Monthly Archives: November 2014

How Karate Influenced Me

How Karate Influenced Me

The best answer to this question lies in the response from a student.   Each student testing for their Black Belt at JK Martial Arts is required to write a paper answering this question.  The papers are as remarkable as the students.  This is why I am featuring the response by Jacob in this blog.

“I can’t do it!” I whined.  I was at a summer camp called Cathedral of the Pines.  I was playing softball on the second to last day. I had already been injured multiple times swimming and playing softball, so I wasn’t very excited.

The ball come at me and hit me in the arm. It hit hard, as I accidentally walked straight into its path to second base, trying to avoid it.  A counselor walked me down to the nurse’s office, me whining all the way.

I was probably really annoying, now that I think about it.  But that’s not important.  I thought I couldn’t play.  And this wasn’t just because I didn’t play often; it was also because of my eyesight: 20/100.

I was poor at catching because I couldn’t see the ball.  I was a weak hitter because I didn’t see it coming. I was lousy in the field and mediocre running. But this wasn’t the only sport. I’ve found that whenever I try a sport, I get hurt, or I am terrible at it, and never have fun, UNTIL KARATE at JK Martial Arts.

In karate, I didn’t have to see.  I just had to have power and form.  I didn’t need to be the first to get it done, I just had to finish.  I didn’t have to beat everyone else because we were all a team. If I needed help, even in the middle of class, someone would work through it with me.

And for the first time while playing a sport, I was happy and focused.

Even to me, I seem to have reached my black belt test quicker than expected. It’s true, I’m very nervous, but also very excited.

It’s because ….. I can truthfully say I am great at a sport.

Jacob continues to attend classes and assists with teaching.

See more testimonials throughout the website.

Author: Joyce Brekke, BA, RRT, Black Belt Shorei-Ryu Karate, Director, JK Martial Arts


Understanding Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder

For those of you who have kept up with my recent blogs, you know I’ve been reflecting on the ways JK Martial Arts helps special learners. As I wrote in a previous blog, every person is unique and has unique ways of learning.

This is especially true of people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). In my research to understand how students with ASD learn, I discovered there really is no specific formula. The best approach is to learn how the student learns best, and then adapt lessons accordingly. This is exactly how we do things at JKMA.

Students with ASD tend to favor structured, calm and predictable environments. Change usually is very difficult for them and often induces feelings of anxiety.

At JKMA, we use a methodical approach to teaching karate, so lessons become routine. We teach in small detailed steps to match the precision that many people with ASD desire. The routine nature of the steps also provides students with a sense of calm.

Of course, repetition is helpful to all learners. Repeating the same audible cues has actually helped non-verbal students with ASD voice the steps out loud!

But too many repetitions can bore some students and provoke anxiety. Other students could become anxious if they learn and understand the moves but are unable to execute them with finesse and the full power they desire.

We strive to know each student’s triggers for anxiety so we can help them avoid it. For example, we will alter the number of repetitions a student does, based on his or her tolerance for repetition. We also set expectations in advance by telling students how many repetitions they will do that day.

Sensitivity to noise and light also can negatively impact learning for students with ASD. That is why we always speak to students with ASD in softer tones, or place them in a quieter area of the dojo. We may also use visual cues rather than verbal ones.

Some students with ASD have limited flexibility and strength. In these cases, we will provide more time for stretching and adapt stances and kicks for the students’ different abilities.

Finally, JKMA understands that some students with ASD may not be ready for a class with other people. That’s why we also offer private lessons, where students can practice karate in an environment more conducive to their success and prepare for the move to a class setting.

See the JKMA resources page for literature used in our research on special learners.

Author: Joyce Brekke, BA, RRT, Black Belt Shorei-Ryu Karate, Director, JK Martial Arts