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SELF-PROTECTION FOR HANDICAPPED PEOPLE

The term "handicapped" implies a great variety of physical and/or mental impairments. Their common denominator is a feeling of inadequacy and helplessness. Training handicapped persons to defend themselves can result in great psychological and physical benefits. In the majority of cases, handicapped persons will become convinced that they, also, have a CHANCE to defend themselves against physical aggression. Quite objectively, this is all anyone can get out of ANY self-defensive training. Besides physical self defense, American Self Protection (A.S.P.) offers psychosomatic self-protection. This is most important to handicapped people, because, while they may never be attacked physically, they have to live with themselves all the days of their lives. Our "Relaxation-Concentration" exercise is most useful in this respect. Several handicapped persons in various parts of the country have benefited from our program.

Here, we shall outline a method for training handicapped persons to defend themselves. The techniques mentioned are taken out of various parts of A.S.P. Interested persons should refer to the corresponding volumes.

A.S.P. makes use of few elements of motion applicable to a great number of self-defensive situations. Through repetition, they become conditioned reflexes and thus are retained longer by the student, while the process of learning becomes easier as he progresses. Therefore, there is a large number of techniques accessible to handicapped persons, depending on their handicap. The A.S.P. instructor does not have to invent new techniques, he has only to adapt his teaching method to the specific handicap of the person or group he is dealing with. Above all, his confidence in the ability of his students to learn to defend themselves must be reflected by his attitude and thus transmitted to them.

IT STANDS TO REASON THAT THE RATE OF INSTRUCTION MUST BE SLOWED DOWN TO FIT EACH SPECIFIC CASE. TECHNIQUES MUST BE BROKEN DOWN INTO ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS WHICH THE STUDENT CAN UNDERSTAND AND ASSIMILATE. WHEN EACH PART IS MASTERED, THE INSTRUCTOR HELPS THE STUDENT TO PUT IT ALL TOGETHER IN FLOWING CONTINUOUS MOTIONS.

It is hardly worth mentioning that the instructor must be understanding, VERY patient, even tempered, compassionate, and not easily discouraged.  When a sense ceases to function, one tries to compensate by using his remaining senses; by such constant practice these tend to become more acute. This increased sensitivity can be put to good use while teaching A.S.P. For our purposes, we divide handicaps into four main groups.

GROUP I.

Persons who can move freely, but have mental and coordination handicaps.

GROUP II.

Persons who can move freely, but have sense handicaps, such as deaf and blind people.

GROUP III.

Persons who cannot move freely, e.g., people using canes, crutches, or in wheelchairs.

GROUP IV.

Persons with compound handicaps.

The instructor must convince his students of all four groups that they are not helpless and that they do not have to become experts in order to defend themselves. Since it is rather unlikely that a brave man would ever attack a handicapped person, they will be dealing mostly with cowards who do not expect resistance from their intended victim. There is then a good probability for any defensive technique, even poorly executed, to act as a deterrent. In any self-defensive situation, all one can hope for is a higher probability of success; this is a function of many factors, including the degree of training. The benefits from the resulting self-confidence are invaluable. ANY kind of training helping a handicapped person to adjust to his handicap and to convince him that he is a useful and valuable member of society, capable of pulling his own weight, is extremely beneficial.

Many A.S.P. techniques can be adapted for use by handicapped persons, their type and numbers depending on the kind of handicap. A.S.P. stickfighting, which uses only six basic motions of this stick, is well suited for this purpose. These few motions can be used in a wide variety of ways and blend well with all other elements of our basic system. As earlier mentioned, they become conditioned reflexes through repetition and thus are retained easier and longer. The benefits of A.S.P. psychological training have been already mentioned.

HANDICAPPED PEOPLE NEED CONSTANT ENCOURAGEMENT AND ALL CORRECTIONS DURING TRAINING SHOULD BE MADE IN A POSITIVE MANNER, DO THIS, RATHER THAN DON*T DO THAT. Instructors to the handicapped would be well advised to teach them in the presence of others, to use at least one helper to demonstrate all techniques and to avoid, as much as feasible, handling their students. It is useful to include in each complete technique sharp yelling, or if impractical, a sharp exhalation through the mouth.

There is a general practice in the combative arts, which calls for creating a momentary distraction or diversion. Hence, the usual sequence of blow-technique-blow. Handicapped people have also the ability to use diversionary tactics. Throwing anything at hand to the assailant*s eyes or face to create confusion and/or pain, using sharp motions with one hand to attract his attention, in order to attack with the other, or with kicks, the use of improvised weapons, etc., such tactics are well within the reach of most handicapped people.

Before going any further, let us mention that A.5. P. has an unmatched safety record over 27 years of existence. Yet, freak accidents are always possible; any instructor would be well advised to teach for institutions and on premises adequately covered by insurance. In the case of handicapped people, it is imperative to secure medical authorization for their participation. Now, let us see some specifics relative to each of the four groups. WHENEVER POSSIBLE, ALL TRAINING MUST BE AMBIDEXTROUS.

Group I.

Persons Who Can Move Freely but Have Mental or Coordination Handicaps

In our experience, many people in this group can master all basic A.5. P. techniques and quite a few stick-fighting ones. The task of the instructor is to observe carefully the areas where difficulties are encountered, break them down into smaller parts and, working patiently with the student, help him to integrate them into free-flowing, continuous techniques. We have witnessed the satisfaction a student experiences when he is able to perform such simple motions as a pivot or the deflection of a reaching attack. The following are examples of exercises recommended for improving coordination and balance: Slapping Dodge, Pivoting and Stretching, Deflect and Lead, Bent Elbow Deflection, Arm Thrust Deflection, Override and Slash, Lift Elbows and Sidestep, and The Porcupine. Each one is an integral part of one of more defensive techniques. All groups may benefit from them.

Group II.

Persons Who can Move Freely but Have Sense

Impairment THE DEAF All A.S.P. techniques are accessible to this group. Particular emphasis should be placed on training their peripheral vision, by insisting that they look "through," beyond, their partner and not "at" him. If the instructor is not familiar with the means of communicating with deaf people, it is desirable that he secures the assistance of someone who is.

THE BLIND. Many blind people develop unusually sharp hearing and sense of direction. Some have a remnant of sight and can master several A .S. P. techniques, including grappling and stickfighting ones. Legally blind persons are entitled to use a white cane. Get them to select a sturdy one, which they feel they can comfortably handle. Training should be either individual, in the presence of others, or with the assistance of several helpers familiar with the methods of interacting with the blind.

Preparatory Training

It is best to start with stickfighting techniques: (a). Wrist flexibility and rotation exercises without and with the cane (b). Guards (c). Wrist locks with a cane (d). Slashes and thrusts (e). Basic two-handed parries (1). Pivoting and stretching exercises (g). Judging distance. This is accomplished as follows:

Get the student to assume guard #2. (Stand at ease. feet apart, and hold the stick with both hands, each near the corresponding tip, symmetrically, palms facing toward you.)

Training blind persons is a slow process, but the results are rewarding. When the instructor senses that the interest is flagging, he should stop and change into something different, e.g., holding and breaking grappling immobilizations (hold-downs). This is essential with children.

1. Approach from a distance, while talking to him. Ask him to extend his arm at the level of his head and let him know when you reach the red tip of his cane. Repeat until he can judge himself that distance. Using the A.S.P. broom, ask him to thrust gently the cane with one hand in your direction, when he judges that you have come within his reach. Repeat same with a slash. Repeat same at (his) midriff and knee levels. Same exercises with the other hand, and then with both hands.

2. When he can judge distance and direction with some accuracy, put him in front of a sandbag, stand next to it talking. Get him to approach it from a distance and ask him to tell you when he thinks he can reach it with his cane. When he is at the right distance, get him to work on the power of his thrusts and slashes.

3. Show him how to break a grip on his sleeve or arm, a side headlock, a frontal embrace, and a rear bear-hug. Add the Knee/ Groin throw.

4. Get him to lie on a mat. Approach him talking. Show him how to roll away, per basic A.S.P., when you are about to reach him. Practice the basic defense from the ground, with emphasis on the last one.

5. Get him to sit on the mat and support himself with his hands and elbows, knees bent. Keep moving around him and keep talking. Let him pivot to face you as he kicks alternatively and fast with both feet.

6. Practice selected grappling take-downs and get into A.S.P. grappling. The proximity of the opponent and the sensitivity to touch of the blind make them quite adept at this kind of training.

Group III.

Persons Who Cannot Move Freely, Such as Those Using a Cane, Crutches, or a Wheelchair

The training method here is different, depending on the sub-group. The reason for this difference relates to varying degrees of balance. People in wheelchairs have a rather steady balance, while people using a cane of crutches do not.

Crutches are often used in pairs. Shifting the weight on the leg and crutch which will give the best balance should be practiced. The free arm is trained to parry, thrust and slash with the other crutch. This approach may also be used with a cane. Because of the possibility of a fall, adaptations of take-downs and grappling techniques MUST be studied TOGETHER WITH CHOKES AND LOCKS. WHILE A PERSON ON CRUTCHES OR USING A CANE MAY BE HANDICAPPED IN THE STANDING POSITION, HE CAN BECOME A FORMIDABLE OPPONENT ON THE GROUND.

Students in wheelchairs should practice assiduously a technique similar to the deflection and pivot of the "before" techniques of basic A.S.P., namely, retreating slightly and spinning their wheelchair to get out of a reaching attack. To this should be added hand, elbow and extended arm deflections, and attacks on vulnerable points with bare hands, a stick, or improvised weapons. Several A.S.P. stickfighting techniques can be adapted for use by people in wheelchairs.

Preparatory Training

(a). For people using a cane or crutches: Have students shift on one leg, "feeling" their weight "settle" down at their lower abdomen by relaxing, and train their free arm in the use of thrusts, slashes and parries, using the A.S.P. broom* as target.

(b). For people in wheelchairs. Practice the retreat and pivot described above, to the right and to the left. Then, study selected techniques from A.S.P., particularly those using an extended arm or a bent elbow to deflect an attack. Wrist controls, such as the Outer Wrist (W1) are then added in conjunction with striking or pressing vulnerable points. Finally, the use of a stick or cane and improvised weapons is introduced in a manner similar to that outlined above. The use of the A.S.P. broom as a target is most helpful.

Group IV Persons with Multiple Handicaps

Here, training must be individualized and adapted to each specific case following the above guidelines. The use of one,. or more assistants is mandatory.

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