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Old 07-29-2008, 11:55 AM   #1
Marie Noelle Fequiere
 
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Special people and Aikido

Yesterday, at the supermarket, I ran into a former student. I used to teach both him and his mother, more than five years ago, in my first Karate school, when I was helping Sensei with the beginners classes. Let's call him Jimmy.
Jimmy is special. When he was already in his late thirties, he decided to socialize outside of his family circle, and he asked for Karate classes. His mother enrolled with him, in order to encourage him in this new adventure. I think that they made it to seventh kyu. I did not even recognize him. He recognized me. He explained that his mother and him now live most of the time in Canada, and that he practiced Taekwondo there. He made it to blue belt, I do not remember why he stopped. I looked at Jimmy. He lost a lot of weight, wich is excellent, and he looks more mature, and more self confident. Obviously, those martial arts trainings are doing something good to him. I'll bet that he no longer needs his mom to take classes with him. He asked me what I'm doing, and I mentioned Aikido. He asked what it was, and I explained that we use he opponent's momentum against him instead of hitting him. He was very enthusiastic, and he made me write on a piece of paper the name of this martial art he had never heard about before. I assured him that he will probably find some good schools in Canada. Then, I remembered with horror having learned a few months ago that some instructors only accept smart people in their school. Jimmy was lucky enough to have found nice instructors so far, if he gets turned down because of his condition, it will be devastated. Now, I'm a bit worried.
I often read in magazines about challenged people succeeding in striking arts, but so far, I have never read about this happening in Aikido schools. But it is also true that martial arts magazines do not talk much about Aikido. So please, those of you who know special people training in Aikido, tell me about it.
My first Karate instructor would take just anyone who stepped in his school. He even tried to teach a pair of African boys who had both lost both feet to landmines (how they ended up in Ha´ti is a long story). In the end, it did not work because prostatic limbs are often uncomfortable to wear, and after a while, the kids were in pain. So their adoptive mother decided that this was not the right activity for them.
A fiasco? Maybe not. Maybe they will remember the nice Sensei who tried his best to make them be like all the other children.
I don't know, I just wanted to share this with you guys.
I'm waiting for you own stories.
Peace to you all.
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Old 07-29-2008, 12:34 PM   #2
Howard Popkin
Dojo: Popkin-Brogna 大東流合気柔術銀柔会
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Re: Special people and Aikido

Ole Kingston - Daitoryu Aikijujutsu Roppokai - Denmark

Read about Ole here - http://www.aikidojournal.com/article.php?articleID=293

Ole is the Roppokai's most senior non-Japanese. Many of my students practice with me because Ole effortlessly threw them around.

Ole also has the most positive outlook. He is a true hero.

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to write about him.

Howard Popkin
Daitoryu Aikijujutsu Roppokai
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Old 07-29-2008, 12:42 PM   #3
cherif morsi
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Re: Special people and Aikido

Dear Marie Noelle

Your story rang a bell as I just came back from a seminar in France (Tamura + Yamada + Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba) and we had two yudanshas (black belts) both with an arm missing and I can assure you they did brilliant aikido despite their severe disabilities and both seemed to really enjoy it.
Also, one of O sensei's ushi deshis, Sugano shihan, has been teaching in seminars with a missing leg for a couple of years or so and you almost forget it when you watch him.
I think it needs determination and stamina to just keep on moving in life after such traumatic events let alone practice and/or teach aikido!
Concerning "special people", I think it is a lot more difficult for obvious reasons but if Jimmy reached blue belt in TWD, that means a lot and is actually touching. Furthermore, it shows he can progress in sports and has that extra stamina a lot of us lack to overcome his own fears and insecurities.
These people are for me REAL heroes and should always be mentioned as true role models.

Cherif
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Old 07-29-2008, 12:44 PM   #4
DonMagee
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Re: Special people and Aikido

Honestly, we have a guy who I suspect has a mental handicap who trains in bjj with us. He is a huge liability. He has gotten far in karate, but it seems he is unable to understand restraint and control in grappling situations. Most of us are able to keep ourselves safe and we always watch out for the others.

I would be very scared if he was allows complaint control of something like my wrist. There have been a few times where I've had to escape from sudden injury in drills with him. The wrist injures very quickly and there are other aikido moves I don't think I would ever let him perform on me.

Playing tag with some pads is safe, even if he has no control I might at worst get a black eye. But an armbar with no control and the kind of strength he has could give me a very bad injury.

- Don
"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough" - Albert Einstein
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Old 07-29-2008, 12:57 PM   #5
Ewan Wilson
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Re: Special people and Aikido

Don,

Yikes, that must be a difficult situation! Awkward I'll bet. Your honesty is refreshing, if a member of the class could potentially damage others through a lack of understanding of the importance of restraint, there is cause for concern. It's a poser for sure, as you wouldn't want to exclude any willing participants but have the safety of others to consider.
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Old 07-29-2008, 01:47 PM   #6
Marie Noelle Fequiere
 
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Re: Special people and Aikido

Quote:
Don Magee wrote: View Post
Honestly, we have a guy who I suspect has a mental handicap who trains in bjj with us. He is a huge liability. He has gotten far in karate, but it seems he is unable to understand restraint and control in grappling situations. Most of us are able to keep ourselves safe and we always watch out for the others.

I would be very scared if he was allows complaint control of something like my wrist. There have been a few times where I've had to escape from sudden injury in drills with him. The wrist injures very quickly and there are other aikido moves I don't think I would ever let him perform on me.

Playing tag with some pads is safe, even if he has no control I might at worst get a black eye. But an armbar with no control and the kind of strength he has could give me a very bad injury.
Ouch. I didn't think of that. But I do remember practicing with Jimmy a self defense technique that required some grappling (Sensei's philosophy was that in self defense, anything that works is good, whatever style it comes from. So I often borrowed techniques from Black Belt Magazine), and he did not seem to get overly exited, and he did not hurt me. Of course, like you say, the wrist is more delicate.
But Sensei also insisted that special need students required extra attention and supervising.
That's an important subject you are raising.
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Old 07-29-2008, 06:54 PM   #7
Janet Rosen
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Re: Special people and Aikido

I train with an adult with down's syndrome sometimes. He is very sincere, does the best he can, is always humble in accepting feedback from the instructor, and in the several years he has been training has made significant improvement in his proprioception,body awareness, moving and rolling, etc.

Janet Rosen
http://www.zanshinart.com
"peace will enter when hate is gone"--percy mayfield
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Old 07-31-2008, 07:45 PM   #8
crbateman
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Re: Special people and Aikido

I have trained with a couple of mentally "challenged" individuals. I totally understand the obstacles, not only to them, but to those who train with them.

However, I think that the object is to be a little better today than you were yesterday, and a little better tomorrow than you are today. Despite their handicaps, both these people grew in their Aikido, albeit very slowly. And they derived much enjoyment and satisfaction in the process. It is after all about pushing out one's own envelope. It's about competing with oneself, and who more than a challenged individual could better understand this. They do it every day just to live. I'm not sure either of them grasped the physics involved, but I think that through repetition and dedication, they both "got it" on a more instinctive level.

And, I think the able people who trained with them, myself included, benefited from their enthusiasm, delighted in their progress, all the while enhancing our own control and awareness, as was necessary in working with them.

Of course, the caveat must apply that everybody is different, and Aikido is not without risks, and not for everybody. But those willing to put forth the effort should be given a chance if they can do so with relative safety.

Last edited by crbateman : 07-31-2008 at 07:47 PM.
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Old 08-02-2008, 06:54 PM   #9
Lee Mulgrew
Dojo: Dynamic Aikido Noquet Hartlepool England
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Re: Special people and Aikido

firstly, let me say that the thought of a "sensei" who only "accepts" "smart" people (note the over use of ""), is very disturbing to me. at my dojo we have had what people might call students with special requirements (I see no reason to treat them any differently). One woman had a learning difficulty (dont get me wrong here, she was doing 2 degrees), she was welcomed into the organisation just like anybody else and to this day remains a good friend. she did have problems passing gradings because of her memory and the stress etc. but apart from what she gained from aikido (confidence, friends etc.) the rest of the class gained so much more from her. Another very good friend has cerebral palsy and he does just fine. his coordination has improved I think (but not his sense of humour!) and at the moment he is 3rd kyu I think. he also does kickboxing and claims he is really good at it (I wont entirely believe him until he lands a flying knee to my head!).

Aikdo is for EVERYONE regardless of gender, creed, race, ability, etc. etc.
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Old 08-04-2008, 06:51 AM   #10
DonMagee
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Re: Special people and Aikido

But is it doing more harm then good for someone to attempt to teach people with speical needs without special training?

I school, there are teachers who have special training to deal with special needs students. So far in my martial arts career, I have never been taught how to teach the blind, mentally handicapped, etc. What if what I think is the right way to help them is really wrong?

Outside of that, I really have a problem with being all inclusive. For example, where I train judo there is a gymnastics class prior to it. Now if we show up eairly to judo, we can not go in and wait, because there is a girl there whos religion forbids men watching her work out. What if this girl wanted to train judo? You can't be inclusive to everyone. I knew a guy with no arms who really wanted to fight MMA. What do you tell this guy? I mean how do you teach a guy with no arms to punch?

- Don
"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough" - Albert Einstein
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Old 08-04-2008, 08:15 AM   #11
Angela Dunn
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Re: Special people and Aikido

But is it doing more harm then good for someone to attempt to teach people with special needs without special training?

Obviously that would depend on the special need and your definition of them but I think most people with special needs would be able to communicate if something was harmful to them teaching and learning wise.

I school, there are teachers who have special training to deal with special needs students. So far in my martial arts career, I have never been taught how to teach the blind, mentally handicapped, etc. What if what I think is the right way to help them is really wrong?
And again it is dependant on your location but as far as I gather it is just learning alternative teaching methods to teach them students. Everyone os different, I mean do you have just one method for showing your class a move or do you have to find an alternative method of demonstration if students just are not getting it. Yes there is a lack of awareness and training in martial arts on how to deal with people with alternative needs but does that mean they should be excluded?I am sure someone more qualified will correct me if I am wrong.

Outside of that, I really have a problem with being all inclusive. For example, where I train judo do, we can not go in and wait, because there is a girl there whos religion forbids men watching her work out. What if this girl wanted to train judo? You can't be inclusive to everyone.

Theres many reasons why you would not be able to get into the hall early. For instance there is a childrens gymnastics class in the hall where we train before hand. We are not aloud to go in because of that and that is reasonable. If a persons religion forbids men watching her working out with men watching then surely it would not be reasonable for her to join a group of men. But then it would be her responsibility to find a class that could accommodate that need. Disability and special needs are not religion though so its not a comparrision that could be made. If a person is capable of training and the only restriction on that is other peoples understanding and attitudes then is it fair for a Sensei to exclude that person? Or Could it be used as an opportunity for people to learn how to adapt not only attitudes but techniques, which I thought was part of the point of aikido anyway.

Oh and yes I do say that as a person with special needs. Sometimes people are shocked when they learn that as I look "normal" and seem to be able to cope with techniques well. I am often also the youngest there and can occasionally be the only lady on the mat. It can be frustrating for both sides sometimes, it definitely can be frustrating for me when yet again I am one of the people left struggling trying to figure out what is going on, I suspect it can even be annoying for people when I have rolled into them or have to be shown what to do for the 10th time in the space of five minutes. But maybe that is just another thing to be adapted to in a class with none native english speakers, age differnances, people with various injuries to be aware of and people who have been taught a method a different way I have learnt. Or maybe I got lucky to be in a class with people who accept people for who they are as long as they are willing to learn.
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Old 08-04-2008, 10:17 AM   #12
crbateman
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Re: Special people and Aikido

Don, I don't think there is anything that is absolute... If Aikido training in one instance provides benefit for all involved, then where is the harm? Conversely, if it is truly a waste of time in another instance, then there is no shame in discontinuing. Each situation is different.

I can, however, tell you that receiving "special training" in dealing with challenged individuals is not necessarily a guarantee of improved results. I have a low-functioning autistic grandson, who despite his disabilities, lives what is, for him, a very happy and full life. And I have personally seen him respond in amazing fashion to people whose only training was that they cared about him on a level he could sense, and he "clicked" with them. On the other hand, I have seen some therapists, teachers and the like, with briefcases full of certificates and degrees, who simply could not get past his "insincerity detector".

Each situation is different, so I don't begrudge anyone who is willing to try.
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Old 08-04-2008, 02:44 PM   #13
Marie Noelle Fequiere
 
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Re: Special people and Aikido

I see where the disparity of opinions comes from: It's about the perception of the problem. I live in a poor country, where the schools specialized in teaching challenged people are few and overwhelmed. I received a private message from an aikidoist who works in a special program aimed at special people - people with mental retardation of all kinds, ADHD, etc... Such programs do not exist in Ha´ti. There are not enough therapists to teach all those needy kids how to read, so teaching them martial arts is not really a priority. Parents who want something more for their child - and who can afford it - have to turn to people who are may not be qualified, but are willing to help.
My first Karate instructor had only about two years of psychology behind him - he actually operated a security company -, but he loved children, and he had a big heart. On top of that, I was struggling with my own problems at the time, and he decided that teaching would teach me a lot. I really struggled with some of those kids, I made mistakes, but the desire of the parents to give their kid everything they could get their hands on was moving.
Jimmy was lucky to be born in a wealthy family, and I am sure that as soon as they could, his parents travelled with him to take him to the best doctors and the best therapists, and this may be the reason why he was easy to teach. He was very shy, but very disciplined and very determined. He had a hard time learning how to kick, but his punch packed a wallop. So many children are not as lucky. So, the question is, when nobody is qualified to help, can someone with a big heart give it a try?
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