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Special Needs Taekwon-Do

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Malaysia Special Needs Taekwon-Do Grows Support

By BRIGITTE ROZARIO

WHEN you think of therapy for special needs children, music and hydrotherapy often come to mind. Not many would associate martial arts with therapy.

That’s exactly what former national exponent Mohd Khaldun Redza, a 7th degree black belt and taekwondo chief instructor, and Eric Khoo, a 5th degree black belt and principal instructor, offer at

SEN Master (Special Educational Needs Martial Arts Therapy) Academy.

SEN Master teaches special needs children the tenets of martial arts, such as discipline, control, balance, courtesy, and integrity, as well as the taekwondo kicks, blocks and stances.

Good development

SEN Master now has more than 20 students with various conditions – microcephaly, Down Syndrome, autism, Global Developmental Delay, and hyperactive disorders. The youngest is a girl aged seven who has Global Developmental Delay, and the oldest is a young man, aged 25, who is on the autism spectrum.

“Even though it’s just been a few months since we started, the parents have noticed that their children have developed better balance, better co-ordination and focus, more confidence, self-esteem and stamina, they are healthier …. So, the parents are really happy with their progress. One child has even lost weight! Obesity is a problem with special needs children because they don’t get to move and exercise,” says Khaldun.

He and Khoo did not want to strictly teach martial arts to special needs children. Based on feedback from special needs teachers, he knows that it is more important to impart the principles of martial arts to the children rather than teach them to fight.

“A few special needs teachers have told me that they do not support martial arts therapy because some of their children have attended martial arts classes and became very aggressive. To me, perhaps, those instructors are approaching it differently.

Mohd Khaldun Redza: 'Our focus is more on conditioning, exercise and fitness, in a purposeful and fun way.'

“Here, we don’t focus so much on the martial arts aspect, although we use martial arts exercises and principles to train them. Our focus is more on conditioning, exercise and fitness, in a purposeful and fun way, so that they get to move and work out and interact with other children, and gain confidence,” he adds.

SEN Master is registered with the Malaysian International Taekwondo Federation (MITF), which is under the Ministry of Youth and Sports. Although the instructors use the national syllabus, the training and lessons are adapted to suit each child and his or her needs.

The beginning

Khaldun and Khoo have been teaching taekwondo to children and women at their Classic Taekwon-Do Academy since 2008.

In 2010, they accepted their first special needs child. It was a boy, aged eight, who had Asperger Syndrome. He was in his own world and lacked confidence and social contact.

“We were concerned as to whether we could handle such a child. His parents said that he had been advised to take up some movement therapy and with his ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) as well, they thought martial arts might be good for him. Slowly we guided him, and now he’s just turned 17, and holds a first degree black belt. Over the years, we saw that there was progress with him, and we started accepting other special needs children,” says Khaldun.

One of whom is a girl, now aged 18, with dyslexia and mild cerebral palsy. Her parents also reported good progress, says Khaldun. “They grow up being very confident, more focused, more balanced, more co-ordinated and more able to perform daily tasks. It has enriched their lives in that sense,” he explains.

Reaching out

Khaldun knows all about the frustration that parents of special needs children face as he too has been in that position. His son has autism and ADHD. Khaldun and his wife spent a sum of money on a number of schools and therapies.

Since accepting special needs children, Khaldun and Khoo have seen good progress in them and it has motivated them to do more.

“We were doing a good job with these children, whether typical or non-typical. I told Eric that I would like to spend my life now doing something for these special needs children. That’s when I embarked on a course of study in special needs. I did my diploma in Learning Disorders Management and Child Psychology. I also took a diploma in Education and Psychology and Counselling. It took me one year to complete. It was really tough, because we are not full-time teachers. We have full-time jobs as well,” explains Khaldun.

Khoo runs his own software development company and up till recently Khaldun was in client servicing for an agency. The duo taught taekwondo on the weekend, just as a way of giving back to society.

“As we approach our ‘old age’, we feel that we want to give back to the community. We want to leave a legacy, and I feel this is going to be our mark because we can do something good for the special needs community. The returns are not much but there is the gratification of knowing that these kids can do something for themselves or are able to feel a sense of achievement, and it is something we wanted to do,” says Khaldun.

The plan to do more for the special needs children finally came to fruition this year when a shoplot was found in Bandar Sri Damansara, Selangor, and SEN Master was founded.

Assessment

When parents bring their child in SEN Master, Khaldun and Khoo will assess the child and talk to the parents to see if they can help the child.

The only children they turn away are those whom they are not equipped to help. This includes those with medical conditions and who are advised against such therapy.

They also turn away children whose parents have unrealistic expectations as it puts undue pressure on the child.

If a child is found to be low-functioning, then the instructors would suggest a one-on-one class, or rather two instructors to one child.

If the child can communicate and is able to follow instructions (words like left, right, front, back, up and down), then they will accept the child into a group class. There is a maximum of five students in the group class, led by three instructors.

While being in a group class seems more beneficial to the children, as they learn to interact and socialise, it may not always be in the best interest of the child. If a child cannot keep up with the rest of the children in the group, it can be frustrating and end up being bad for their self-esteem.

There’s also an inclusive class where the special needs children join typically-developing children from the Academy; both the typically-functioning and special needs children are prepared before going for this class.

Although there are three options for class type, which class a child joins is not up to the parents. The instructors need to see if the special needs child is ready for a group class, and later if they can join the inclusive class.

What happens in the class

According to Khaldun, it might take weeks or months to establish communication when children initially join SEN Master. This is when the instructors try to understand how they speak and what words they understand as well as how they understand instructions.

“After we connect with them, then they need to be taught basic compliance, to sit and listen to instructions. We teach them social cues like bowing and respect.

“In the beginning it is quite challenging because this is something new to them. They have to learn new concepts, really abstract concepts like power, breathing, and body awareness. This gets them to think, to exercise their left and right brain, and so it takes time.

“Once they get the hang of it, you will see the confidence creeping in. They will then be a bit more sure of themselves and they start becoming calmer and are able to do the exercises,” he says.

Eric Khoo helping a child practise with his kicks.

Only after that will the instructors start teaching them the martial arts aspect. It might be two or three months after they join SEN Master. According to Khaldun, how long it takes depends on the child and the parents as there may be some exercises that the children need to practise at home.

“During our martial therapy treatment, we use certain equipment to help them with their warm up exercises, such as the balance balls and exercise balls. It’s fun for them. When they are able to co-ordinate, then we teach them some martial arts techniques like punching and kicking. If they are able to do that, then we put them through grading. If they succeed, then they will get their first belt – a yellow belt. And, they will get a certificate which is recognised by the Ministry of Youth and Sports.

“Usually, when they get their certificate and belt they are very happy and proud to show it to their parents.

“They don’t participate in sparring, except for one boy who has a black belt. He goes for competitions because he wants to, but even then we monitor it very closely. The minute anything happens, I will pull him out. The others don’t need to go for competitions as they are only here for exercise. But we pair them up and they do controlled kicks with no contact,” explains Khaldun.

He is in the midst of talking to MITF about including a category for special needs children in its tournaments.

Conclusion

In addition to the classes at SEN Academy, Khaldun and Khoo also conduct classes for special needs children in some schools. It’s done free of charge because the purpose is to make it affordable, accessible and available to more people.

It’s not surprising to find out that these two instructors don’t even pay themselves for the work they do at SEN Master. They see their work there as a calling.

Unfortunately, there are still overheads such as rental to take care of. As such, SEN Master is currently looking for corporate sponsors to help them reach out to more children, who may not be able to afford to pay for the classes.

According to Khaldun, taekwondo is just a tool; when it comes to therapy, it could very well be wushu or any other martial art.

“Martial arts principles are common, they are universal. The principles of respect, the value of integrity, self-control, indomitable spirit, perseverance – those are common values in all martial arts. It’s just that the technique, execution and movements are different. Whether it’s taekwondo, wushu or karate doesn’t matter, as long as they come and do it. These are values that music therapy, dance and swimming don’t teach them. Those therapies teach other values,” he says.

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Special Needs Taekwon-Do ITF World Champs Division – A Great Success!

History was made at the ITF Taekwon-Do World Champs which was held at the Brighton Event Center on the 30th July 2016.

There was a first to ever happen Special Needs Taekwon-Do division with a total of 4 countries (Argentina, New Zealand, USA and UK) who took part.

The event first began with an opening demonstration from the New Zealand team directed by Ben Evans. Members of the team were:

Johann Landkroon – 1st Degree

Tupuna Rangi – 1st Degree

Aaron Garnham Pitcher – 1st Degree

Aidan McCance – 1st Kup

Nesta Rei – 1st Kup

 

There was an extremely vibrant start to the demonstration from the entire stadium with cheering and clapping as the team walked towards the center ring. Johann Landkroon, (24), with downsyndrome, lead the team in to perform a series of various aspects of Taekwon-Do.

The team began with performing team Dan Gun Tul which showed great spirit and technique. After completing the team pattern, Johann commanded the team to march back and he performed  Kwang Gae Tul. After his performance he demonstrated a downward strike break on a rebreakable board. Again, the stadium roared with joy when they saw his spirit and determination. Shortly after the team returned back and they all performed Yul Gok Tul. The stadium continued to be silent. Choong Moo Tul as a team was definitely an eye opener for the many who witnessed the boys pull it off. The domino effect, pausing and most importantly the team work really created excitement and an excellent atmosphere in the stadium among all of those from different countries.

The demonstration consisted of various breaking techniques such as front punch, jumping front snap kick, jumping reverse turning kick, palm strike, front snap kick and a jumping back kick. All breaks were successful from the athletes above who were part of the demo team.

The demonstration finished with Johann marching his team forwards and bowing everyone out shouting “Lets go New Zealand” with his hands in the air. His father Harry Landkroon accompanied Ben Evans with the New Zealand flag as they walked side ways. Everyone in the stadium stood up clapping and cheering. The Netherlands team were chanting “New Zea – land! New Zea – land!”

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President of the International Taekwon-Do Federation Grand Master Choi Jung Hwa told the group he would like to come to New Zealand and thanked them for all the work they have done for the sport.

“This shows that everything is possible. Everybody is special.

“We love you so very, very much, and we hope you continue to be good ambassadors of taekwondo to the world and also our friends out there.

“I hope to see more of this. I would like to go to New Zealand and give a seminar for yourselves if you want. Keep up the good work.”

The division began with Black belt Patterns then color belt. Various competitors from the 4 Nations competed and earned a Gold, Silver and Bronze.

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Results for 18-25 Black Belt Patterns:

1st: Tupuna Rangi (NZL)

2nd: Johann Landkroon (NZL)

3rd: Aaron Garnham Pitcher (NZL)

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Results for 25-35 Black Belt Patterns

1st: Julian (last name to be added) (ARGENTINA)

2nd: Jessie Harbison (USA)

3rd: Eric Cohen (USA)

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Results for 15-18 Mixed Boys and Girls Red and Black Belt

1st: Angel (UK)

2nd: Julian Heffernan (UK)

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Results for Boys 1st Kup division (mixed ages)

1st: Aidan McCance (NZL)

2nd: Nesta Rei (NZL)

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Results for Mixed Abilities

1st: Eric Cohen (USA)

2nd: Julian (ARGENTINA)

3rd: Johann Landkroon (NZL)

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Highlights for various people from various countries:

johann ben jasmine

Jasmine Choi (President CHOI Jung Hwa Daughter): I know I’ve said this to you many times but in very proud of you. When the special needs students performed at the world championships they shined because you were their teacher. That’s all your hard work,passion and willing to want to help them feel like you and I which they wholeheartedly deserve. I’m extremely happy that you were able to make history with the help of ITF! Keep pushing hard!❤️ My father and I support you to the fullest.

My father is very passionate about Special Needs students and supports your hard work. 💙 So proud of you Ben Evans for taking the time & patience to train these amazing Special Needs students. I think everyone in the stadium was feeling emotional in a good way when we watched those angels perform,you could have heard a pin drop on the floor❤️ It made my heart melt seeing those smiles on their faces and to see how included they felt was priceless. This has nothing to do with feeling sorry for Special Needs students it’s about including them because they are human like you and I. They competed against each other in the ITF World Champions performing patterns and if they did lose they learned how it feels to lose because this is the whole point is not to make them feel different. They performed patterns without making a mistake and it is not easy memorizing patterns as you get higher in ranking. No sparring because it’s too high risk if they were to get injured,safety comes first always. Looking back at these photos puts a smile on my face and I’m honoured to have been a part of this history in the making☺️❤️

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Michael Cormack:  Loved the Special Needs presentation! I loved it! (More review further to be added in due course)

Master Edimir Kawakubo: congratulations, the event was amazing, most of us, umpires was crying hahahaha

Tammy from Australia: The event was awesome brought tears to people’s eyes. I spoke to a UK umpire spoke nothing but admiration and I spoke about our special needs stating the only difference between the two is their disability is visible others are not.
Great to see this in ITF it is just the beginning of something special.

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Vicki Harbison (Parent of competitor Jessie from USA):

All the guys stood out for me in different ways. Sadly I can’t remember everyone’s names ( I suck at names) but Johann, Nesta, Tupuna, Aaron (the boys whose grandmother was there) Eric and Jillian were special

Angel being there was perfect because girls with autism are often over looked. For me as Jesse’s mom, finally having something like the division at that level of competition was a dream come true. It was a validation of my son as a Martial Artist. The not knowing what was going on with the division is understandable due to the newness of the division. If we had known about the self defense skit ahead of time or that color belts were also invited, we could have come up with something for Jesse to do and I could have invited a couple of my students that would of happily come as well.

 

More quotes from those who witnessed the historic event to come.

Overall it was an extremely impressive event. The event had the full attention of the entire stadium. There was a young man from USA called Mr. Eric Cohen. Through his 26 years of Taekwon-Do he always asked his instructor when he could go to the world champs and if there would be a special needs division (as there was never any divisions at a world stage for him). This opportunity made Eric extremely happy. An opportunity of a lifetime. This opportunity had allowed his dream to come true after all of those years watching his friends attend world championships.

Our Argentinian competitor Julian was amazing! Everyone in the stadium loved watching his Mixed Abilities event.

One of the only female special needs competitors Angel from the UKITF performed remarkably well under high pressure. One USA Parent Vicki said “Angel being there was perfect because girls with autism are often over looked.” Sally (Angels caregiver) said Angel was so pleased to meet Ben Evans and the special needs team competitors. Angel had a huge smile winning a gold medal. She competed against a special needs black belt called Julian from UK. Julian from UK instructor Mr. Chris Heffernan won a silver in patterns. He performed his best as the rest of the special needs who all earned their medal.

President CHOI said after the demonstration “You’ve made history”

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Overall an extremely successful event and we cannot wait to attend the further opportunities which will be put in front of us! The next World Champs opportunity will be July 2018 in Argentina!!

 

It was a great event and allowed Ben Evans to make contact with lots of countries who were interested in jumping on board for the Special Needs Taekwon-Do. Many purchased the Special Needs Taekwon-Do Book 2016 recent update which was proving to be very successful and an excellent resource to help Instructors learn and understand how to teach special needs of all abilities! If you are interested in getting a copy, you can do so by visiting http://www.specialneedstaekwondobook.com

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Special Needs Kids gain a Boost from Taekwon-Do

Robert Carr started a Special Needs Taekwon-Do program in his Lower Sackville club, helping boost self-esteem for people aged 8 to 38.

The continued benefits and impacts of Taekwon-Do on the lives of special needs in the community continues to grow strong internationally.
In Canada a recent grading took place at Master Rob Carr’s Dojang. There was a total of 6 who tested for the first time who managed to impress the examining table with their front, side, turning and back kicks. Not only did the students have to perform their kicks, but they had to perform the fundamental exercises Saju Jirugi and Saju Makgi. Students were required to demonstrate their theory and etiquette.
“With learning the martial arts, besides developing a level of confidence being a big one, they’re noticing differences when they’re in school and with their social interactions,” said Master Carr.
 He added the special needs Taekwon-Do class has had a positive impact for participants and the community.
“The challenges they experienced, honestly these guys took to the program immediately. Some struggled with listening and attention. Another who has a physical deformity had some mobility and flexibility. All have notably grown and improved with their physical and mental challenges.”
With the program officially launched Nov 2015 there’s even more great opportunities down the path for Master Carr’s special needs students.
“Just seeing the smile that’s on their face at the end of every class, they come in, they’re excited to be here,” Carr said. “At the end of the class the smile is still there just as vibrant as when it was when they came through the door.”
Master Rob Carr was one of the first Instructors in Canada to purchase the Special Needs Taekwon-Do Book created by Ben Evans. The FIRST to ever buy one was also from Canada who was Ms. October Newton!
We look forward to continue following the developments of Master Carr’s Special Needs Taekwon-Do.

Australia Special Needs Taekwon-Do Begins

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This article is about Mr. Kye Todd in South Australia who runs Azure Taekwon-Do Mount Gambier. He is a 4th degree. Interviewed by Ben Evans.

Recently Mr. Kye Todd was approached by parents who knew of one young man who joined his club September 2015 who had Autism. Through the significant benefits and changes from Taekwon-Do to this child, more and more parents heard about the great achievements made.

Mr. Kye Todd has recently been approached by 3 schools to run after school special needs Taekwon-Do classes.

“One of the main barriers to working with the special needs students was not knowing what to teach with regards to syllabus. Not to do sparring either. First initial training I wondered can I teach this, can I teach that? I don’t want the student to misuse Taekwon-Do in public.” Kye said.

The special needs Taekwon-Do first started for Mr. Kye Todd 22nd April 2016. He has had some success with a recent special needs student who graded the first time.

Some of the challenges faced with teaching inside of a mainstream class was the lack of support to the special needs student. Since then, he has been asking assistant instructors to help and work with the special needs while at training.

Mr. Kye Todd felt that students who were integrated into mainstream training were capable but felt they needed some extra help and work before attending the classes and being integrated. As a result, he has set up a special needs class to help and support the vast different abilities of ages and level.

Overall, it was felt by Mr. Kye Todd that many schools and clubs rejected special needs in his community. So he felt he was bridging that gap between the community and giving great opportunity. “It is good to prove they can do it.”

Mr. Kye Todd purchased the Special Needs Taekwon-Do Book before starting teaching special needs which he said gave him a good understanding of what was involved for special needs students.

“This is an excellent example of Instructors taking initiative and supporting the community 100%. I see that Mr. Kye Todd has a good heart and the special needs students are in safe hands. I hope that more will start teaching Special Needs Taekwon-Do in their country. Maybe in the near future there will be an Australian team coming to our Special Needs Taekwon-Do Championships here in New Zealand in early November 2016. What a great opportunity that would be for the fellow Australian friends to come across the ditch!” Ben Evans

Special Needs TKD News #1

 

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Dear All Taekwon-Do Practitioners Internationally,

I have created this blog system for Special Needs Taekwon-Do News to bring you the recent news of the exciting developments in many countries around the world.

I would like to see Special Needs Taekwon-Do to expand and grow in more countries around the world. This can only happen through the promotion of this blog and the facebook page ‘Special Needs Taekwon-Do News’, which I feel will be the driving force for inspiration and connecting more and more instructors globally.

It is my fervent believe that it is important to support those who have intellectual and physical disabilities through the name of Taekwon-Do. The benefits for Special Needs Taekwon-Do are surreal. When teaching these students, we are benefiting our respective communities, and there are ongoing health benefits that the students will surely receive. Age is not a factor that should be considered, nor should disabilities such Autism, Down’s syndrome or Cerebral Palsy, be a limitation. Taekwon-Do changes lives in a positive way, as it provides opportunities for students to learn and develop skills that can be applied to everyday life.

I would like to personally thank the ITF, President Choi Jung Hwa, Grandmasters, and instructors and students everywhere, who are supporting Special Needs Taekwon-Do. I have so many goals for the success of Special Needs Taekwon-Do in the ITF. I take my lead from the founder of Taekwon-Do, who believed that his legacy would transcend barriers. Thus far the only barrier for Special Needs Taekwon-Do has been the scarcity of instructors and clubs willing to be involved in furthering the General’s vision.

I believe it is my obligation to strengthen Special Needs Taekwon-Do within the ITF. I would like to offer my experience with special needs students to anyone who would like to develop a special needs program for their organisation. Those who wish to support this future development of the ITF, I humbly ask you to make contact with me. The assistance I offer can keep the progression of Taekwon-Do moving forwards. Together we can ensure success.

I am extremely excited about the Special Needs Taekwon-Do developments within the ITF. Furthermore, my dream has been made a reality with the next ITF Taekwon-Do World Championships in England. The announcement by President Choi Jung Hwa that there will be a special needs division in Canada fills me with pride. This coming on the occasion of the 60th birthday of Taekwon-Do is surely a sign of great things. I would like to encourage as many as possible to support and attend with a special needs team. It is a first in the history of Taekwon-Do. Let us strive to continue building the ITF & Special Needs Taekwon-Do with strength and honour.

Moving forwards, there’s not long until the World Champs in July. I’d like to thank everyone who is supporting the event which will happen on the Saturday (30th). We have competitors from Argentina, Australia, UK, New Zealand and possibly more. This event is a FIRST and I am extremely positive it will be a huge success for the International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF). This event is open to all groups and instructors who have special needs students confirmed by GM Trevor Nicholls. I’d like to encourage more make contact. With arrangements regarding accommodation please contact the Organising Committee on http://www.itfworldchampionships.com.

All entries will be passed onto GM Galarraga. We will be working together regarding the criteria for the divisions. The competitors will be registered as spectators for this years division.

I look forward to hearing from you,

 

Ben Evans

Special Needs Taekwon-Do Director

 

 

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