Exam grading for disabled students

Discussion in 'Disabled Martial Artists' started by Tes123, Jul 17, 2008.

  1. Tes123

    Tes123 New Member

    Hi all, I am new here. My son is 6.5 years old and has been learning Karate since he was about 5. He has hemiplegia, which is a form of cerebral palsy. The effects are similar to that of a stroke. His right hand and leg are affected and although he can walk and (kind of) run, he has issues with balance, strength and flexibility that make it more difficult to do his karate moves.

    I was wondering if anybody can give me some advice on how exam gradings should be carried out in cases where the student has a disability? I have come to understand that belts are awarded largely due to the attitude of the student, discipline, etc. However the ability to perform the kata correctly must also be important of course. He focuses really well and takes instruction, however he does struggle to copy the moves exactly due to his disability.

    Karate is excellent for improving his strength and flexibility and has all the other benefits of self-development and improving self-esteem that I'm sure you all aprreciate. However I am a bit confused about how a person with limited physical abilities compared to able-bodied students will compete against one another as he gets older. Are allowances made in exam gradings for disabled students, or do they have to achieve just as much despite their disability to be awarded the next level?

    Please excuse my ignorance about this -- but that's why I am here -- to ask people who might know the answers!

    Thanks in advance,

  2. BentMonk

    BentMonk Valued Member

    The Whole Picture

    Tes123 - Hi. Welcome to the forum. I have CP as well. I've studied Shaolin Do Chinese Martial Arts for 15 years. I earned the rank of Black belt on June 10, 1998. I too have balance issues. My instructors changed all of the kicks in my material to knee and elbow strikes. All of my techniques are meant to be done at zero distance and most involve taking my opponent to the ground. The only allowance made for my grading was balance. As long as my legs held me up with some obvious degree of stability and moved me effectively from one technique to the next, this was acceptable. There were some stances and transitions that I could do without adaptation. I was expected to perform these the same as my classmates. My upper body works fine. All of my techniques from the waist up were required to be as precise as those of my classmates. Physical conditioning such as weight training, body weight exercises, and stretching were also required parts of my training. These were also adapted as little as possible. These minimal adaptations have allowed me not only to experience the mental, physical, and spiritual benefits of martial art training, but have given me the ability to defend myself if need be. Your son's instructors should IMO take a similar approach. I realize that your son is too young to need to focus heavily on self defense or to do weight training, but he should have a working knowledge of what all those punches and kicks are for, and how to apply them effectively if need be. He can however stretch a lot and do body weight exercises. These will lessen the severity of the CP's limitations and increase the effectiveness of his techniques. If he gets into the habit of training correctly while he's young, it will serve him well later in life. So the answer to your question IMO is, yes some exceptions should be made for a disabled student's rank advancement test. However, these exceptions should not be such that they lessen the amount of work needed to be done by the student to earn the rank, nor should any exception jeopardize the effectiveness of the techniques learned.
    I'm sure this is more than you were asking for. I apologize. I tend to ramble sometimes. :D
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2008
  3. Tes123

    Tes123 New Member

    BentMonk, thanks so much for your response. You did not ramble -- all of your advice is very gratefully received!

    My son's teacher has not taught any children with a disability before but he has a great inclusive attitude. He seems a bit unsure of how to proceed especially regarding awarding new ranks. I will pass on your advice to him. Hopefully he will be able to adapt the techniques appropriately.

    Many thanks again,

  4. BentMonk

    BentMonk Valued Member

    Here To Help

    You are more than welcome. I'm glad I could help. In addition to my own experience with CP, I have worked as a direct care professional for those with special needs for 11 years. I've been adapting techniques and teaching martial arts to those with special needs for 10 years. If I can be of more assistance just ask. Feel free to give your son's instructor my contact info. I'd be happy to help with any uncertainty he may have. I wish you and your son the best. :)
  5. kingpa

    kingpa Valued Member

    Hi do a search for IAOMAS look on their forum and contact a user called Mr Miagi This is Andy Wright who is disabled and an instructor, he is a really nice guy who should be able to give you some advice, incedentally I believe he has graded all the way up to 5th Dan which was done inder Enoda sensei (Big name that) quite an achievement.
  6. BentMonk

    BentMonk Valued Member


    Tes123 - Has he tested yet? If so, how'd it go? :) If it's coming up, what adaptations has the instructor made? I'm just curious. I hope all is great with you and yours. :)
  7. Tes123

    Tes123 New Member

    Hi, thanks for asking! :)

    Yes he took the test and got to 8th KYU (Higashi Karate Kai). So he had gone from a red belt to a white belt. His last karate class went from white to red stripe, then red, then yellow stripe, which was here he was at before he moved class, so he was a bit underwhelmed at being awarded a white belt -- Kids! There's no pleasing 'em!

    I'm not really sure what adaptations the teacher made to be honest. He seemed to be randomly testing each kid on the katas they had learned. I'm afraid I am totally ignorant about martial arts myself. However even though he struggled with some of the high kicking steps, he seemed to know what he was doing and stayed focus and I guess they thought it was sufficient. To be honest he did kind of seem on a par with the other kids there. I mean at age 6 it is rare in my experience for any child to be super-coordinated and precise with their movements when they are just starting out in karate.

    Anyway I am still a bit anxious about the future and how he will progress compared with his peers. I have just brought him back today from an all-day football (soccer) session at a holiday sport club, his first time there. He seemed to have a great time but apparently some of the kids teased him for being a slow runner and blamed him when their team lost, laughed at him when they heard he would be goalie in the next game, etc. The kids in his class at school are so lovely he is not used to this. He was a bit upset but seemed to take it on the chin. Anyway i have kind of gone off the martial arts discussion but just threw it in there anyway as it is disability-related...Ho hum - I guess he will have up days and down days coming to terms with his disability and the fact that not everybody is nice about it. I can't wrap him up in cotton wool forever but no need to bring him down with a crash! I had a quick chat with the instructors and they said they would watch out for it next time... if there is a next time. Hope he'll still want to join in -- I think he will.

    Well, I have really waffled on! Bet you're sorry you asked now! ;)

  8. BentMonk

    BentMonk Valued Member

    The School Of Hard Knocks

    I'm not sorry I asked at all. :) I'm glad to hear he did well on his test. As to kids messing with him... One of the wisest things my mother ever told me was that unfortunately kids could be the cruelest creatures God ever put on this Earth. She said, "Paul you need to remember that the ones who tease you have the real handicap, not you. You can either ignore them, laugh at them, or come home and cry about it. It won't be easy, but you're my kid. That means you're tough. I know you'll handle what ever they throw at you." Mom was right. It wasn't easy. I went to regular school with regular kids. By the time I reached 5th or 6th grade, I had developed a sharp wit and an even sharper tongue. It didn't take the jerks long to realize that making fun of me was a bad idea because I joked back...hard. I know this approach isn't popular in our super PC times, but IMO it's always better to stand up for yourself rather than stand quietly and be a victim. Times are a little different, but the playground is still the playground. A kid will always get more respect for standing up and handling things themselves, rather than running to a teacher or home to Mommy. I'm just speaking of your basic teasing. If it goes beyond that or becomes physical, then of course adults need to be involved. I miss the days when I was younger. A fist fight stayed a fist fight, and you made up the next day. Now we have to worry about guns...sad. Oh well, I guess I know that I'm old since I'm talking about "back in my day." lol Please feel free to email me if I can ever help with adapting a martial art technique, or assist the two of you in any way. Take care and keep us posted with progress updates please. I wish you the best. :)
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2008
  9. Southpaw535

    Southpaw535 Well-Known Member Moderator Supporter

    While I'm sorry I can't offer help, I was wondering if you could pass on my congratulations to your son?
  10. Jjf88

    Jjf88 Valued Member

    You said your son was 6?

    I don't know if he'll want to, but try to enroll him in a dance class.

    I was in one when I was younger (though at 14, I blatantly deny it) and I think it could help alot.

    Remember, Bruce Lee danced to imrpove his speed and balance.;)
  11. BentMonk

    BentMonk Valued Member

    Do A Little Dance...

    Yes he did. He also said that ballet dancers would be great martial artists. Not only that, girls love a guy who can dance. :hat:
  12. Jjf88

    Jjf88 Valued Member

    Jean Claude Van Damme also studied ballet, so if he's interested in Martial Arts, try and get him to do some ballet.

    As someone pointed out (I think) your son's balance, flexibility and strength can improve, and if it does improve (I hope so!) then you should try and get him into a Muay Thai class (not right away of course, let him enjoy Karate before opening his eyes to Muay Thai..Although I may be biased..)

    And sometimes, a physical confrontation can't end well, so tell your son the way to end the fight is below the belly button and above the thighs.

  13. BentMonk

    BentMonk Valued Member


    Van Damme is pretty and can dance. With the right choreographer any of us could be as skilled a martial artist as he is though. :evil: I understand your predisposition to recommend the style you study. Karate and every other martial art practiced can be trained realistically to be effective in a street situation. It's not what you train, it's how you train. We live in a world full of predators who prey on children. Kids should know how to take care of themselves. IMO self defense, especially for kids should be more about using their head instead of their fist. Let them practice being startled and grabbed repeatedly to help them overcome their panic reflex. Teach them to yell, "Fire!" instead of help. Teach them environmental awareness so that they might see a potential predator before it's close enough to touch them. Teach them the buddy system. There will always be safety in numbers. Teach them that it is acceptable for them to hurt someone who is trying to hurt them. Teach them to strike all the soft spots; eyes, throat, groin, kidneys, etc. Teach them how to manipulate an attackers fingers to make them let go. Above all teach them that no technique is 100% effective 100% of the time, and that their common sense is the best self defense technique there is.
  14. memmek10k

    memmek10k Valued Member

    I hate to say this but as a desabled Martial artiest and one who also has cerebral palsy and other ones have you told the teacher at this school then go from there about the grading. hope it goes well

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