Martial Arts and Disabilities

One of the most challenging yet rewarding aspects of being a youth instructor is coaching disabled children. From kids with autism, to a double amputee, to children with traumatic brain disorders, I have been lucky enough to coach some amazing disabled children. Dealing with unruly children or disrespectful teenagers is definitely a challenge. It is more of a challenge than it is to coach children with disabilities. I have taught several children with what people consider to be a disability.

Some athletes with disabilities have accomplished some pretty amazing things.

If you don’t know who Anthony Robles is, you should. He was so good at wrestling that he became an NCAA champion, an amazing feat. This was with the fact that he is missing a leg. Yes, he has one leg. He became such a dominant force that coaches were even saying he had an unfair advantage because his strength was that of a wrestler in a higher weight class. Amazing young man. He isn’t on the scene anymore but Matt Hamill is a deaf American mixed martial artist and wrestler who has competed in the Light Heavyweight division of the UFC. He is a three-time NCAA Division III National Champion in wrestling while attending the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York. Hamill also has a silver medal in Greco-Roman Wrestling and a gold medal in Freestyle Wrestling from the 2001 Summer Deaflympics, which is impressive also, but tells the story of how many deaf wrestlers must be out there and are very good at what they do. I’m sure these two don’t consider themselves to be disabled at all.

Another great example is Baxter Humby. Baxter Humby is a Canadian kickboxer known as “The One Armed Bandit” due to his missing right hand, which was amputated at birth just below his elbow after becoming entangled with the umbilical cord. He is the only man in the world to win world titles with only one hand. He competes against not-disabled fighters and I have seen him fight on several occasions. Baxter is the current IMTC World Super Welterweight Champion. He holds a number of different title belts including WBC Super Welterweight National Champion , IKKC USA Kickboxing Champion, IMTC World Middleweight Champion, and IKBA International Kickboxing Champion. His interest in sports led him to take up running at age 11 and martial arts at 17. He ran for the Canadian National Track Team in Barcelona in 1992 and in Berlin in 1994. So the man has accomplished many feats that people with all of their limbs will never come close to.

What an amazing person to not let something like a missing limb be an excuse for not doing the things he wants to do in life.

Coaching these types of athletes has proven to be something that I love. I find that people with disabilities in one area of their person, always make up for it with excellent strengths in other areas. A person who is blind is known to have better hearing than others. The other senses seem to be amplified when one is absent. This has been true about everyone I have had the privilege to coach that has a disability. I hope this goes to show those of us with no disabilities that if we were to have half the drive and determination of those who were told they couldn’t do something because of a disability; that we are only limited by our own minds. More power to all of those out there trying to do what they dream.

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