Martial arts was my first love. Being born with CP and the fact that doctors told my parents that I’d never be able to do much on my own, it was my way of feeling somewhat normal—whatever that actually means. In elementary school, I couldn’t wait to get home, just so I could get out of my wheel hair, take off my AFO’s, and watch the Power Rangers. My father raised me in the martial arts since the age of five, starting with traditional karate and then a mix of arts that focused on fighting with sticks and knives. I loved it all, but it wasn’t until we met a gentle giant by the name of Larry Hartsell—who was one of Bruce Lee’s original students—that I was introduced to the art of grappling or ground fighting.
Keep in mind that this was the early 90’s, when the very first UFC came on PPV. I can remember traveling a few hours away with my family to attend one of Larry’s seminars. As I sat on the side watching him instruct, I was floored by the reality that you could throw someone to the ground and apply a choke or joint lock in mere moments. I wanted to learn that, I thought. It was when there was a break in the seminar, that my dad pulled me out on the purple wrestling mats. In was in this moment that Larry taught me how to do a triangle choke with my legs, a move that could put an attacker to sleep in seconds. I was hooked.
This moment shaped the rest of my life, as I am now an instructor under Larry’s organization, the Jeet Kune Do Grappling Association. I was also a three-stripe blue belt in Jiujitsu and the founder of Adaptive Defense Methods, a company I started to teach people within the adaptive community functional self-defense.
It is my conviction, that those with CP and other conditions, should learn to defend themselves, and because I am biased, I believe that a mixture of adaptive clinch fighting, jiujitsu and weapons is the perfect combination. Learning martial arts my whole life has given my body and mind a deep liberation, which is my I think people such as myself, should learn too because it breaks out of the box that is traditional physical therapy.
It’s a great workout for the entire body, it builds confidence, and should you ever have to defend yourself against an attacker (God forbid), you have the skills to do so. The common resistance that I run into, however, is that people are very hesitant to learn how to defend themselves—or there is the belief that one will never have to defend themselves. Truth be told: if you never have to defend yourself, wonderful. On the other hand, though, you have to answer the question of, "What are you willing to lose if you don’t defend yourself?" Think of like this, an attacker wants more than your money or car. Are you willing to surrender your life and body? What if it's more than you? What if it’s about defending your loved ones?'
I’m not saying that you have to be a life long martial artist like me, but I am saying that you owe it to yourself and your loved ones to have a basic knowledge of how to defend yourself if need be. Even if it’s simply becoming better at situational awareness and how to spot a threat or learning how to defend yourself from certain grabs or being thrown from your chair.
As physically challenged people, we have the right to self-defense, not only for ourselves but for our loved ones. In the following articles, I will explain and break down more of what situational awareness is, how to use impact weapons, and basic grappling. In the meantime, please check out the ADM FB page!
Image credit: Brandon Ryan on bottom guarding from punch