SELF-DEFENSE FOR THE DEAF (AND EVERYONE ELSE!)
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.