How Martial Arts Made Me Feel Empowered With My Cerebral Palsy


My name is Brandon Ryan. I am 30 years old and have spastic cerebral palsy (CP). Martial arts have always been a part of my life. In many ways, martial arts was an escape for me. It was an escape from being in my wheelchair, an escape from the braces, and an escape from other kids looking at me as if I was from another planet. When I got home from school, I would eat a quick snack and then have my mom wheel me out to the garage where my father would be teaching a handful of his own students. My father would always lay out a thick yellow exercise mat for me to kneel on. There I would try to mimic the moves and techniques that he was showing.

It is through martial arts that I would begin to feel empowered. It gave me self-confidence and hope for something better in life. I realized that people with cerebral palsy or other adaptive needs do not have to be seen as victims — we can learn to defend ourselves. As my years in martial arts progressed, I started to help my father teach youth classes at his school. Though all my students were able-bodied, I always had a desire to work with people who have disabilities. At the time, though, there wasn’t much of a market. I tried creating flyers around my town and using word-of-mouth, but nothing came of it. Fast forward a few years and I started watching countless wheelchair self-defense videos on YouTube and Facebook. Some were good and some were not.

In my mind self-defense was meant to be functional, meaning that we use the ways our bodies move every day and turn them into means of self-defense. Self-defense was supposed to be simplistic and easy to learn. I didn’t see much of that on the Internet. So I decided to get a friend and make a short video on how clinch fighting and ground fighting could be the most effective for adaptive self-defense. I uploaded the video via YouTube, and overnight the number of views blew me away.

I decided to take a risk and create Adaptive Defense Methods (ADM) first and foremost to bring a sense of hope, joy and self-confidence to people who live with cerebral palsy and other disabilities. Adaptive Defense Methods teaches self-defense to people with various needs in functional and simple ways. Should they ever find themselves in a position where they need to defend themselves, they can have the means to do so. Simply because a person uses a wheelchair or crutches does not mean that they can’t protect themselves. Nobody has the right to put their hands on you without permission.

Adaptive self-defense -- two martial arts students grappling
Brandon training.

Follow this journey on Adaptive Defense.

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