My last interview had been with Chief Master Richard Reed amidst the glamorous bustle of the Bellagio Resort in Las Vegas. Now, I find myself on a park bench, gazing at the water, surrounded by nature’s quiet beauty. The settings could not have been more different than the men themselves. Century old oaks lined the perimeter of the waterfront park on the St. Johns River in Jacksonville, Florida, limerock railings separating land and sea, and the lazy, lapping waves of the brackish current creates an oasis from the bustling city of more than a million.
Patterning in martial arts may help reduce stereotypic activity in autism.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) (link is external) refers to those who have difficulties with social interactions and communications. Across people there can be a huge variability in presentation of so-called “symptoms,” hence the use of “spectrum” in the overall term.
I’m not a big fan of labeling, so now that I’ve got this out of the way, for the rest of this post we’ll just talk about the “autism spectrum” and not “people with,” those “disabled” by, etc. It is what it is and lots of people do very well and have great lives. I don’t want to diminish them by using even accidentally pejorative language. Instead I want the focus on the potential everyone has.
With a bloodcurdling cry, your 6-year-old leaps into the air in a karate kick, raising your hair and blood pressure simultaneously. Before you panic and pad the walls, try channeling this urge into a martial arts class.
Activities like tae kwon do, kung fu and aikido are a fun way for both boys and girls to achieve fitness and focus. Some parents may think they also promote violence, but that’s a myth, according to experts. The martial arts actually help teach self-discipline and socialization skills. In fact, many parents whose children have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) report great success with these programs because self-control and concentration are exactly the skills underdeveloped in ADHD kids.
A typical hour-long class begins and ends with a bow to the teacher, or master. After a warm-up, students practice the art’s particular skills, which may include kicks, punches and blocks. Each requires concentration and strict attention.
Progress is often marked by the belt system, which takes the beginner from a white belt through a variety of colors until black. Testing for each new level, generally every three months, is a good exercise in setting and achieving goals.
But, say experts, it’s the respect kids learn, whether from bowing or […]