AILI’S JOURNEY AT KARATE INTERNATIONAL
By Libby Hubscher
When Stephanie Arthur came to Karate International of Apex to enroll her daughters, Savannah and Aili, she wasn’t just looking for a new hobby for her girls—she was looking for something special. Aili has cerebral palsy, a condition characterized by difficulties controlling body movement, muscle control, coordination and balance. The difficulties are caused by brain injury or abnormal neural development—before birth, during birth, or immediately after birth. In Aili’s case, she suffered a stroke.
When Aili started karate, she couldn’t move her hands independently—what the left hand did, the right hand did. After just a few weeks, Aili’s therapists noticed changes. When they asked Stephanie what was different, she told them about karate. They were amazed. In a short time, she’d made such great strides, the therapists had to write new treatment plans to challenge her. In karate class, she was learning to kick, punch, and block. She was getting stronger. And she was enjoying herself. In and outside of class, she was exceeding everyone’s expectations. In 6 months, she no longer needed physical therapy.
Cerebral palsy is different for every individual, but research is showing that Aili’s amazing experience with karate is not unique. In fact, Dr. Jan Brunstrom, the director of the Cerebral Palsy Center at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, runs a martial arts class called “Fighters with Courage and Power” classes. According to her “Martial arts are the total opposite of cerebral palsy. It’s all about control of movement and control of power.” It helps children with disabilities work on their balance, stamina, mental clarity and focus.” Research also shows that children with disabilities display increased self-esteem after taking martial arts.1,2
Today, Aili is able to do series of complex movements in her katas and self-defense techniques. She spars the other students in class and breaks boards. She is a confident young woman and a wonderful member of our dojo family. Stephanie credits karate and Shihan Houston as a major factor in Aili’s incredible progress. One thing is for certain—Aili will continue to exceed everyone’s expectations. When some people might say, “You can’t do that”, Aili knows she can. And this past Friday at our promotion ceremony, she receive her deputy brown belt as proof.