Criptaedo: Adaptive Martial Arts for People in Wheelchairs
Jun 04, 2013
People who use wheelchairs often experience an underlying feeling of vulnerability that follows wherever they go. Spina bifida put Paul Brailer in a wheelchair, and he confronted his vulnerability head-on…
One afternoon a few years ago, after he got off work at a local mall, Paul was waiting at a bus stop when a mugger approached and attempted to snatch his cell phone. The mugger was thinking he had an easy target, right? Probably very little strength, can’t move quickly, can’t roll as fast as I can run, and with no cell phone, he can’t call for help.
Wouldn’t you have loved to see the mugger’s face when Paul trapped his arm and popped his elbow out? Foiled, injured, and stunned at the sudden turn of events, the mugger ran. According to Paul, who still has his cell phone, the would-be thief will probably never use his arm the same way again.
Wheelchair user – 1, Mugger – 0. Don’t you just love happy endings?
T’was martial arts that saved the day. His childhood movie heroes–action/adventure stars like Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris–sparked young Paul’s interest in martial arts, and, as an adult, he became a student of karate, despite only having use of his upper body. It took him almost four years to earn the coveted black belt after passing tests that included sparring, board breaks, and break falls.
While he’s unable to do the kicks and stances, Paul does a modified version of whatever he cannot physically do. His instructors showed him adaptive techniques, using his arms and hands to achieve the same effect as a particular kick. His skills in martial arts have made Paul physically stronger and more confident, and his self-esteem grows right along with his muscles. Paul’s online students experience the same physical and emotional growth as they learn the art of…
Paul began teaching his defensive-training system to people with disabilities in July of 2012; he encourages and educates the community of people with disabilities on health, fitness, and, of course, self-defense, and he calls it Criptaedo. Today, Paul teaches a variety of defensive skills to individuals with a broad range of disabilities, including people in wheelchairs, and he does it via his YouTube channel–uploading instructional videos for all to access.
As Paul explains:
The intention of the system’s name isn’t to offend, but to help those of us who’ve been told what we can’t do and to laugh at ourselves a bit. I’ve been disabled from birth, so I hope I can help others in my position realize that, unless you can poke a little fun at yourself and your disability, you’re in for a miserable road. Learning self-defense as a disabled person is awkward, and uniquely challenging. You will fall. You will struggle. And if you can’t keep good humor through the process, and not take yourself or your disability too seriously–you will quit.
His encounter with a mugger proves his point. “Either you’re a victim, or you fight.”
With Paul, it’s personal–in the strongest sense of the word. He teaches “personal self-defense” that’s tailored to every student’s level of disability. If a student uses crutches, he demonstrates how to “grab an attacker and pull him into your world.” His web site’s tag line says, “A black belt is a white belt that never quit.” No doubt, his most-dedicated students feel their vulnerability fade with every new move.
Are you game enough to check out Paul’s YouTube channel? Here’s one of his videos. Let us know how you like it!