Martial Arts for People with Special Needs
We have praised how jiu-jitsu can change your life, but now we will show you how.
Kristen Davidson used her years of experience in Martial arts to give confidence and a world of opportunities to people with special needs at the Unlimited Possibilities Martial Arts.
UPMA is a wonderful integration of Kung Fu and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, this program focuses in developmental of mind and body in classes adapted to meet the individual needs of the students developing discipline, confidence, strength, balance and promote social skills
Take a moment to learn and see How Jiu-Jitsu changed their lives
JJCML: Why and How did you it started with the project?
Coach Kristen: I began as a volunteer with Special Olympics. From the very beginning, I loved it. I have been coaching a gymnastics team for the past 7 years, and continue to do so. The other coach told me about an organization for people with special needs that was looking for a martial arts instructor. Needless to say, there are very few people that have a background in martial arts and experience working with people with special needs. I was able to create my own program and make it completely adaptable so that anyone could participate. After working there for a year, I decided to open my own academy closer to where I live, which happens to be an area with very few services for people with special needs.
JJCML: What is different from the classes we are use to?
Coach Kristen: There is a lot more one on one teaching in my class. We are used to an instructor showing us a technique a few times and then letting us work on that with a partner. For many of my students, it is hard for them to pay attention to general instruction which can be confusing for them. Because of this, I am happy to adjust and tailor the way I teach for each individual so that it’s easier and more enjoyable for them to learn it. One teaching method may work for one student, but not the others, so this is definitely not a one size fits all kind of class. I also have some students that are just not comfortable with contact so this can make Jiu Jitsu tough, lol. I may have to start them out with more Kung Fu (I have a black belt in Shaolin Kung Fu and my class is a combination of the two) as I ease them into Jiu Jitsu. So by utilizing these methods I have found that they really do come to enjoy BJJ.
JJCML: How important is the support of family and friends?
Coach Kristen: I wouldn’t be able to do this without the support of friends and family. My BTT family has been incredibly supportive. Several members of BTT Long Beach regularly volunteer in my class. Black belt and kid’s team instructor John Orr came and guest taught a class just the other day. Sometimes it can be tough because the students can get upset and may lack the ability to tell me why. At the end of the day, my family and friends are always there to support me and the ultimate payoff is to see the kids enjoying themselves.
JJCML: What are your objective with the project?
Coach Kristen: My only objective is to give the special needs community the same opportunities that the rest of us take for granted. I only know of one other program like this in all of Southern California and there are hundreds of thousands of people just waiting for a chance. In fact, there are very few recreation programs of any kind (ie soccer, baseball) that are willing to include these people.
JJCML: In your opinion, what is the importance of the martial arts to improve the quality of life to people with special needs?
Coach Kristen: As I mentioned before, there are very few opportunities for these kids to just be kids and enjoy themselves while doing so. More specifically, martial arts teaches them discipline, it works on their strength and balance, it teaches them to work together, and gives them added confidence. Many of these kids don’t have social interactions outside of school so this is a great opportunity to just interact with other kids and hopefully form friendships.
JJCML: Which are the factors that influence the low numbers of people with special needs practicing any kind of sport activity?
Coach Kristen: The main thing that keeps people with special needs out of sports is the lack of programs willing to support them. It takes a little extra work and some patience to teach them, but the reward is great (both for the teacher and for the student).
JJCML: What is your tip for other Gyms on how to be more adapted to people with special needs?
Coach Kristen: My tip to them would be not to underestimate people with special needs. You would be surprised what they are capable of (the kids are surprised too). Most people that I meet that have no experience in this field are naturally a little afraid. They are afraid of what the student may do, or more commonly, they are afraid to push the student to perform. You, as the teacher, have to be flexible. It may take several attempts to teach a student a technique, but I have found that if you don’t set limits on their capabilities, they usually exceed your expectations.
JJCML: How this project affected the communities?
Coach Kristen: The number one compliment I get is that my program has given the student confidence. These kids are constantly told “no” all their lives. “No, you can’t do that because you’re not like other kids”. So I try and give them the ability to focus on what they can do, instead of can’t do. This helps them to see that they can break through many of the walls that they thought were holding them back. This can all be a very nice revelation for the children’s parents as well. The reason I do it is to give people a chance to just be like everybody else, even if it’s just for an hour or two a week.
For more informations about Martial Arts for People with Special Needs and Unlimited Possibilities Martial Arts, contact Coach Kristen, she will be happy to answer any questions you may have, by phone (562) 756-0709, e-mail info@UP-MA.com or visit the website atwww.up-ma.com