Serve Daily - - PARADE OF GEMS - By Sa­farri Jes­sop

I am a Mar tial Ar ts Inst ruc­tor. I am also * deaf.

For nearly 5 year s I have been teach­ing Won Jin Hap­kido (a Korean “mixed mar t ial a r t”) to * hear ing* stu­dents at Springville Self De­fense and Lead­er­ship Academy ( for­merly Kae­sung Academy) in Spr in­gville.

Now I am start­ing a project called “Deaf Hap­kido” - - a mar t ial a r t s c l a s s spe ci f ic a l ly fo r t he he a ringim­pared. I want to help other deaf people lear n to pro­tect them­selves, im­prove sel f- conf idence, and de­velop skills that will make a dif­fer­ence in their lives. There is a f it­ness com­po­nent, an in­tel­lec­tual com­po­nent, and a spir itual com­po­nent. But Hap­kido is also amaz­ingly fun!

Are you cu­ri­ous how a to­tally deaf teenage gi rl star ted on the path to mul­ti­ple black­belts? When I joined Spr in­gvi l le Sel f- De­fense Lead­er­ship Academy with my older sis­ter -- her name is Spr ing -- she and I were the only hear ing- im­pai red stu­dents in the class. She can hear us­ing hear ing aids and she reads lips well, so at f irst she “trans­lated” for me in sign lan­guage.

Even with Spring con­vey­ing the teacher’s inst ruc­tions as fast as her hands could sign, it was tough... a mar tial ar ts class is de­mand­ing for any­one! And in a class with “hear­ing” stu­dents, de­spite know­ing what the teacher re­qui red, I could not hear what the stu­dents were say­ing to each other nor wha t they were say­ing to me. So I did what we deaf people must of ten do: I u sed my eyes as my ears. I * im­pro­vised* -which brings me back to the sub­ject of Hap­kido.

Hap­kido is an eclec­tic mar tial ar t style f rom Korea. The word “Hap­kido” means “the way of co­or­di­nated power.” It draws tech­niques from many other mar tial ar ts styles, so it can be called a “mixed mart ial a r t.” It is also con­sid­ered the Korean coun­ter­par t to the Ja­panese style “Aikido” - in fact it is spelled with the same an­cient char­ac­ters - and was even de­vel­oped at about the same time. Hap­kido em­ploys cer­tain holds and throws to pit an op­po­nent’s force against h im ( or her!) and it em­pha­sizes im­pro­visat ion. ( To draw a pop- cul­ture con­nec­tion, the fa­mous mar tial ar tist and movie star, Jackie Chan, who has a rep­u­ta­tion for chore­ograph­ing elab­o­rate im­provi s a t ional Kung- Fu scenes. His only black­belt: Hap­kido!)

As I t rained, I worked harder to f i r st s e e , and then do. I lear ned how to be aware of what’s hap­pen­ing around me and to use my other senses to de­tect when some­one is com­ing up beh ind me. We even pract iced whi le bl ind­folded, so I couldn’t hear or see, but I learned to feel what was go­ing on and to be ready for it.

Spr ing and I t r a i ned ha r d for years. When we f in­ally earned our black belts she moved on to other things, but I con­tin­ued my mar tial ar ts t rain­ing. It was hard at f i rst, not hav­ing my sis­ter there to t rans­late for me and to help me. I must ad­mit I felt a lit tle lef t out, be­ing the only deaf per­son at the Academy. But I was de­ter­mined to fur ther my stud­ies , to ex­pand my knowl­edge and skills.

I knew my suc­cess would de­pend on lea r ning to watch even more closely than be­fore. When my teach­ers demonst r ated a move or tech­nique, I had to per­ceive ever y lit­tle nuance: which core mus­cles to en­gage, how much pres­sure to ap­ply, or when to breathe. I had to be able to see some­thing once (or twice) and then re­ally do it cor rectly my­self. I learned to pre­dict what came next.

I f I was not pre­cise, my teach­ers would pa­tiently cor rect me in some de­tail. I un­der­stood what they meant -- not al­ways by read­ing body lan­guage and fa­cial ex­pres­sion, but by feel­ing the “en­ergy” and see­ing the im­prove­ment . It was through this process that my love of learn­ing, and of teach­ing, g rew.

Af t e r I g r a du a t e d to my 2nd de­gree black­belt I star ted teach­ing “hear ing” stu­dents all by my­sel f. How? I care­fully demonst rate what to do, then and I cor rect them with on tech­niques or pr in­ci­ples unt i l they get it r ight.

The style of Hap­kido that I prac­tice is “Won Jin Hap­kido” -- a rev­o­lu­tion­ary new method of teach­ing and learn­ing tra­di­tional mar­tial arts tech­niques. It is the most eff icient way to lear n self- de­fense for chil­dren, adults, girls, boys, deaf, heari ng... ev­ery­one! “Won­jin” means “t r uth” and Won­jin Hap­kido has at it s foun­dat ion t ruth, peace and har­mony. Its prin­ci­ples help you to un­der­stand life bet ter. It taught me pa­tience, love, for­give­ness, conf idence and so much more.

Al though some hi s t or i ans cal l Hap­kido the f irst mixed mar tial ar t, and it s tech­niques a re revered by MMA afi­ciona­dos, Won Jin Hap­kido has noth­ing to do with f ight­ing. It is only for self- de­fense. But it’s also much more.

Re­spect and dis­ci­pline are im­por­tant in class, and we show re­spect to each other at the Academy and are ex­pected to at home as well. If we have prob­lems, we must work it out to­gether. We al­ways work to­gether be­cause it is bet ter than t ry­ing to do it alone.

For ex­ampl e there wa s a t ime when I had to con­trol my anger at home: deal­ing with my younger sis­ter ( this one is 14 years old). She loves to talk all the time and some­times she has a bad habit of talk­ing about the same thing over and over. One day when I was tired she was get ting on my nerves, and I wanted so badly to yell at her. I al­most lost my tem­per but re­mem­bered what I lear ned in Hap­kido class. They teach us to be more kind and more un­der­stand­ing, plus how to con­trol our phys­i­o­log­i­cal re­ac­tions to calm down. I u sed deep breath­ing and en­ergy to slow down my hear t rate, lower my blood pres­sure, and talked things out with her.

A s fo r teach­ing mar t ial a r t s t o the dea f , it is a bit d i ffe r e nt b e c a u se we learn dif­fer­ently than t h e “h e a r i ng.” We also some­times feel like we have to work harder at ev­ery­thing ( but t h a t ’ s ok ay) . Be­cause I am deaf I un­der­stand this. I can com­mu­ni­cate clearly wit h de af s t udent s for t he b e s t , m o s t eff icient mar tial ar ts t rain­ing.

I want Deaf Hap­kido to be a place whe r e d e a f p eople can learn self- de­fense with­out feel ing lef t out just be­cause they can’t hear. I want to help them do all the tech­niques that would be ex­pected of them if they were able to hear. I want them to have the op­por tu­nity of k nowi ng how to over­come their chal­lenges, lear n the t rue mea n i ng of Wonji n Hapk ido a nd k now the key s to a good life.

Mar t i a l a r t s is a beau­ti­ful thing if you look at i t prop­erly. It can help you f ind an­swer s and change things to bet­ter your l i fe. By “co­or­di­nati n g p owe r ” H a p - k ido h elps me ge t along with my fami ly a t home and to com­mu­ni­cate bet t e r and bui ld r el a t ionsh i p s . Mar t i a l a r t s study even re­lates to my f a ith be­cause it re­qui res do­ing what is r ig ht , f o l lowi ng di rect ions, and mak­ing the r ight choices. It re­minds me to love more and to serve the Lord.

Those who join me to s t udy Deaf Hap - kido wi l l f ind it a re­ward­ing chal lenge. But I k now that we c a n wor k h a r d a nd work to­gether and get where we want to be in l i fe! We can do it to­gether!

Sa­farri is now train­ing for her 3rd de­gree black­belt in Won Jin Hapk id o. Sh e a l s o holds a black­bel t in H a idong G u mdo (a Korean sword mar tial art).

To c o n t a c t S a f a - rri about DEAF H A PK I DO p l e a s e email d i r e c t o r@ be­hap­kido. com.

Pho­tos pro­vided by Jon Bar­ton

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