Awesome Deaf Martial Arts Instructor shares her story
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Madoc Jones, Forrest Greening, Brynn Jones, Safarri Jessop & Gavin Jones