Congratulations are in order for our yellow belt, Yvette. She has been relying on her walker less and less. Finally, in her most recent IEP, her school decided that she no longer needed to use it, except for field trips.
What an amazing accomplishment for Yvette! We knew her strength and balance had improved and that it is almost impossible to sweep her, but this takes the cake. Her hard work has paid off and she will be reaping the benefits for the rest of her life. She is an inspiration to us all!
Once again, UPMA brought a large group of students to compete in the SJJIF Wolrd Special Jiu Jitsu Championship. Once again, our students shined for all the world to see. This was yet again a unique opportunity for the adaptive warriors of UPMA to go out and experience things that others take for granted. It was also an opportunity for members of the community to experience the joy that inclusion brings to all of us.
This year we brought 11 athletes to compete for a World Championship in Jiu Jitsu. All 11 students took home gold medals and memories to last a lifetime. For some it was their first competition and the biggest obstacle was overcoming nerves and anxiety about the new experience. For others, it was a chance to be pushed a little harder than they have before and to see what heights they could rise to. All gave outstanding performances and made their coaches and parents proud.
None of this would have been possible without the efforts of the SJJIF and Alosio Silva BJJ. Not only do they offer the event every year, they make their own students a part of it. It is so heart warming to watch the kids of Alosio Silva BJJ interact with and help the students of UPMA be their best. It does not go unnoticed how kind these kids are in their interactions. We thank everyone involved for working to create a kinder, more compassionate world through inclusion.
This is Ryan. He likes Gene Simmons, watching Buena Park TV, and doing martial arts. He has been enrolled at Unlimited Possibilities for about 4 years now and is a yellow belt, something of which he is very proud . He also has Soto Syndrome, a disorder characterized by a distinctive facial appearance, overgrowth in childhood, and learning disabilities or delayed development of mental and movement abilities.
Ryan is excited every Saturday to come to class and it shows. His exuberance is contagious and he brings a smile to everyone’s face as soon as he enters the room. When he first came to Unlimitied Possibilities he had very little muscle tone or flexibility. He also had a hard time running. He would take very small, slow steps on the balls of his feet. One of the first things his parents noticed after bringing him to class for a few months was the improvement in his gait. He is running quite well now and enjoys that part of the warm up . He also learned to side shuffle without falling over and now can be quite fast at it when he wants to be. Ryan has gained a lot of strength and coordination. He can even do a forward roll without any assistance.
Ryan continues to make tremendous improvements in his ability to stay on task and to listen to and follow directions. When he began, he needed constant redirection after only several minutes. One of the most exciting changes that we have seen in Ryan is in his level of participation in discussions. He is engaged and excited to answer questions about the day’s technique. Instead of just watching others participate, he is actively involved in all of the class activities. When not in class, he is excited to show off these new skills to friends and family members, in a safe way of course.
Ryan is pretty sure that one day he’ll be able to take Coach down and kick her butt. Dream big, Ryan!
You’ve heard us talk about the benefits of a martial arts program several times now. You may even have followed some of the links that took you to more in depth articles. Now here is a chance to see first hand how martial arts and specifically jiu jitsu can benefit people with disabilities. This is also a chance to witness adaptive athletes at work, fighting hard for victory, just like everyone else.
Last year, Brazilian Top Team Orange County hosted the second annual Grappler’s Heart Tournament. This is a tournament organized specifically for adaptive athletes of all kinds to test their skills against one another. Following the tournament was a seminar taught by the amazing Kyle Maynard. Pasando Guardia provided us with some amazing footage and interviews from that day. If you are at all hesitant to take the plunge and try a class, let this be your motivation.
In the past, we have covered many of the reasons why Jiu Jitsu is good for kids. We have looked specifically at how it is beneficial for kids with disabilities in the fact that it builds confidence, etc. We have not taken an in depth look at how it is physically beneficial. Here is an article written by Jiu Jitsu black belt Samantha Faulhaber that explains some of the physical benefits. This is an especially important read for parents of kids with physical disabilities who tend to be afraid to let their kids participate in sports.
Amaris first walked through the doors of UPMA nearly four years ago. I immediately noticed how shy she was, that she lost her balance easily and was afraid to try new things. Amaris suffers from regular and sometimes severe seizures. As a result, she can be shaky, often lose her balance, and has a developmental delay.
I remember the first time I asked her to punch a focus mit. She said to me, “But my hand is shaking”. I assured her that it was alright and encouraged her to punch it anyway. She was also very concerned about doing rolls because she sometimes becomes dizzy. Again, I assured her that we all get dizzy occasionally, but the trick is to just wait until you aren’t anymore. I offered the same guidance when she would frequently lose her balance. What do you do when you lose your balance? You stop and you catch it of course. Then, you continue with what you were doing. You see, these were all obstacles that she never knew she could overcome. When she was provided with the opportunities to prove to herself just how much she was capable of, the flood gates blew wide open and it was absolutely amazing to witness.
Today, you would almost not recognize Amaris. Her self-confidence has grown tremendously. She wants to try everything! Aggressive takedowns, bring it on! Spar with the boys, let’s do it!! compete in her first ever Jiu Jitsu competition, can’t wait!!!. Just this past April, Amaris competed in the Grappler’s Heart Tournament. She fought a very tough opponent and despite giving a valiant effort, she lost. However, that didn’t stop her from having the time of her life. After her first match, she jumped up with a smile on her face, ready to go again. And she did. After each match, she ran off the mats with a big smile on her face and with arms wide open ready to hug her coaches. She even stuck around for an amazing seminar after the tournament. I am confident that when the next opportunity rolls around, she will be the first to sign up.
Amaris after her first fight
In addition to her gains in confidence, Amaris has achieved enormous growth physically and mentally as well. Her balance has improved by leaps and bounds. She can perform back to back multi directional kicks without falling over. Those limbs that she was so afraid to use because they were shaking, have since increased in stability and coordination. Her mother tells me that before participating in martial arts, she had trouble with depth perception, something that has also improved. Even her memorization skills have increased, surpassing all expectations. In addition to all of that, she has also gotten much stronger physically (nothing brings a smile to her face like seeing her coaches wince when she hits those pads).
Students like Amaris are the reason that UPMA exists. She has not only gained skills that should benefit her the rest of her life, she has also had the chance to experience things she never dreamed to be possible. The smile on her face coupled with that exuberant giggle of hers, are things that I will cherish forever.