Martial Arts Therapy, Inc.


Jennifer Anderson

Jennifer Anderson

Therapeutic karate has proven beneficial to the disabled.  I was critically injured at 14 months of age after being hit by a car. I was in a coma for 6 months and was left with many permanent disabilities.  Karate has definitely helped me physically and given me confidence in many areas.  At age eight, I started therapeutic karate in a wheelchair unable to stand independently.  My mom assisted me by holding me up and moving my legs when I couldn't.  After two years of karate, I started using a rear facing walker but I still couldn't stand independently.  Many of the exercises that we did helped to improve my balance.  Skating across the room on X-ray paper helped my balance even though it was a nightmare for my mom who had to hold me up and move my legs at the same time and keep me from falling.  All of the stretches that we did helped by strengthening my ankles and quads.


Then after another couple of years, I started using forearm crutches.  Forearm crutches and I didn't get along because I fell a lot and my arms would get injured.  One of the goals that Sensei Dave had for me was to be able to shift my weight from one foot to the other.  Every time that I would put my weight on my crutches to shift my weight I would fall.  After 6 months of using crutches, my mom found me walking with my crutches in the air.  I started walking by holding on to someone's hand to steady me and I fell less and less. 


Two years later, my balance improved so much that my mom didn't have to help me as often.  I still couldn't walk on uneven ground or step up on a curb.  In crowds, I would easily get pushed off balance and fall.  At this time, Sensei Dave hired a Physical Therapist to assist me in class and to be a stand by me if I lost my balance.  I did not want my mom to help because I was trying to become independent from her.  Teenager thing.  We did exercises to improve reaction time.  The one I loved the best was Sensei Dave would hit us with foam bats and we would have to block the bat.  Sensei Dave would also have us hold two glasses of water and go from sitting to standing and back down to sitting again.  The class would make such a mess because we always spilled the water.  With years of working hard in karate and hydrotherapy, I was walking independently and even starting stepping up on curbs without losing my balance.  My left side was left with hemi paresis after my accident and now it was a lot stronger so my balance improved.  My next goal was to learn to kick without falling.


When I reached my third belt, Sensei Dave started me in leading the class myself.  The first time that I lead a class I was so nervous.  I had to keep the kids attention at the same time as keeping them interested in the exercise.  I continued to lead classes for the next four years until I started teaching classes for the full hour with Sensei Dave assisting when needed.  When I was 21, I started teaching two classes a week without Sensei Dave.  I was terrified.  Sensei Dave assured me that he was confident trusted me that I could teach the class independently.  I had a teacher assistant that would help with the kids when needed.  I was familiar with the kids and their parents because we had been in the same karate class together for many yes.  I had to remember that each child had individual needs and temperaments and incorporate them in the lesson plan.  Classes went well and we had a lot of fun learning together.


The fourteen years of classes with Sensei Dave in the therapeutic karate has given me the experience and confidence to join a regular karate dojo that teaches Tae Kwon Do.  I have been in Tae Kwon Do for two years and have earned 7 belts.  I have also competed in tournaments and have won trophies, and many gold, silver and bronze medals competing in forms and sparring.  The two biggest differences between therapeutic karate and Tae Kwon Do are the amount of time it takes to earn a belt and the style. In therapeutic karate, it takes two years to move up to the next color belt.  this is because we only meet once a week and have disabilities to overcome.  In Tae Kwon Do I attend classes 6 times a week and test for my next belt every few months.  Therapeutic karate follows a Japanese form of karate that differs in the type of kata and style.  Tae Kwon Do is a Korean form of karate that teaches poomse, which are forms.  Each belt you earn has a different poomse or form that you need to know.


While vacationing in Nevada, I visited a dojo that teaches Japanese karate that differs from my therapeutic classes.  They spoke Japanese throughout the class, the forms were different and they taught exercises in using weapons.  In South Carolina, I visited a dojo that teaches Chinese karate that differs in there type of forms and self defense.  I left each of those different styles of dojos with new techniques and personal goals to achieve.  I now kick and balance on one leg.  I can master a curb without falling.  I can walk up and down steps alternating feet.  I can lift my arm over my head without help.


I plan to continue therapeutic karate and Tae Kwon Do for many years.  I know I have reached many of my goals and have set new ones.  My biggest goal is to earn my black belt.  in the future, I would love to teach therapeutic karate again so that I can help other children to overcome the limits of their disabilities and help them gain confidence in themselves.


Jennifer Anderson

September 2010