.

Fact # 32: Taekwondo competitions may look fierce and the moves difficult to pull off, but the risk of serious injury is actually very low! Most of the time, competitors walk away from sparring with little more than a few bruises and perhaps some stiff muscles. The rules governing Taekwondo are strict and are in place to protect competitors from harm.

Fact # 33: One of the first and most important lessons all NYC residents will learn is the five Tenets of Taekwondo. These tenets are intended to guide NYC Martial Artsstudents through their lives and to gently influence absolutely everything they do, from their actions and choices to the very foundations of their decision-making.

They are:

  • Courtesy (Ye-Ui)
  • Perseverance (In-Nae)
  • Integrity (Yom-Chi)
  • Invincibility (Beakjul-Bool-Gul)
  • Self-discipline (Guk-Gi)

Fact # 34: Taekwondo students in NYC are required to take an oath, which essentially teaches them to be respectful, honorable and responsible:

I undertake to comply with the principles of Taekwondo.
I undertake to respect my coaches and all superiors.
I undertake to abuse Taekwondo never.
I pledge to stand up for freedom and justice.
I undertake to cooperate in the creation of a more peaceful world.

————- Choi Hong Hi

Fact # 35: The World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) is the biggest tournament organization and its rules and regulations are applied to competitions held by the Olympic Games.

Fact # 36: Taekwondo isn’t just a fantastic fitness and self-defense system; it’s also a platform upon which students can develop their whole character, from their mind and heart to their body and soul.

Love Taekwondo? 36 Facts Los Angeles’s Martial Arts Aficionados Should Know, PART 3

This four-part article series presents 36 different facts people who are interested in Taekwondo should know about this Korean martial art system.

Welcome to the third installment of this four-part article series, which presents 36 interesting and important facts about the martial art system taking Los Angeles by storm: Taekwondo! In Part 2, we delved a little deeper into Taekwondo training: learning that it is about more than just mastering combat technique, but that it places equal emphasis on breathing, control, discipline, morality and an understanding of philosophy.

We also discovered that Taekwondo is one of only two martial arts forms that are included in the Olympic games, so Los Angeles residents can look forward to some pretty incredible competition should they take their training to professional heights.

We’re halfway through our facts, so let’s continue!

Fact # 19: Taekwondo is regarded as a universal art, with people of all ages, genders and from countries all over the world learning this martial art for a great variety of reasons, whether it’s for general fitness, cultural identity or self-defense.

Fact # 20: Taekwondo has full medal status in the Olympic Games, so if you dream of taking your involvement in this martial art to professional levels, there is a lot of opportunity for competition and glory.

Fact # 21: Taekwondo specializes in unarmed combat, which enables students to defend themselves using a suite of defensive and offensive (counterattack) moves. Your weapons? Your hands and feet, of course! Taekwondo Los AngelesIf this concerns you, don’t worry, because with practice and the perfection of technique, you’ll be able to chop a solid block of wood or concrete in half using only the straight edge of your hand.

Fact # 22: Taekwondo schools in Los Angeles will train students to develop their strength, dexterity, flexibility and speed through a variety of drills, cardiovascular and resistance exercises. Remember, though: if you want to progress fast, it’s essential that you practice at home and work on your fitness in and out of the studio.

Fact # 23: Taekwondo, as a martial art form, was developed over a thousand years ago as a way to enable Korean militia in the army to defend themselves in times of war. It was also intended to keep them physically fit when off the battlefield.

Fact # 24: “USA Taekwondo” is the name of the governing body of this Martial Arts Los Angelesmartial art system in America.

Fact # 25: Being the national sport of South Korea, this country has a very large and extremely skilled pool of Taekwondo fighters, which compete in any available national and international tournament, including the Olympic Games. Be prepared to meet them when you step onto the mat!

Fact # 26: If you want to see Taekwondo in action, simply keep an eye out for popular public demonstrations! Many Taekwondo schools, clubs and studios in Los Angeles stage these events so that prospective students can get a better idea of what this martial arts system looks like. It also generates greater public awareness of Taekwondo, which is one of the oldest and most revered combat systems.

Fact # 27: Taekwondo is one of the first martial arts systems to include women. Progressive? We think so!

Stay Tuned for Part 4

Stay tuned for the final installment of this four-part article series to find out more interesting facts about Taekwondo, which is one of the most popular martial art systems in Los Angeles.