If you thought that martial arts were only for the able-bodied, think again. Because in Loughborough, UK, one man is defying both expectations and disabilities by practicing a wide range of martial arts. And now he is launching new martial arts classes in the city which are available to both disabled and able-bodied students. Someone will run the classes in karate, kickboxing, and other disciplines without the use of his legs.
The man in question is Carl Hodgetts. He has specialized in defying the odds throughout his life, and will be doing so again with his latest venture, CHAMP martial arts. Carl Hodgetts was born with a condition known as spina bifida, which means that his spine had not developed properly. If that was enough, doctor diagnosed him with Hydrocephalus, which is a build-up of fluid on the brain.
At the time, doctors told his family that Carl was unlikely to make it to the age of one. But Carl has always been a fighter. 39 years later, he is not only still going strong but making a name for himself on the martial arts scene in the West Midlands.
Martial arts have always been a big part of Carl’s life, ever since taking his first karate class at the age of 14. He certainly hasn’t let being in a wheelchair hold him back from striving to be the best he can be.
Karate, Kung Fu, Wing Chun, and Kickboxing are just a few of the styles Carl has mastered over the years. And after reaching his brown belt in karate, his instructor suggested that Carl might be able to train other students as well as continue to improve his own skills. Before you ask how someone in a wheelchair can do something like kickboxing, never mind train others. Carl has explained to the Loughborough Echo about the very special style he has developed,
“I thought how am I going to teach someone how to kick? I sat there thinking about it, I had my hands on my knees and I thought my hands look like feet. Then I thought my wrists could be ankles and I realized my limbs are mirrors of my legs and I went from there.”
Using that as a basis, Carl has now developed a completely unique teaching style. In 2006 he went on to become the first wheelchair-using kickboxing instructor in the UK as well. And from there Carl Hodgetts Adapted Martial Arts (CHAMP) has come to fruition, in which Carl teaches various styles and disciplines at venues in Loughborough and across the region.
Today, Carl is teaching students of all ages and abilities. He doesn’t label his students as being either able-bodied or disabled, but rather to treat each of them as individuals. To that end, Carl develops special individual programmes for each student. He takes each through the same pre-defined syllabus as many regular martial arts schools might.
As Carl says on his website, “We ensure that the styles and techniques you are taught enable you to make full use of the abilities and strengths you possess.”
It is a fine philosophy and encapsulates so much of what martial arts is all about. With his CHAMP classes, Carl has succeeded in bringing people together to share a passion and a hobby. He has also shown how martial arts is much more than merely a fighting technique, as many people often assume. He also uses it as a tool for empowerment and a means to change the perceptions of others. Carl is a living embodiment and an example of how people can use martial arts anywhere to enhance their lives.
So, if you see a wheelchair user, don’t leap to assumptions about them. Because if that person is anything like Carl Hodgetts, he just might be a better kickboxer than you are!