Mixed Martial Arts Benefits Individuals With Asperger’s
My twins have been students at Tiger Schulmann’s Mixed Martial Arts for six years. They have done very well under the guidance and care of Sensei Montes and his staff. When I see two strong young men standing at attention, following instructions, and executing their moves with power and discipline, my pride is only eclipsed by my gratitude. These boys were labeled as young children and with the label came a long list of low expectations.
We always knew our sons had some issues. They had problems with their motor skills and were very sensitive to outside stimuli. There were speech delays and their communication was usually scripted. After several years of tests and observation they were given the diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome. This came with a lot of papers, lists, and reading suggestions that were designed to help us know what to expect as we raised them. It was a little bit overwhelming!
“I couldn’t believe that the world had such
little faith in my very bright little boys.”
As I read through the pages I couldn’t believe that the world had such little faith in my very bright little boys. I will spare you most of the details and focus on what these pages said about “typical physical limitations.” To begin, it was suggested that sports would be almost out of the question. We were told that the boys would have low muscle tone and very little core muscle strength. Poor posture and clumsy coordination would also be a hindrance, and if they perceived an activity as difficult they would probably quit and not stick with it.
Additionally, our children would probably have very low stamina and they would not be able to carry out any type of sustained physical activity. We should expect that they would tire easily and become frustrated. They would also be easily distracted, lose their focus, and have a tough time following instructions with more than two or three commands. The list went on. They would not be able to balance properly, they would have poor “motor planning,” (that is a fancy term for completing an exercise that requires a series of movements to complete) they would not do well at activities that required them to cross their arm or leg across the middle of their bodies, or imitating an instructor.
I will admit that the boys did show a tendency toward all of these things. They could walk before they could sit up by themselves. They did tire easily and slouch. They were short on patience when they didn’t understand a concept. Despite all of this, they desired more for themselves and I was not about to hold them back because some “experts” wrote a bunch of intimidating lists. Rather than using the resources we were given as a guide to their limitations, I thought it would be better to consider these things difficulties to consider as we worked to overcome them.
Because the kids loved to be outdoors, we got a trampoline and a big playground set with swings, slides, and ropes to climb. I had them swimming as soon as possible, and before long they had built up some core strength and their gross motor skills were improving.
When they were about eight years old they saw commercials on television for Tiger Schulmann’s Mixed Martial Arts. They asked me (every day) if they could join. I could have looked at the lists and dismissed Mixed Martial Arts as a possibility for them. After all, it would require strength, stamina, focus, and the ability to follow multi-step instructions. Instead, I told them that they would have to work hard and pay very close attention to their instructors. This did not deter them – in fact, I think that my faith in their ability gave them an extra boost of confidence. We called the school and made an appointment to come in for a class at the local school.
We knew Mixed Martial Arts was a good choice for us on the very first day. The boys were given some one on one time to learn a few of the basic moves they would be doing in kickboxing class. When they got out on the mat, they were so nervous, and they did not start out as Mixed Martial Arts superstars by any means! They did have trouble with combinations, they did get tired, and they did sometimes lose their focus when Sensei Montes would address the class – but Sensei did what all excellent teachers do. He encouraged them to find their potential and to achieve it. He taught them that all good things come from hard work, a true desire for excellence, and a non-quitting spirit. He and some of the advanced students like Joshu Shane Burgos were wonderful role models. The boys saw that even the advanced students and teachers trained hard and kept improving, too. As time went on my sons became stronger, their combinations were smoother, and they were far more focused.
“The same boys who began training as ripe targets for bullies
now stand straight and tall with confidence from Mixed Martial Arts.”
It has been six years since the boys began their training at Tiger Schulmann’s Mixed Martial Arts. The shy, uncoordinated little boys who could barely stand up straight now have high red belts and will probably have low brown belts soon. They are fourteen years old and hold their own in the advanced adult kickboxing classes. They stay after class to work on sparring, grappling, and strength training with their instructors and peers.
The same boys who began training as ripe targets for bullies now stand straight and tall with confidence from Mixed Martial Arts. Their soft middles have been replaced by six-pack abs, and they can do amazing push ups, squats, and ab workouts.
All children on the autism spectrum have different paths and different outcomes, but I can say with confidence that for my children – Sensei Montes has been an excellent mentor and their experience at Tiger Schulmann’s Mixed Martial Arts has been life changing.
By Catherine S