A Sifu’s observation on introducing wheelchair users to Jeet Kune Do

My initial thoughts were to question how JKD could be relevant to people with a spinal cord injury? JKD is a very
dynamic martial art which emphasizes fast foot work and elusive body mechanics. This part of JKD clearly does not apply to wheelchair users.

There are probably some in the martial arts community who think that because someone has a disability they cannot defend themselves, this is not true! I had to think about ways in which JKD could assist wheelchair users and this was a challenging question. After working with Colm and Declan I had a clearer idea of what was possible and what was not!

We tried several of the JKD approaches such as, on guard, interception skills which had to be modified, the straight blast, 4 corners of defence and attack, finger jab and bridge punching and escapes from grabs. All these required some modifications to make them more effective. Attack from behind is something we need to work on but we have selected one technique which is effected at the moment.

On another point, personal development and confidence building are important aspects of JKD which must be
intergraded into a training programme. I am personally delighted to be in a position to work with Colm and his group. JKD has had to be seriously modified to meet these needs and we have ditched more than half of our curriculum as it is just not applicable to wheelchair users. We have yet to try some of the vast array of energy sensitivity drills confined within our programme.

I think that JKD has something to offer people with a disability, however I am not conceited enough to believe that it is the only art which may be relevant to wheelchair users. It does seem however that some martial arts may not be well suited to meeting this need, for example styles which emphasize kicking or hard blocking, or which have complex techniques requiring good body mechanics and co-ordination.

Martin O’Neill
Martin O’Neill began the first JKD School in Ireland in 1987. He has been active in martial arts for 27 years. He is ranked by Sibak Taky Kimura and Sifu Andy Kimura at Advanced Level 2 in Jun Fan Gung Fu. Martin became only the second person outside the USA to receive the rank of Level 2 in Jun Fan Gung Fu from Sibak Taky Kimura and Sifu Andy Kimura.

For details on classes, Martin O’Neill can be contacted at info@jkdireland.com

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