Monday, August 23, 2010

Texas program teaches martial arts to disabled kids

From Community Impact Newspaper in Houston:

CYPRESS, Texas — When a local mother walked into All Star Martial Arts almost four years ago and asked Master David Lieder and his wife, Christy, to teach her twins martial arts, the couple took on a challenge they had never encountered before. One of the twins has cerebral palsy and is blind, the other, autistic.

Over the next year, the Lieders had several more physically and mentally disabled individuals come through their doors and decided it was time to help these students enjoy the benefits of martial arts, free of financial worries.

Inspiring Possibilities was created in 2007 and works to provide full and half-scholarships for special-needs students who wish to enroll in classes through All Star Martial Arts, where scholarship applications can be filled out.

“It costs a little over $1,000 per year,” David said. “Most of our special-needs students also have medical issues to pay for and might not be able to afford the classes. Inspiring Possibilities gives them the opportunity.”

Through donations and fundraisers, Inspiring Possibilities is paying the tuition for 60 special-needs students, ages 6 to 60 with conditions ranging from Down syndrome and cerebral palsy to autism and developmental conditions.

“We call these our Samurai classes,” David said. “A Samurai is a warrior, and these students are battling through things in their lives. They are Samurais.”

Adriana Grimaldo’s 14-year-old son, Bobby, has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, and she said her main concern was getting him mobile.

“Just in the three weeks Bobby has been taking classes we can already see more energy and flexibility in him,” she said. “We drive about 20 minutes from Waller three times a week for him to take classes. This program is wonderful.”

Samurai classes are also available for adults on a beginner and advanced level.

“Our 45-year-old daughter, Kathryn, has Down syndrome and since starting classes two years ago, this has become her ‘thing,’” Nancy Harwood said. “She feels so comfortable here, and for her to be able to partake in this free of cost isn’t something you see every day. The acceptance and patience the Lieders show is unbelievable; we would have loved it if there were something like this 40 years ago for Kathryn.”

Inspiring Possibilities students are taught a version of adaptive martial arts, from punching and kicking to formations and patterns.

“We are able to provide 100 percent funding for a class designed just for these individuals’ needs,” Christy said. “I don’t know a soul who doesn’t watch these students and isn’t full of joy and happiness.”