Some time ago, I wrote about Loretta’s adaptive sports expo. I saw a karate demonstration which really inspired me. Because of the interest shown by all involved, the YMCA agreed to offer an eight week self defense course for the disabled. This I have completed today, and I feel glad to report that they have now agreed to turn it into a full form belt ranking course.
I took karate as a kid. And yes, watching Karate Kid around three hundred times probably had something to do with it. All boys who grew up in the mid eighties watched that movie a similar number of times, and karate had become very popular, as had an interest in Japanese culture. I got a yellow belt, but sadly my awesome teacher had a motorcycle accident and I stopped. I’ve wanted to take martial arts for years, and I’ve finally found a new teacher.
I paid $60 for this eight-week self defense course. What a bargain! As the course progressed I started hoping that I could earn some sort of belt, or something. Really, I wanted it to become a real karate course so I could start taking it again. Fortunately, others had similar thoughts, and it now has become a reality. It will cost $60 per month. What a bargain! As I wrote in my article about skiing for the first time, you just can’t lose with these people.
As we progressed through the weeks, we covered different kinds of attacks. They usually began with a grab from the front, a grab from behind, or a grab on the wrist. We also covered using blocks to defend against punches. I began to start to piece things together.
We very quickly began using our adaptive technologies as weapons. As I noted in the referenced article above, Ken works with each individual based on their disability. This requires a very real knowledge of someone’s limits. Some people just can’t do certain things with a disability, so need to compensate. All of the other students have mobility issues. Some use wheelchairs and others canes. I represent the only blind person, and I carry a cane. Fortunately, a girl named Kelly uses a walking cane, so we can learn cane combat together. It also means that we will have to do twice the work, since training requires situations with and without the cane.
The weeks moved on. I really began to view my cane in a different light. In addition to seeming like a device used to find objects while walking, I now began to see it as a weapon and protector. This increases the overall sense of unity with the cane while walking. The increased confidence also help with mobility, giving a heightened awareness of the surroundings. Kenpo skills transfer to all areas of life.
And this brings me to an interesting distinction. For a while, I thought we learned Kempo karate. I know a guy who has studied that system extensively, so have heard the name before. Today, a lady asked if they spell it with an M or an N. Chris corrected the issue: they teach Kenpo karate. Kenpo came from China, then a parting of ways occurred and that began Kempo, which comes from Japan. I felt glad to know that, and it all happened because of a question I would have probably never thought to ask. I feel glad to learn the original system.
We had our last class today. I had to get into the vibe, since we went tubing yesterday. Quite different! Ken showed me a technique to walk a straight line while using my cane and fist. That got me into it, then the questions began and I wanted to do more. I had a feeling I should just keep my mouth shut and wait, and they did not disappoint.
After the questions, Ken promptly announced that he wanted to see what we had learned. He told Chris to attack anyone as he wished. He went through all of us randomly. First, he attacked me from the front. I tried to remember a specific sequence and couldn’t, so started to panic. Then I just figured I’d just go with it and see what worked. Honestly I don’t even know what I did and couldn’t repeat it, but I wrestled him away. Ken instructed me to bring my knee up to meet his head so I did, completing the move. Next, he attacked me from behind. I froze for a little, but tried to remember a step they taught and think I actually pulled it off, disengaging myself and moving behind him where I think I used my cane in some way but can’t even remember. I must have done something right, because Ken laughed and everyone applauded. I just felt so stunned that I actually did this cool move. Kelly told me that Chris removed his glasses after that. Finally, he grabbed my wrist. I clearly remembered stepping and bringing my wrist down to my hip, forcing him down where I think I disengaged myself somehow and definitely remember giving him a good strike to the head with my cane. Ken laughed again and more applause. Chris reminded me to breathe, which I really should know from meditation. I suspect I will begin integrating my meditation skills more as the moves become more familiar and I need to consciously think less. Oh yes, this rules!
At the end, Chris gave us all t-shirts for his studio, Empty Hands Martial Arts 215-884-0699. On the back, it says “Cheltenham’s Greatest Hits” a play on words, hits in this case referring to physical hits. He said a guy asked him what radio station he works for. He hadn’t thought about it that way before. So even though I didn’t get a belt, I did get a cool t-shirt. The belt will follow.