Table of Contents
- Para-Karate: Embracing Inclusion
- Overcoming Challenges in Tang Soo Do
- Adapting in Tang Soo Do
Para-Karate: Embracing Inclusion
Para-karate is recognized by the World Karate Federation and consists of athletes who use wheelchairs, as well as visually impaired athletes and athletes with mental disabilities. Though we all fall under the same division, like competes against like. I only compete against other wheelchair athletes. I especially took a liking to Tang Soo Do. Black Belt is still unreachable for me, but I hope to reach that level someday. And as of now, the Para-karate division only competes in katas, not sparring or weapons. (A kata is a choreographed set of movements with kicks, punches, blocks as if you’re fighting an invisible attacker.) In my first competition, I competed against three other athletes and won first place in the para kata division.
Overcoming Challenges in Tang Soo Do
Karate, specifically a Korean style called Tang Soo Do, was my passion for much of my youth. I enjoyed playing other sports — mainly softball and swimming — but since I was born with a tumor on my spine that made my left leg completely numb and my entire lower body weaker than average, I was always at a disadvantage. I couldn’t run as fast as other kids. I couldn’t feel if my legs were together when doing the butterfly stroke and would get disqualified at meets. But in karate, I excelled. I couldn’t kick when sparring with classmates, but in this sport, I wasn’t at a disadvantage. I just got that much faster and stronger with my hands. I would win matches, and not because opponents went easy on me. Trust me, sometimes I sparred with my brother in class and he didn’t go easy on me. I won because I became that good.
Adapting in Tang Soo Do
Karate teacher are called Sensei. Sensei Shawn and I have had fun modifying the katas to maintain the original concept, but to adapt to my wheelchair status. We can’t add moves, but we can adapt to fit my needs. And, because wheelchair karate is still a relatively new sport, we have a little more leeway to figure out what works and doesn’t. I’ve learned to do wheelies in place of kicks, move my chair in ways to mimic certain blocks or movements, and use my arm placement on wheels to mimic the styles. Instead of fearing the reactions of my fellow students, I love hearing the words of encouragement when I break out a new trick. I am absolutely my harshest critic. I want my kata to be as smooth and as fierce as the same kata by a nondisabled person. For example, I don’t just drop my arms to turn my wheels. I have created a method that either incorporates the wheel movement or is just as sharp as if I’m using it as a defense. Or attack.