“He s got no ears.”
I ve been instructing in the martial arts since 1973. I ve seen lots of physical
disability. Deaf, paraplegic, sense of touch but unable to discriminate shape or texture, no
use of one side of the body, restricted peripheral vision, and more. However, it seems to
me that most disability is on the inside anyway.
A young boy named Matthew was brought to me by his parents. His older brother
was in my program already and doing well. Like many younger siblings, he had sat on
the sidelines watching class and sometimes imitating the movements. Mom and Dad
decided it was time.
We have a scholarship program the older son was in and we were able to put
Matthew in as well. Matthew has birth defects, and one of them is that he has no ears. He
had a cleft palate as well, and his head is slightly misshapen. He wears a device for
hearing that is screwed into his skull. And he s not a big kid, not that that is a defect. My
point here is that he s a target for the bully kids.
Matthew was accepted without question by the children in my class and for the
time he studied with me we never had an incident of any child saying anything untoward
to him. This boy was a great student and I was impressed by what he was on the inside.
To me, his spirit shone and I liked him.
The children were careful with him during the hands-on self-defense practice so
as not to hit his hearing device. His parents told me a nasty story about how it actually
came out of his head the day they had it put in. The doctors OK d him to take karate and
we had no problems. Matt could hear instructions just fine. His speech was a bit difficult
for me to understand but I got it. That s to be expected because when you can t hear you
can t learn to speak very well. His father told me about a time when the hearing aids first
went in and Matt was able to hear a bird for the first time. The sound surprised him. The
sound of paper crinkling was another intriguing new experience, too. Just imagine living
in a quiet world and discovering that the things you ve seen have sound associated with
Matthew s dad came in one day and told me that Matt had an altercation at
school. These stories are always interesting. Matthew witnessed a big kid was bullying a
smaller boy on the schoolground. I m sure that in his mind he was reliving the
experience. I believe that s what motivated him to do what he then did. Matthew stepped
up and told the bully to leave the boy alone. Naturally the bully turned and saw the
perfect target – a small boy with a speech impediment who didn t look like everyone else.
So he pushed Matt. Or tried to, I should say. Matt did a variation on the kenpo technique
Parting Wings that I had taught to his class not long before. It s a takedown version with
no strikes, just perfect for the situation. The bully went down and the event was over.
Matthew was not going to tell me. Maybe he thought I d be angry. He was there
when his father recounted the story and I congratulated him. Matt was maybe seven or
eight when this occurred. He did what many adults wouldn t or couldn t do. He saw
something happening that was wrong, he stepped in to stop it, and he protected himself in
the process. That is a warrior.
Matt needs lots of surgery to correct his problems. He left the studio as a blue belt
and his dad informed me that Matt was going to undergo a series of operations to fix his
jaw and build him some ears. That was made possible by donations from a charitable
organization. His parents simply could not afford to pay for the extensive amount of work
needed. But they were behind him 100% in his martial art training and were giving him
what they could for his insides, his heart and spirit. I think they did a great job, and I
congratulate them too.
Matt is not the only child in my studio to do something like this. I have others and
will tell their stories at some other time. Matt deserves his time in the sun.
“He s got no ears.”