Accommodating physical challenges in the martial arts school.

Robert Barton 

As Shorin Goju instructors we have a responsibility to make our schools as open and accessible as possible.  To this end our instructors must be ready to adapt to the needs of students who may present us with challenges as teachers.

There are many health based issues and possible physical issues which can alter the way in which our arts is presented to a student and how that student will practice that art. The first step toward this takes place in the mind of the instructor who decides that she or he is willing to accommodate the needs of other as far as is safely possible. This alteration in thinking provides the instructor an open and adaptable mind set.

There are numerous possible issues that can arise with the health of a student. If there are questions about the fitness of a student to study a release should be obtained by a physician with guidelines for any medically needed accommodations. A student may present with asthma, heart conditions, epilepsy or any of a variety of physical illnesses or challenges. When a new student applies for training and informs us of a possible health related chilling it is our responsibility as teachers to familiarize ourselves with the issue so that we can be informed. This is our first specific step in dealing with individual issues.

The second general step to dealing with these issues is actually to prepare our schools and training spaces to accommodate people in advance. This minimizes disruption to the class structure reducing the reaction of students toward the new student as being different or cause changes. This also sets a welcoming atmosphere which allows these new students to move into the class and feel that they are bringing a minimum of disruption with them. This aids the class in assimilating a new student and aids the student in feeling connected and included.

Some policies that may be put in place in advance can include flashing the lights when calling everyone to attention. Having an open floor policy so that no training equipment or items are left on the floor to serve as obstacles to visually challenged or mobility challenged students. Written class outlines can help some students as can articulated human art models. Making sure that there are sound cue points in the school so that visually challenged students can know where they are.

Each school should have blood spill policy and spill cleanup kit. Each instructor should be trained in first aid. There should be a policy for injury where if a student is injured all students are to remove themselves from the immediate area to allow the instructors to render aid. Senior students should be ready to follow instructions should they be needed to get a first aid kit, spill kit or place an emergency call. Each student should have a health profile sheet with illnesses, doctors and medications listed and these should be readily accessible with copies that can be handed to medical or emergency personnel.

What this all boils down to is that a few simple accommodations in advance can set a more adaptable and accommodating atmosphere for our students. This starts with a mind frame in which the instructor is him or herself ready to adapt and accommodate. This accepting and accommodating attitude also become pervasive throughout the school and our students become more adaptable and more complete people. 

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