I first began my martial arts training not in a classroom with students standing in neat rows watching a teacher demonstrating techniques but in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. The year was 1988.
I would wake before dawn each morning, hours before I began my job at the San Francisco Business Times and get in my truck to drive to a pond where I had witnessed a martial arts class under the oak on the stretch of cement by the water's edge.
Each morning I waited as the sun rose to see students gather around that oak. Soon a teacher would appear. His name, I later learned was Sifu George Shu, an immigrant from China. There he would have his students warm up by practicing the slow movements of Tai Chi for an hour. When the sun was shining through the trees he would teach them weapons. He would pull out a broad sword and do a series of slow downward cuts representing the figure 8. The students mimiced those moves with their own broad swords.
I was not one of those students. I stood a hundred feet away on the opposite side of the pond. Watching, feeling as though some invisible intelligence had guided me there, I would do my best to mimic those same moves with my crutches.
I had read in a martial arts book that warriors would use any tool, or dinner cutlery, or piece of furniture as a weapon. Handles to mills became tompha sticks. Chop sticks became short stabbing picks. Hand held fans became blocking and slicing weapons. Walking sticks became spinning staffs. Everything in the hands of a martial artist was a weapon that could protect a person from an attack.
Why not crutches? I reasoned.
I gave myself a promise to design a practice regiment for the period of six months.
And for a half of year I went to that park every morning, not missing one class. Each day I added a new motion to my spinning cutches, slowly transforming them into weapons, while watching as those students practiced swords, both the Jin (double edge sword) and the Jao (broad sword) , staff, and the spear.
At the end of the six months, I felt confident enough to step into a martial arts school across the street from my home on Divisidero Ave. Through the decades of my martial arts training, TaeKwondo progressed to Dan Zan Ryu Jujitsu which then advanced to Tang Lang, Shaolin Praying Mantis Kung Fu at North Bay Kung Fu, under Sifu Tim McFarland.
This book in progress is a teacher's manual.
Through these pages I will share with you how I developed martial arts techniques that were originally designed for Fully Abled Bodied students, so that they could work for Partially Abled Bodied students. It is only a primer course from which the teacher can pick and choose what techniques she or he thinks will work for their uniquely gifted PAB student.
Through the decades of training and demonstrating the use of crutches as weapons in martial arts competitions and at conventions, Senseis and Sifus have come up to me asking me how they could encourage someone they knew who lived in wheelchairs or on crutches to do the martial arts. This manual I believe will help fill this need.
I also wrote it because being able to defend one's self from an attacker is not a luxury. It is as important as knowing how to eat nourishing food and drink water. It is a fundamental requirement.
This means that if an aggressor grabs, pushes, hits, kicks, or attempts to hurt someone on crutches, in a wheelchair, or one who has missing limbs, then the martial arts lessons written here will provide that person with effective methods to stop and even apprehend the attacker.
Or as one fellow martial artist said during an evening of training, “Steve, if I get mugged, I am not leaving till I get the mugger’s wallet.”
Being someone who has walked onto martial arts mats while on crutches for 20 years, I can tell you that the techniques I describe here will bring to an abrupt halt any attack. I have tested them many times.
Sifu Steve Brumme
Iron-Crutch Kung Fu