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Making Martial Arts More Accessible

I previously wrote about Martial Arts and the immense benefits of this for both children and adults. However, in highlighting this, I am cognisant that some people will have physical, financial, and geographical barriers to participating in a Martial Arts program.  As such, I wanted to provide some more information to make Martial Arts more accessible.

From a physical perspective, like all activities, Martial Arts can be modified to meet any level of physical ability.  Personally, I have vertigo so I cannot engage in ground techniques.  So, I stay on my feet working on kicks, punches, forms, and self-defense.  Erik Kondo (http://martialartistwithdisabilities.blogspot.ca/2008/07/erik-kondo.html) has paraplegia and is a third degree black belt.  He has posted several videos online about self-defense from a wheelchair, and has also published an online resource on the 5 D’s of self-defense (http://www.not-me.org/).  Michael Sirota (http://www.sirotasalchymy.com/master.html) runs an entire Martial Arts program for people with disabilities and structures each program individually.  With a creative Sensei and a motivated participant, anything can be done.  Tai Chi is also a Martial Art, but is grounded in slow, sequential movements that can be done in sitting or standing.  My grandmother had Parkinson’s Disease and practiced Tai Chi for years as a way to prevent the decline of her balance and mobility.  There are many local chapters of Taoist Tai Chi (www.taoist.org/ontario).   

Financially, like many organized sports or activities, Martial Arts can be considered expensive.  However, as a parent, I have found Martial Arts to be less expensive than the organized volleyball, basketball, tennis, Cheer and dance my girls have participated in.  In the world of rehab, a one year Martial Arts Program could be easily justified on a treatment plan.  Or, if you are funding this yourself, there are different dojos with different fee structures so calling around can help you to find one within your budget.  Our local YMCA offers Martial Arts as part of the family membership, and a family membership at the Y has multiple benefits for a reasonable fee.  I also believe the Y’s offer membership rates that can be geared to income.  Some dojos offer Martial Arts on a monthly basis, and others require a contract.  You can decide through speaking with different programs which option works best for you.  Also, some community centers offer Martial Arts for very low prices, or again are geared to income.  I have also experienced Sensei’s coming into physical education classes to demonstrate some of the skills and techniques at no charge. 

Geographically there may be barriers to finding a local dojo, or transportation problems prevent easy access the community.  Perhaps looking for videos, online resources, books or even using video games to teach some of the skills could be possible.  Or, perhaps there is a carpooling opportunity with another family in the same area.  Explaining access issues to the Sensei at the nearest dojo may result in some solutions. 

The bottom line is that as with anything, where there is a will, there is a way.  And the benefits of engaging in Martial Arts are so immense that taking some time to research local opportunities and to ask questions to make this accessible to you or your child will be well worth the effort. 

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