A few months ago, Pat Wiegand was in search for a karate class for her adult son with Down syndrome, but failed to find one that would fit his needs. That is when Pat took matters into her own hands to find someone who would be willing to start a special kind of karate class.
Pat reached out to Master Ben Rodriguez at Wilmington’s WSKarate & Kickboxing to ask him if he would be interested in starting a karate class for people specifically with disabilities. Without even thinking twice, Ben immediately agreed.
“Honestly, I was shocked,” Pat said. “He [Ben] just opened up right away and said ‘Absolutely, I’m in!’”
Within just a few days Pat had gathered six students to get the class started.
The class began to grow exponentially during the first month and before they knew it, they had a class of 20 students.
Shihan Ben Rodriguez said he loved the idea for the class right away and couldn’t wait to get started. He says he was so happy the first day of the class that he almost cried.
“I can remember the first day, I was so excited that I almost cried,” Rodriguez said. “Seeing all [the students] so happy and excited, it’s something I can’t even explain.”
Tamara Markins has been a student in the class since April. She says being in the class is calming for her because it allows her to get all of her anger out.
“I love coming here and it’s like really good for me to get my anger out,” Markins said. “And I love doing it.”
Among many reasons, Pat and Ben agree that the class is beneficial for people with disabilities because it makes them feel accomplished and confident.
“I don’t know how many of them will jump back to their parents and go, ‘Look what I just did! How amazing is that?’,” Pat said.
One student in the class, who is paralyzed on one side of his body, has even been able to begin kicking his leg in the air because of the training he has been getting from the class.
Shihan Ben said he can tell these students are always excited to learn.
“They don’t come forced because mom and dad are bringing them to class cause they want them to have discipline,” Rodriguez said. “No. They come excited. They want to come and learn.”
Pat and Ben said if they can find enough people interested, their goal is to start a class for kids and teens, ages eight to 15, with disabilities.
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