ParaKarate, What is it?
By Sifu Diana McRae
People with disabilities are 3 times more likely to experience victimization in our society. They are often seen as lesser people, ‘an easy target’. This includes my son who was lured out of his apartment and shot with plastic bb’s on the back of his neck by a group of unsupervised kids.
With the rise of the disability rights movement, more of our community are living independently with their own apartment and holding down a job. What can we do to help? Teach a system that empowers and stops an attack from happening. PARAKARATE is not just about the physical training but also training your mind to make the best decisions about your life goals, as well as personal protection.
I use the ‘American Kenpo’ style of martial arts which I have studied and taught for over 25 years, using its adaptability, to make it relevant for those with any kind of disability. We believe that the ‘art’ should adapt to each persons unique make up. As Ed Parker, our Grand Master wrote in his series of books, “We are all physiologically different and whatever move might work for one, may not necessarily work for another”.
Students learn not only how to strengthen their bodies and defend themselves, but also to set goals and learn to self advocate – a skill that will be very helpful in everyday life. Students are not automatically given rank. Like other martial artists, they have to work hard, show up to class and show improvement. Thinking for yourself is a vital skill. If you are going to protect yourself when under attach, be it physical or mental bullying, it’s nice to rely on yourself. “You will discover through your training that your mind is the most important part that needs to be developed. Because of its importance, it is imperative that a complete understanding of mental conditioning be developed first or one cannot be completely successful physically,” said Ed Parker.
My students have become so successful, that they have competed in karate tournaments nationwide where they consistently won trophies. We have regularly put on demonstrations, with decisions of what to include being a team effort. Being a part of a team is important to social growth with each student having their own set of goals to achieve. Very similar to instruments in an orchestra. Each have their own sound but when played together the music is beautiful!
Classes begin and end with a ritual that shows respect for each other. Showing respect is an important part of karate training. Warm up exercises are followed by the ‘basics’ and then more difficult techniques.
I had a difficult time in school because it took so much more time and effort for me to learn. And those skills made me an effective and empathetic karate teacher! I had no idea that by 2021 I would have emigrated to the USA from Englund, created Parakarate and be in the process of writing a book to help other martial artists.
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