For those of us in the Jiu Jitsu community, we have all by now seen that many layers which we have fallen in love with, one way or another. We all have different sizes, backgrounds, lifestyles, and genders just to name a few. There is also a group within our community that is small, but slowly growing. That group : The Adaptive Grappler.
I am one of those athletes. I have been practicing for around 7 years, and last February received my blue belt. It hasn’t been the easiest of journeys. In fact, there has been and still is a ton of ‘ thinking out of the box’ when it comes to getting the most out of my training. This can be said for any adaptive athlete regardless of what sport to pursue.
I would be lying if I told you that coaching an adaptive grappler is, or will be, an easy task. It’s not. I have seen the frustration on my coaches’ faces (even if they don’t admit it.) Here are two areas that might help.
The most important thing for a coach to do is be open-minded and willing to step back from what is the ‘traditional’ way of practice. Chances are good that the individual you are coaching will not be able to do a handful of positions the “right way’ if at all. I, for example, have no ability to close my guard, so it’s not in my game. However, with the help of my coaches I have figured out how to control a person on top without using my legs. Nine out of ten times a lot of the adaptive ways of grappling can be used by others in your gym. So being open-minded is Key.
Communication is also extremely important, from both students as well as coach. It can be argued that it is an important skill for any athlete and coach to have. However, I believe it is of high value for the adaptive practitioner in order to get the most out of their time on the mats. If an adaptive student tries a move and it is not working or puts them in a worse position, repeating it over and over is a waste of time. If that’s the case it is time to try something else. Each player is different in his/her own strengths and abilities so having a good line of communication is key to finding a game plan that both you and your student can grow and learn from.
There is a common saying within the Jiu Jitsu community: ‘Jiu Jitsu is for everybody’ I have been lucky enough to find a great club that truly embodies this whole-heatedly . As the Adaptive Grappler group gets larger, this will be ever more important to embrace. Whether or not you have an adaptive grappler within your gym, chances are good you are going to come across one or two down the road, as we continue this life long journey doing the art we love. Hopefully this will make starting that journey easier when that time comes.
About the author: Dawn is a blue belt adaptive Grappler with mild cerebral palsy on the Straight Blast Gym International team. She lives in a small town in Alberta Canada. When Dawn isn’t on the mats, she is working as a civilian instructor with the Canadian armed forces Air Cadet program. Also enjoy taking sports photography of my teammates and others during seminars and competitions.
Instagram: @crazycrippledkid as well as @PointOfView__Photography for the Jiu-Jitsu pictures i have the opportunity to snap!