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Introduction to working with the disabled in Martial Arts

Jeffrey A Hein, MS - Research Consultant: Adaptive Martial Arts Association


To begin this article, I wish to be very clear on certain subjects that pertain to both instructors, parents, caregivers and practitioners of martial arts who present with disabilities whether physical or mental . The first area of concern is that all students who have disabilities should first have a thorough medical examination by their primary care physician to assess any medical conditions that need to be addressed when beginning a program of study in martial arts. An examination is not to preclude the disabled from being involved in martial arts, but to help instructors to design a program of study that meets the needs of the disabled student and will help the instructor to address the needs of the student. It is my opinion that all disabled students can participate in martial arts, but each student will bring certain limitations that need to be addressed and having a medical examination will help the instructor to design a program of study that is safe and will meet the needs and goals of the disabled practitioner.

Second, the disabled student should be under the supervision of their primary physician to assess their progress as well as to evaluate their progress in the practitioner’s physical condition. I suggest regular meetings with their primary physician in order evaluate any problems that may arise from training in martial arts. With proper medical supervision and having an instructor that is trained and understands the needs of the handicapped needs of their students will make for a safe environment that is a positive experience for both the instructor and practitioner alike. There are no two adaptive martial arts students that are exactly alike; thus it is the encumbrance of the instructor to become familiar with each disabled student and to work as a team with the disabled practitioner, primary physician, family members and care givers. This team approach will not only increase the safety of the practitioner and make for a positive experience for all involved.


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