|Kids performing karate|
Proximal Femoral Focal Deficiency--have you ever heard of it? Don't feel bad. Not a lot of people have, unless they are born with it or know someone with this disability.
Proximal Femoral Focal Deficiency, or PFFD, comes in different classifications ranging from A, a small bone deficiency, to D, a large bone defect. I was born with class D. My femur bone was less than 2 cm and my knee does not bend. Since the age of 2, I have undergone numerous surgeries to have my leg lengthened. We are getting there; I currently have about 4 more inches to go. Hopefully, soon, both my feet will be on the ground.
Due to my surgeries, I have grown up being either immobilized or in a wheelchair, then to crutches and walkers. Once I learn to walk all over again, I wear my lift and can walk unassisted until the next surgery.
It is important to stay physically active even if you are 'DISABLED.' It annoys me when people give me this title, 'Oh, you can't run, too bad!' Nor can a number of people because of different reasons. People should focus on the positives. Maybe I can't run, but what about everything else I can do? I ride a handcycle, I walk, I play golf, I swim, and I do karate. I can do pretty much anything they can do. Maybe I'm not the fastest, but I can still participate in a number of physical activities.
Actually, I have been participating in karate since I was 6 years old. Yes, that's right, karate. Once again, people can't believe that I participate in a sport such as karate. They think that because I wear this big lift I cannot do it. That's because most people don't know enough about the sport. They think it is just about fighting. They are so wrong. Karate builds strength, determination, confidence, and cardiovascular endurance.
Karate is an awesome sport. Even when I was in my wheelchair, I participated in classes. My association, Kang Duk Won Association, has worked with me and other people with disabilities to adapt its program to accommodate us. Karate is a very adaptive sport. Even though I can't kick that high, I can still throw a pretty good punch. While my classmates are practicing their kicks, I am practicing my punches. My instructors have taught me a lot of combinations. While you might think that I am just working my arms, this is not so. When you throw a punch, you have to incorporate your hips while keeping your balance. And you have to breathe.
When I was 8, I had surgery and had to take a year off from karate. When it was time to go back, I didn't really feel like it. I felt that too much time had passed and that I had lost too much to pick it back up again. My mom told me, 'Just go for two classes and if after that you still do not want to continue, I won't make you.' So, I went. At the end of the class, I told my mom that I wanted to continue. My instructor worked with me and it felt like I had never left. There are always new people joining, so not everyone is always at the same level. In karate you can progress at your own level.
Since that first surgery, I have had another 10 to 15 surgeries. I found that I take a couple of weeks off to recover from the surgery and then get right back into class. I think karate has kept me in good physical shape and has helped me heal through all my surgeries much more quickly. I have participated while in my wheelchair and on crutches.
Karate is about so much more than fighting. I have been in classes where all we do for an hour is punches and kicks. Have you ever tried to stand for an hour throwing punches and kicking with power? What a workout!
Yes, we do spar, but that is not the main focus of our association. I feel like part of a family -- a pretty big family. They have been there through the years to support me and work with me.
This year, I will participate in my sixth karate tournament. There will be approximately 200 competitors. The first year I competed, I placed 3rd in my classification. To me, that was awesome.
I participate each year, and I have fun. I love seeing and talking to all the people each year. Placing is not what it is all about, though. Just being out there and showing people that I can do it is what makes me feel good. (The trophy is always a bonus!)
I think my disability has made me a stronger and more determined person. I would like to be able to teach people that there are other options out there for children with disabilities other than just sitting around watching TV and playing computer games.
Karate has helped me stay strong both physically and mentally. The last paragraph of our history is 'Karate is 90% Mental.' I feel this is correct and can also be applied to just about any type of sport. If you put your mind to it, YOU CAN DO IT!