Martial Arts for Special Needs Children & Disabled by Jeff Schrembs 7th degree Black Belt

Thank you to for your endeavors to provide forums, and insight, into the diverse world of Martial Arts.
After many years of taking my health, strength, conditioning, etc. “for granted” (not in the sense of lack of knowledge but in the sense of not realizing how ones use of their limbs could be taken…in an “instant”) I was hit from behind (of all days Fathers Day) while at a stop light(not any fault of my own) irreparably damaging my spine (C2-C4 and L4-S1) rendering me permanently disabled. After many years of MAJOR spinal fusion surgeries, therapy, etc. I live with the severe pain, loss of feeling, etc. Yet, I ALWAYS am thankful to God for what I DO have and I am thankful to my wife (of over 18 years now) and to my family who without I could not of…survived. Also having great Doctors, who I remain under their daily care of , and Therapists helps to the “infinite” degree.
My two youngest sons began to take Martial Arts classes a few years ago. It seemed like only “yesterday” that my (now) adult son was taking classes though an Instructor that I had been a Student of and eventually trained with. Unlike my (now) adult son my two youngest are “Special Needs Children” thereby having “unique” challenges.
It took me almost a year to find a Dojo/Instructor that met my criteria because I knew that UNLESS my sons’ (individually and collectively) were provided with the support/teaching/instruction/etc., on a consistent basis, that their desire to attend classes would…falter. Even with all of my “insight” my decision to enroll my youngest Sons was met with “hesitation” from my wife who not only is a Teacher but a Special Needs Teacher and a Special Needs Children’s Expert/Advocate as well. She fully appreciated the “opportunity” but was “concerned” about the adverse affects that our son’s “differences” had…could be negatively influenced.
I am pleased to say that (recently) when they received their Orange Belts it was ONE of the, which in my life I have had very few of, HAPPIEST DAYS that a parent…could have. Again, it was not the “color of the belt” that I reveled in but the fact that they had…EARNED it and had overcome many many times of frustration…and success.
I have never put much “emphasis” in the color of one’s belt, or the “degrees”, as there are many “black belt productions” that “give” a black belt in, or less than, a year. I have been PROUD of the fact that even though I started taking classes, at a time when very few people my age would have started, that I EARNED every bruise – ego burst – certificate – belt – etc. It took me SEVERAL years, of 5 day a week classes, to get to the point where I was confident in my abilities to instinctively successfully blend my physical abilities with my mental abilities. It is a challenge/mentality that has carried with me even though my (terrible) auto incident.
My point in issuing this “notice” is with the hopes that others, either involved in the Martial Arts Community OR thinking about becoming involved, will understand that the Martial Arts is something that is (in the right environment) not only “beautiful”…but carries with you in life…even in the “worst of circumstances”. Also, seeing FIRSTHAND the change of attitude (in both of my youngest Sons’) has been…enlightening and appreciative.
I believe that it is IMPERATIVE in the Parents of Special Needs Children to be forthcoming with your child’s “diagnosis/circumstances” as well as encouraging your children to ALWAYS try…for their is great honor in this.
My youngest Son’s will NEVER be able to deliver, in the proper “form”, a flying side kick. But, they carry with them the ability to know HOW to defend themselves and (more importantly) WHEN to defend themselves. It is a lesson that EVERY Martial Arts Instructor/Parent/Student should respect/appreciate…and support.
Whether a child, or adult, has physical challenges or mental challenges (i.e. Autism, etc.) the rewards of undertaking the Martial Arts…is….a gift that never fades, expires, or goes out of “style”.
Lastly, any comments on this subject are welcomed.
Take care and God bless.
Jeff Schrembs,


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