Friday, March 21, 2008

Wheelchair-bound man earns karate's yellow belt


I found this Article and wanted to share it. Great Job Pat, You're an inspiration to all Martial Artist and Tony Agnello from Memorial Karate Club for allowing it to happen! --- Roger Boggs

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Patrick Christie practices his jabs and kicks along with the rest of the Tony Agnello Memorial Karate Club students, working his way from one end of the gym to the other. While his fellow students use precise footwork to traverse the space, Mr. Christie periodically breaks from his jabs to turn the wheels of his wheelchair.

Born with cerebral palsy, Mr. Christie, 25, of Parry Sound, said he has been in either a stroller or a wheelchair his entire life and adapts the karate moves to his unique situation. While others do back and side kicks, he kicks his feet forward; while others shift their weight to touch the floor in a side-to-side motion while in a wide-leg crouch, he leans over one side and then the other of the wheelchair; while others run around the gym, he turns the chair's wheels.

Cerebral Palsy affects his balance, range of motion and muscle tension, he said.

"They just said 'do what you can'," he said. "So I think, 'they're trying to stretch these muscles, so, if I do this, it might do the same thing.'"

He keeps his eyes on the instructor, copying the movement as best he can. His motions aren't always smooth and graceful and his kicks, with the thin legs he's never walked on, don't look assertive, but he doesn't let that stop him from taking part and even suggesting a round of push-ups during the evening's warm up session, much to the dismay of at least one fellow student.

On Jan. 26, four months after he first started taking lessons, he earned his yellow belt, which replaced the white belt of a beginner.

"That belt feels very good, because you can't buy that one in the store," he said.

During a water break last Wednesday, Mr. Christie and the other students gathered in a circle and reminisced about the rankings held in Novar last month.

"Nobody hit me," he said. "Then at the very end (one guy did) and I was like, 'finally, someone hit me.'"

"I was probably supposed to block though," he joked, gaining a laugh from green belt James Starkey before black belt George Clark took him aside for a quick one-on-one lesson.

Later, Mr. Christie said he wanted other karate students at the ranking event not to shy away, because unless someone goes to strike him, he won't know what he's blocking.

"So, I kicked a guy in the shins," he said, conceding that part of the reason people didn't hit him is they didn't want to kick the chair.

The Tony Agnello Karate Club meets Wednesdays from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Parry Sound High School. Sensei Ted Hall re-organized the club two years ago after the death of sensei and club founder Tony Agnello on September 16, 2005.

"In karate, there's a physical side to it, there's also a mental," said Mr. Hall. "They have to be in balance. If they're not in balance, it doesn't work."

Since Mr. Christie started, Mr Hall has noticed an increase in his range of motion. During Wednesday's class he talked him through a proper leg stretch and said when Mr. Christie first started he could barely move his legs and that his arm movements are improving. Currently on the physiotherapy waiting list, Mr. Christie said that although he'll still take the therapy once a spot opens up, that karate is helping.

"(Mr. Hall is) basically talking about kicks," he said. "The more I stretch out and use my legs the better they work. It doesn't always look great."

At this stage of his training, Mr. Christie said he's working on increasing the power of his jabs and punches so the force keeps the chair moving forward and he doesn't have to interrupt them to turn the wheels.

Mr. Christie joined the club after black belt Wendy Hawes, who works in the same building as him, suggested it. He'd tried karate when he was 10, but quit after a week. He said he quit everything after a week when he was a kid.

"I was complimented," said Mr. Hall. "I felt great about it, that he would consider to come to our club. He knew it would be a challenge and to think he had enough confidence to think we could (teach him)... He doesn't ask for any consideration at all. If they're doing push-ups, he does push-ups."

Despite karate being adaptable to the student, Mr. Hall said there'll be some things Mr. Christie won't be able to do.

"Patrick's an inspiration for everybody out there," said Mr. Hall. "I'm out (volunteer-teaching) five days a week, some nights I'm tired and there's Pat bouncing around the gym."

While Mr. Hall sees Mr. Christie as an inspiration, Mr. Christie spoke about a young karate student who ranked alongside him last month as the guiding light.

"I've never felt out of place there," said Mr. Christie. "They always said, 'do what you can and we'll change some things'."


Roger Boggs - Sensei
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