Recently, an instructor from another karate dojo asked me a question. Here is what they said...
"I have a student going up for a black belt rank test who has physical limitations and health issues. There will be a lot of people there watching their rank test. I'm concerned about the test as the student is not physically able to perform certain techniques that are usually expected during a black belt test. Specifically, I'm concerned that if we make exceptions for this student to pass their test that other students would feel this isn't fair. Obviously, I want to be inclusive, but I also don't want others to see the rank test and form a negative opinion on what it takes to earn a black belt. How do you maintain high standards and still be inclusive to those with physical limitations? What would you do in this situation?"
Here is my short answer: Set your standards high. However, be willing to modify when necessary.
Here's the longer answer: I have had students with total knee replacements, hip issues, heart issues and other physical challenges. Prior to testing, for those who have physical limitations, we teach modifications to specific techniques that will suit their bodies and physical abilities better.
The student MUST be able to defend themselves fully using the modified techniques. We also require the student to be able to verbalize the original way to perform the techniques, as listed in our system curriculum, even if they cannot do the technique themselves. They need to be able to teach others, without physical limitations, on how to do it properly.
At the beginning of that student's rank test, I explain this to all those present. This way there is no misunderstanding. All of our other students have expressed understanding. We are a karate family and they know that every member is pushed and challenged in their own way. No one has ever expressed any unfairness.
Remember, everyone is on their own martial arts journey. Those who have limitations or disabilities should still be pushed to their highest personal ability. Understand, their greatest ability will not be as high as the students without any physical limitations. Do not make comparisons. Rather, seek to improve ALL who come through your doors to be the best they can possibly be. Seek out their strengths and reinforce them.
When rank testing a student, the questions to ask yourself as an instructor are:
âNeed more inspiration? Take a look at the Adaptive Martial Arts Association or Karate Adaptation for Disabled People. You might also appreciate the video below for an example of some inspiring disabled karate athletes competing in an international karate tournament.
P.S. If you know of any other martial arts organizations that support karate for all physical capabilities, please comment below!
Some of you know that a few months ago I did a 30 day challenge. (This isn't uncommon, I do a lot of 30 day challenges.) The challenge I did was to go without sugar for 30 days. By sugar I mean white, brown, high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners. It was a challenge. But, I really felt good! Over the course of the month, I had more energy, lost weight and my skin looked better.
But, my challenge was nothing compared to what this family did. Check it out...
Visit this link to view their full story and transformation.
If this inspires you, comment below. And, if you choose to do a 30, 90 or year-long challenge, please share your results!
I was recently thinking back on my training as a martial artist. When I started as a white belt there were about 20 other students in my dojo's beginner class. Of the 20 students, only 4 of us from that original group made it to black belt.
It wasn't that we were more talented than the others. Nor were we afforded more opportunity. We weren't necessarily the most athletic, physically fit or more youthful either. The ages of my black belt awards ceremony ranged from early 20s to age 50!
But, we did have something that the others from our original class lacked... Perseverance and ritual.
I think we all know what perseverance is. It's that gritty, never-give-up attitude. It's a commitment to stick it out no matter what challenges came your way. However, I believe that perseverance is enhanced by ritual. A ritual is a method of following a specific process on a regular basis. This process, if done frequently becomes a habit. A habit becomes a consistent way of life. This ritualistic process creates a mental connection that leads to success.
Let me give you an example. Watch a professional basketball player when he goes up to the free-throw line during a game. The really good free throw shooters have a ritual they follow. They position their feet a certain way. They dribble the ball a certain number of times. They breathe a specific way. Then they position the ball in their hands just so and release the ball towards the basket the same way every time. All of this comes from consistent practice. If they follow their ritual, 90% of the time they will experience a successful shot.
Karate is also built around ritual. We attend class at the same times each week. We wear our uniform (Gi) a certain way. We bow in a specific way as we enter and exit the dojo. We perform exercises the same way. We line up and perform kata in a particular way. We have our routines and processes. All of this is a ritual for success.
Think of a big boulder near a stream. The consistent flow of water over the boulder smoothes the rough edges and makes the boulder round. Over more time, the water can even cut through the boulder creating a smooth passage. It is the same in karate, the more often we do these rituals the more we develop in our training. Over time, just like the boulder we become smooth.
It is the same with anything in life that you wish to succeed in. In developing positive rituals we each can persevere and pave the way to our success.
Here are some ideas on rituals you can incorporate into your life.
Rituals are powerful. They reinforce success in whatever goals you are working towards. Commit to making rituals part of your daily life and you will find you can accomplish more than you ever imagined!
Remember: the only ones who don't succeed are those that quit. It's persistence and ritual that wins the battle every time.
Recently, a gift of a tiny Geisha doll reminded me of something. She reminded me that when you fall down (or get knocked down) you get back up. And, you keep getting back up every time. It doesn't matter what challenges are thrown your way or what situation is occurring in your life at the time.
You get back up.
It doesn't matter if you are flat on your back at a low point in your life.
You get back up.
It doesn't matter if you are sick.
You get back up.
It doesn't matter if you weren't successful before or how many times you've tried and failed in the past.
You get back up.
It doesn't matter if you don't have anyone to lean on, pick you up, carry you or encourage you.
You get back up.
It doesn't matter if you've had your bell rung or your heart broken or your pride shattered.
You get back up.
You see, the world loves an underdog. The world wants to see you succeed. The world wants to see you get back up.
Because it's the glorious grit of never quitting that emotionally charges the masses and inspires them. Then, when they fall down, and everyone does eventually...
THEY GET BACK UP.
~ Vashon Borich, Sensei
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I stumbled upon a video recently that deeply moved me. A martial artist demonstrates kata and self defense. However, this was no ordinary martial artist... this is someone who has profound physical challenges. But yet, in this video there is power, strength, beauty, creativity, respect and amazing technique. I found myself cheering him on as I watched him perform. In the self defense portion, when he took on two men, there was emotional joy at seeing him perform.
The man's name is Said-Elmahmoudi from Morocco. Watch the video below (note the video is in another language, but you don't need to speak the language to understand what's going on.):
If you have trouble viewing the video here is a direct link:
I am inspired by this man. He is proof that karate is for everyone, not just those who are privileged with perfect health. Never say, "I can't!" As there are people who may have told this martial artist he couldn't do something, but as you can see, he is proof that nothing is impossible. I hope you are as inspired as I was after watching him perform.
Vashon Borich-Leach, Sensei teaches traditional karate and tai chi in Branson, Missouri. She considers herself a life-time student of the arts. Her blog is an open journal of lessons learned in the martial arts. If you are a martial artist and would like to contribute to her blog please contact her.
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