Minding Your Movement: Martial Arts Teaches Kids Control Over ADHD

by Tiger Schulmann's Vails Gate

In the classroom at school, a group of students sit at their desks listening to the instructions for the next task of the day. Perhaps two or three are drumming their fingers, and several others may appear to stare into space as the teacher is speaking. But despite their disinterest in the lesson at this moment, they still manage to obtain the information necessary to complete the assignment. In the center of the room, a child is seated with one leg under his body as the other swings at the side of his chair in constant motion. He fiddles with every item on his desk, dropping his pencil on the floor numerous times. He audibly displays his struggle to keep focus with repeated grunts and heavy breaths, and his body movements are noticeably distracting to his peers. The disruptions draw negative attention to his location, as he anxiously waits for the activity level in the room to pick up to drown out the involuntary sounds he’s been making.

ALEX SALADINI, JR. stands much taller than most other fourth graders and often deceives most adults who would see him as much older than 10 years old. In addition to the pressures of meeting behavioral expectations based on his appearance as an older child, Alex struggles with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and exhibits the same fidgety body language that impacts his everyday activities. Diagnosed about 3 years earlier, Alex’s parents noticed his increasingly frequent frustrations with focus during daily activities. It began to translate into other aspects of his life, especially within the framework of school and athletics. He started to display emotional and social anxieties that impacted his academics and had a difficult time making friends.

“As soon as we entered the school we were greeted by the head instructor, and after a short talk I felt a very positive vibe.”

Prior to Alex’s diagnosis his father, Alex Sr. enrolled him in a small martial arts school in Stony Point, NY where the family resides. He still had trouble with focus, attention and discipline, and the brief stint at the small martial arts school did not last. Alex’s father decided to give Tiger Schulmann’s Mixed Martial Arts (TSMMA) a try when a definitive medical finding was established a few years later. Although the TSMMA Vails Gate school was not as easily accessible to the Rockland County family, Alex Sr. had read over the profile of the Vails Gate instructor and was impressed with his credentials. “As soon as we entered the school we were greeted by the head instructor, and after a short talk I felt a very positive vibe.”

Sensei Jose Montes has been a martial arts instructor for over 20 years. His stellar reputation within the TSMMA organization has become an appealing incentive for attracting entire families to train at his school. He has transformed the lives of several students in both the adult and kids martial arts classes, and few would ever know that any of his students may have personal struggles that they continue to work through. Sensei has trained many children facing challenges of ADHD, autism, and developmental delays in the martial arts. But his attention to detail and firm, charismatic influence on each child has taught them the skills to maintain self-discipline on and off the mat.

Mixed martial arts has helped Alex manage his ADHD through improved confidence and discipline.
Mixed martial arts has helped Alex manage his ADHD through improved confidence and discipline.

Joshu Shane Burgos also teaches at TSMMA Vails Gate and offers a different, yet appealing method of teaching martial arts as well. The students look up to the young instructor’s accomplishments as a professional mixed martial arts fighter, and respect his expectations of them during each class. His vibrant, fast paced demeanor keep the kids active and engaged for the duration of training.

Alex Sr. has credited his son’s improved behaviors toward the patient, understanding nature of both Vails Gate instructors and has continued his patronage to the school for the past few years. “Sensei Montes and Joshu Burgos have been an extremely positive and powerful influence over Alex (Jr.), and he has made amazing strides, both physically and emotionally since meeting them.” Alex Jr. attends classes at least twice a week, and participates in both the kickboxing and grappling instruction back to back. He has improved his ability to stand at attention, follow multi step directions and maintain his focus on the lessons each week. His father cites several improvements in confidence, focus, physical ability, patience and overall respect that would be otherwise impacted by his son’s ADHD.  Although the family travels quite a distance to train at Vails Gate, Alex Sr. feels that the quality of instruction his son has received would be difficult to match anywhere else. “With so many other schools in the Rockland area, people often wonder why I make the drive to TSMMA Vails Gate all the way from Stony Point, NY. My response is simple. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Alex Sr. is extremely happy with the progress his son has made through martial arts
Alex Sr. is extremely happy with the progress his son has made through martial arts

Since the start of training with TSMMA Vails Gate,  the option of other well established TSMMA schools near the Rockland area have since become available, such as TSMMA Nanuet and Ramsey. But Alex Sr. feels that the special relationship with the Vails Gate instructors is a valuable asset toward maintaining his son’s success. Alex Sr. recognizes that some children need a certain personality or method of teaching by making a connection, and the Vails Gate instructors have been able to tap into that. “Sensei Montes and Joshu Burgos are the type of individuals that you point to when your kids are looking for positive role models. You need a special gift to do what they do for the kids.”

By Lauren Rose