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The power of karate!

  • By Abi Hart
  • 6th May 2022

At Leeds Mencap, we strive to provide a range of opportunities for children and young people with learning disabilities to try new skills in a safe and welcoming environment. With support from Sport England, we recently delivered a range of sports taster sessions for our children and young people. These sessions included yoga, hip hop dance, football and martial arts. As well as affording them the opportunity to try new skills, these sports sessions have a profound, positive effect on our young people. One such young person is Jude.

Jude is an amazing 14 year old boy who uses our services. He has global developmental delay and uses a wheelchair. After having taster sessions of Martial Arts Jude has now started attending Karate Lessons twice a week.

We chatted to Jude, his mum and his karate instructor to find out more about how taking part in martial arts has been of great positive benefit to Jude.

Christopher, Jude’s instructor ran us through what a typical session looks like, how they are adapted to be inclusive and what improvements he has seen in Jude.

“Our classes always begin with a warm up to get the heart raising and blood pumping round the body. Then we move on to strength-based exercises such as push ups and burpees before doing the bulk of the class which is basic karate training. The karate training is scaled based on the ability of the class in order to include everyone regardless of physical or mental ability. I work with children and adults with a variety of mental and physical impairments such as ADD, ADHD and limited range of motion, so I can tailor the movements depending on people’s requirements.

People often incorrectly assume that karate is just kicking and punching but it is much more than that, it has so many benefits both physical and mental. It improves pulmonary and neuromuscular issues, reduces anxiety and inspires a positive mental attitude.

It has been particularly good for Jude. He is a model student who is focused, conscientious and has an inspirational, optimistic mind-set. When he first started attending sessions Jude relied much more heavily on his wheelchair, but since then he has gradually been walking more. Attending the sessions has also improved his confidence. He used to only attend classes once a week, and he needed his mum with him a lot. However, now he attends twice a week and does it independently without his parents.

Jude has also built a great rapport with the trainee instructor who draws out plans for him as he is a visual learner. He has also become more confident and independent and has found a place where he is free to express himself. He is making great progress, he had his first grading this month where he earned his gold stripe! He enjoys it so much he practices at home and even rocks his blade martial arts sweatshirt to the Leeds Mencap play schemes.”

The positive change in Jude has also been noticed by his mum.

“The taster session at Leeds Mencap gave me and Jude the confidence to start attending karate sessions. Chris, the instructor ensures that Jude can take part in all group activities and supports him with any of the harder movements.

The changes I’ve seen in Jude since he has start attending have been amazing. He has been developing his core and his balance which has meant he can now stand for longer and last week he took four steps on his own. Not only has there been physical benefits but Jude is also building his confidence and discipline. This is apparent in all areas of his life, and we have also seen improvement in his behaviour at home and school. Jude has started making friends with the other young people in the karate group and it is nice to see him socialising independently. Jude is now working towards his gold stripe and we couldn’t be more proud of him!”

Most importantly, Jude himself has felt the positive effects of his karate sessions.

“Karate makes me feel so happy and confident. I have made lots of new friends and I am not bored”

By choosing to support Leeds Mencap you will be supporting the delivery of activity sessions like these which create a safe space for children with learning disabilities, like Jude, to try new skills and make new friends in a safe and welcoming environment.

If you want more information on Blade Martial Arts email blademartialarts@gmail.com or visit https://blademartialarts.com/instructors/

If you want more information on Leeds Mencap activities and clubs email info@leedsmencap.org.uk or visit https://www.leedsmencap.org.uk/how-we-can-help/children-and-young-people/

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