Saturday, September 2, 2017

Learn Why This Special Southeast Queens Edu-preneur Provides Martial Arts To Children With Challenges

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Kamau Austin Interviews Adrienne Watley, MA, MBA Part 1 

Adrienne Whaley, MBA, MA, is at it again.  The passionate and resilient Southeast Queens, renaissance woman is relentless in her pursuit of harnessing a comprehensive cornucopia of the arts to empower and uplift the lives of residents in our area.  She has a degree in education, an MBA, and also has extensive certification and experience as a special education teacher.

Today I wanted to explore some of the martial arts programs she offers and how they can be of benefit to special needs children in particular and all children in general.  I have a daughter with special needs and can relate to their issues.

So If you have a child with ADD, ADHD, Autism, dyslexia, or other challenge let's learn how traditional Karate can help them.  Even if your child has none of these challenges it is still good to find out how the martial arts can help them.

It may seem ironic to some that Karate could help a child with special needs or any child.  So let's ask Adrienne her thinking in this regard...

Kamau: How do you respond to parents who think their special needs children will become more violent with martial arts.

Adrienne - It would seem that martial arts would teach special ed kids to fight, and fight well.  I grew up on Bruce Lee and Jim Kelly movies and between the movie theater in Rochdale Village and the two theaters on Jamaica Avenue, who didn't want to learn to fight, make faces, and strange noises?

Now let's break it down from another perspective.  Many children with delays have difficulty following routines, understanding directions, completing tasks, and with learning and retaining in general.  Today is not yesterday - today is different.

Too many adults and many teachers, expect that learning takes place in 5 seconds and will last the rest of the year.  The mind does not work like that and children with delays are like anyone else in the respect that we remember and gravitate towards that which interests us.

Many children lack basic coordination and balance.  Most children, special ed or general ed learn through repetition, in "Center Time", and via a great relationship with the teacher/s.  Now enter the Sensei in the perfect white Gi (uniform) who immediately instills confidence, strength, manners, know how, self-discipline, and the perception of knowledge passed down through the centuries from the wise ancients who practiced peace, but knew how to protect their families, community, and selves.

The wisdom, the tradition, values, character, and habit alone are worth the learning.  For a child who has difficulty catching on, catching up, and staying there, Martial Arts offers something solid and patient to grab onto.  Sensei's are not thought of as "mean" and uncaring, nor do they seem to lack determination for student learning.

Didn't we all believe, that Bruce Lee, Jim Kelly, and even David Caradine had all of life's answers?  Martial Arts and our Learning Through Karate program offer students in special ed all of patience and nurturing that they need and a way to learn Academics, Social Skills, Character Traits, Self-Help Skills (ADL), Physical training, OT (Occupational Therapy), Safety Awareness, Focus, Attention, and Retention.

It can take longer for some children to learn the names of objects, furnishings, places, supplies, people, etc.  It can take longer to learn the steps of completing a simple task and doing it the same way every day.

We teach the ABCs, 123s, vocabulary, movements, habits, and basic skills needed.  Our students learn how to stand in line, respond to directives, work together, and complete task independently.

We help them feel accomplished, confident enough to avoid bullying, to know that they can achieve and have talents even they were not aware that they had.  It's about being able to learn at your own pace without stress.

It's also about the GI - a highly motivating outfit that says so much and makes you feel so good.  Students can still earn their ranking belts (when they are ready).

Our focus is giving them support for their IEP Goals, giving parents encouragement to continue mazing their way through the system.  We want our students to go on and lead productive, safe, capable lives where they know they do matter, they are talented, and they can achieve regardless of what others say and despite what appear to be obstacles.

Kamau: Interesting.  What other ways can martial arts help children with special needs? Also how important is self defense to young children.  I know my daughter was bullied a good bit in school.

AdrienneMartial Arts; Karate which is what we teach is not at all about violence.  It's "you" challenging and growing "you".  The mind and body must work together.

Many children with delays do not have spatial awareness.  Some cannot feel their own body weight (and may wear or need weighted vests).  Some have no understanding of what their bodies and/or minds can produce.

Children also need to move around, stretch, run, jump, and jab at the hand pads.  The striking sheets make a lovely cracking sound which children enjoy.  In this day and age of bullying, knowing how to defend yourself is key.

Another important benefit of Karate is that it can become a deterrent.  Not to many people are going after the 3rd degree black belt (except in competitions).  Martial Arts brings good posture, balanced strength and movements, and there are Rules.

The "Rules" are the essence. The "Rules" are the Mantra that the students learn, recite at every session, and learn to live with and based upon.  Martial Arts is a self-challenge, it's becoming the best that you can be, learning how to learning, living by a code of ethics and values, respecting yourself and others, being part of a community (the world), being safe, not looking for trouble, and have the determination, stamina, and where with all to keep moving forward despite adversity.

For African American children, boys especially, Martial Arts teaches students how not to let the "Frustration" and "Stresses" take them over.  We all (children & adults) need to have positive constructive outlets, so whether it's Martial Arts, Fitness, Dance, Painting, Sewing, Culinary Arts, or Making Soap, or building with Lego type blocks, our goal to provide all of the arts to all of the members of our community, especially for those who need us the most. 

Significant as well, is when we really examine the title, "Martial Arts", we can see that it's about the "Art of" the ancient practice and way of life, and not at all about "being violent". Our students are nurtured to learn through "mistakes", trial and error", and practice.  We give them all of the time that they need to practice - this does not happen often anywhere else.

Kamau: What is the best way to contact you and learn about your other art programs?  You also have classes on creating comic books - that I love, sewing, jewelry making and other arts.  How can we find out about them?

Adrienne Whaley: We can be reached by phone at 917.387.8311 or email:, or just by stopping in from Tuesday - Friday from 2:00pm - 7:00pm, Saturdays from 10:00am - 7:30pm.

We are often open later where there is a class or an event.  Please also stay in touch by Liking us on Facebook, Tweeting about us on Twitter, view us on Yelp, the MindBody App, and continue to spread the word to friends, families, schools, and programs. In the Fall we will be open on Mondays as well from 2:00pm - 7:00pm.  


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