Awe­some Deaf Mar­tial Arts In­struc­tor shares her story

Serve Daily - - LIBERTY SHALL BE MAINTAINED - By Sa­farri Jes­sop

I am a Mar­tial Arts In­struc­tor. I am also deaf. For 5 years I have been teach­ing Hap­kido at Springville Self De­fense and Lead­er­ship Academy.

I am start­ing a project called “Deaf Hap­kido” a fun class specif­i­cally for the deaf! I want to help other deaf peo­ple learn to pro­tect them­selves, im­prove self- con­fi­dence, and de­velop life chang­ing skills.

So, how did a to­tally deaf teenage girl start on the path to mul­ti­ple black­belts? When my sis­ter, Spring and I first started, we were the only hear­ing im­paired stu­dents. She uses hear­ing aids and reads lips, so she trans­lated for me us­ing sign lan­guage. Even with Spring con­vey­ing the teacher’s in­struc­tions as fast as her hands could sign, it was tough. Mar­tial arts is de­mand­ing for any­one. In a class with hear­ing stu­dents, de­spite know­ing what the teacher re­quired, I could not hear what the stu­dents were say­ing to each other or what they were say­ing to me. I used my eyes as my ears and im­pro­vised.

Hap­kido, “the way of co­or­di­nated power,” is an eclec­tic style from Korea draw­ing tech­niques from many oth­ers, em­pha­siz­ing im­pro­vi­sa­tion. The fa­mous movie star, Jackie Chan has a rep­u­ta­tion for chore­ograph­ing elab­o­rate im­pro­vi­sa­tional Kung- Fu scenes and his only black­belt: Hap­kido!

I worked harder to first see, and then do, be­ing aware of what was hap­pen­ing all around me, us­ing my other senses to de­tect when some­one is com­ing up from be­hind, even prac­tic­ing blind­folded. When I couldn’t hear or see, I learned to feel.

Spring and I trained for years and earned our black belts to­gether. She moved on to other things while I con­tin­ued mar­tial arts on my own. It was a hard tran­si­tion and I of­ten felt left out, but I was more de­ter­mined to suc­ceed by watch­ing and feel­ing even more than be­fore. I had to per­ceive ev­ery lit­tle nuance: which core mus­cles to en­gage, how much pres­sure to ap­ply, and when to breathe, de­velop enough skill to pre­dict what came next. I un­der­stood not only by read­ing body lan­guage and fa­cial ex­pres­sion, but by feel­ing the en­ergy. This in­creased my love of learn­ing and teach­ing.

Af­ter earn­ing my 2nd de­gree black­belt I started teach­ing hear­ing stu­dents. I care­fully and pa­tiently demon­strate what to do and they un­der­stand without any prob­lem. Teach­ing the deaf is dif­fer­ent than the hear­ing be­cause we learn dif­fer­ently— and must work harder. I un­der­stand, com­mu­ni­cate well, and share a com­mon bond with the deaf. I want Deaf Hap­kido to be a com­fort­able place where deaf peo­ple can re­ward them­selves through hard work, learn­ing tech­niques, build­ing con­fi­dence, and over­com­ing chal­lenges.

Won Jin (mean­ing “truth”) Hap­kido rests on truth, peace and har­mony. It is the most ef­fi­cient way to learn self- de­fense, yet has noth­ing to do with fight­ing. One must de­velop dis­ci­pline, do what is right, and fol­low di­rec­tions. Hap­kido has en­hanced my life! It re­minds me to have faith, show love, for­give, and serve the Lord; qual­i­ties that ex­tend be­yond the class­room and into ev­ery as­pect of life.

Sa­farri is now train­ing for her 3rd de­gree black­belt in Won Jin Hap­kido and holds a black­belt in Haidong Gumdo, “the way of the sword.”

To con­tact Sa­farri about “Deaf Hap­kido” please email di­rec­tor@be­hap­

Photo Sub­mit­ted by Sa­farri Jes­sop

Madoc Jones, For­rest Green­ing, Brynn Jones, Sa­farri Jes­sop & Gavin Jones

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