Sunday, January 25, 2009

Young man with Down syndrome in Florida earns black belt

From CBS-4 TV in Florida:

MIAMI ― For the most part, when you think of martial arts, the picture is of fighting and elegance mixed together as an art form. For Bradley Schneider (pictured) and his mother Barbara Sternfield, the fighting is not only a part of karate, but also a part of life.

Bradley was born with Down syndrome, but that hasn't stopped his passion for martial arts, and now he's earned the highest honor; he has earned a black belt.

After fighting through condescension with one instructor, Sternfield found American TKD Martial Arts and Master Walter Swaney. American TKD Martial Arts was founded by four grandmasters with combined experience of more than 200 years.

Swaney teaches both martial arts and rape prevention techniques to women. He noted that many times students with disabilities are generally quicker learners than others. Bradley is no exception to the rule.

Just because Schneider has Down syndrome doesn't mean he has special needs. He says there's more to Ku Am Mu Do than the physical work.

"Focus on what you are doing," he told CBS4 Mobile Journalist Jim Robinson. "That, my friend, is special."

His passion for the sport earned him the highest color belt in the martial arts. Schneider had to learn quite a bit.

"Front snap kick, jumping round house, breaking a board for a test," Schneider listed.
"This is his first black belt, deputy black belt, a first degree belt and he's mastered the basics," explained Master Swaney.

He says the program works well for children: it builds self-confidence, poise, self-esteem, body coordination and self-defense.

"I'm so proud of him, just everything he's accomplished in life and especially in martial arts," Herald Schneider, Bradley's father said.

Schneider has so much skill, he's even taking on some teaching at the studio, showing younger children that they can achieve anything they put their minds to.