Martial Arts Inspiring Story - Ryland E Matthews Jr - New Bern Karate

By Created: July, 2017 - Modified: February, 2019

I have always loved teaching and

When I first started to teach martial arts a few years ago, I limited myself to only children ages 10 or older. My early experience was back in the 1980's and most children did not start until age 14 or older. When I opened my first dojo, back in 2012 I had only ages 10 and older.

After a few months, I was approached by a mother of a child with autism. He was a sweet child and would melt your heart but was also an invitation of abuse from bullies - who seek out that type of person. He was not quite 7 but his mother employed me to teach him.

I was teaching in a borrowed location and had only 7 young students. Over the next few months, when I saw the mother, she continue to lobby for me to teach her son. I was finally persuaded to take on ''Bill'' (not his real name) as my student. As you can imagine, as a new teacher, and focusing only on older children-Bill had his own set challenges for me. Bill was very attentive, focused and would work hard. Of course his challenges were many and forced me to find solutions. He was a joy to teach as he was always cheery and happy to be in class.

During his first belt testing, it was required of him to spar with Sensei. I did not have a soft floor but I had a small gymnastics mat and I had him fight me on it. At one point, he slipped and crashed on the mat. Landing backwards, he teared up and I picked him up and held him. He kept it together, and we finished the match. The other children looked after Bill and made sure when they sparred him, as months went by, they were the most gentle and careful with him.

Over the past few years, he has continued to train with me, rising up through the ranks. As time went by, I have added several ''special students'' as other parents talked and spread the word. I have a few that are various levels of autism, victims of bullies and a few adults that are also in special need of martial arts.

Most of my autism students are in the Little Dragon program, ages 5-7. The great part of these students is that they are not in special classes, but I have been able to integrate them in the general classes. I have one student that has only one arm so it has me modifying the forms to accommodate him and still keep the basic spirit and format of the form true to its designer.

I finally rented my first studio and with in the first six months, I was finally able to put down some floor mats (squares) so when any student stumbles or crashes, no harm done. I know some instructors focus on the top performers, the Olympic gold contenders in the dojo. I have found much joy in teaching those whose desire to learn if often outpaced by their physical bodies.

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Sensei Ryland E Matthews Jr.
New Bern Karate
New Bern NC 28562