Martial Arts Therapy: Helping Children Take an Active Role in Their Own Healing and Rehabilitation

By Rabbi Sensei Gary Moskowitz, Martial Arts Therapy

Adaptive Martial Arts.  Group learns martial arts therapy.

The more we move forward in time with breakthroughs in technology, the more we need to understand how to use and build on ancient wisdom as well. The Indian and Oriental cultures have contributed much to healthy living, rehabilitation and pain management. Martial Arts Therapy (MAT) utilizes this wisdom to help people keep optimum health, and manage and heal those with serious illnesses and disabilities.

Martial Arts Therapy is the use of century’s old wisdom with modern education techniques to train our brave student/patients that they can be in control of their bodies thereby controlling their pain and their emotional and physical difficulties. MAT has its roots going back to 1979 where students of Applied Martial Arts had to volunteer time to receive training in helping sick kids with cancer and those who had disabilities to receive their promotion in rank. The philosophy is simple, once you empower yourself then you must empower others especially those who often are the most vulnerable in society.

Martial Arts Therapy teaches pain/fear management and physical rehabilitation skills while offering emotional and spiritual support as the patient actively participates in their healing processes through kinetic energy training and guidance imagery. MAT is like a moving meditative dance experience. As the student advances working with multiple partners they utilize proprioceptive training known as sticky hands among other sensory skills. They also work on the Chi-Sage Method which is a combination of Tai Chi and massage/acupressure where the therapist is using acupressure while the client is in a slow and later in a fast pace meditative motion to stimulate the natural healing energies of the body and mind. Almost immediately they learn our combative competitive Virtual Karate and Judo where they fight each other from a distance with no physical contact and points are scored by judges deciding whether their attacks would have landed or not.

Martial Arts TherapyMAT is able to motivate and push children without breaking them. It is exciting for them to learn to do things many thought they could never learn. As the student/patient progresses they are awarded colored ranks in recognition of their accomplishments where they wear a belt or sash around their waist or as a headband. For those with more vigor and an affinity for police work we have started a Cops Arresting Cancer program where the kids with all illnesses and disabilities learn police tactics and have visits and train with real police officers who are often their heroes.

One example of our training is when I was working with a ten year old boy with cerebral palsy who had difficulty opening and closing his hands. I took out my rubber knife and told him we will be working on knife defenses. However to do that, he would have to try and rotate his wrist to redirect the knife away from him. After working with his hands with some of our training mechanisms, I began making threatening gestures to him playfully and eventually I screamed as I thrusted the knife towards him. He began focusing and wrapping his hand around my wrist to catch and redirect the rubber knife. After working with him for a few sessions, he was able to move and rotate his wrist approximately another 20 degrees. He was motivated, focused and having fun.

Another six year old boy with CP who could barely take a couple of steps without his walker began working with me. On our first day I had him sit down and we did some stick foam training. I taught him three blocks and strikes. Then after 15 minutes I said the session is over.  He asked me to stay longer and I told him if he can’t stand then I can’t teach him to fight. “Do you want to try and stand and train?” I asked. He just got up holding on to his father and we began to practice. Suddenly, I purposely hit him with the foam stick over the head and his face became red with his nostrils flaring like a dragon and where I could feel his adrenaline pumping. With burst of energy he didn’t walk he ran after me trying to retaliate. He took 16 steps striking at me with his foam stick before he finally fell. He was so proud of himself. This was our first session.

Another little boy with brain cancer was in pain and lost coordination from time to time. I took the picture of his MRI of his brain where the cancer was and we used the guidance imagery technique of throwing darts at the picture and then hanging it up on a striking pad. He learned to punch and kick at it where it had an immediate effect of pain relief where he learned to scrambled the message of pain. Another young girl with cystic fibrosis learned various deep breathing exercises to assist her. There are many more joyful stories to tell and more to be experienced.

Kids Martial Arts Therapy

One of the main problems why so many people who are sick or have disabilities cannot perform to the optimum is because they do not receive adequate and the diverse therapy they need per week. The standard therapy most kids are offered is two to three times a week of PT, OT and Speech. However many of the population with disabilities need these therapies three to four times a day. We hope to address this disparity by training a nation of volunteers who will reach and perform this national service to our people. We have started Neuro-science clubs at some schools in the hopes of training young students at the elementary and high school level to understand the complications of the brain and why some of their friends have disabilities and how they can be sensitive and trained to assist them. Likewise we want to train children with special needs that they too have an obligation when possible to help others who appear to be able and yet suffer from other emotional difficulties. 

Martial Arts Therapy

We train medical and health personnel, physical, occupational and speech therapists, special education teachers, respite, home health aides, parents/siblings, volunteer instructors and student interns and clergy in what is known as the Moskowitz Martial Method of Martial Arts Therapy. MAT offers free classes to kids with cancer and other illnesses and disabilities and then hopes to train them to become instructors in our developing vocational training program.  

Remember our world, country, society, community and neighborhood is only as strong as its weakest link.  Visit us at the Abilities Expo New York Metro and get your adrenaline rush creating heroes.

For more information, visit www.martialtherapy.org or call Rabbi Gary Moskowitz at 917-916-4681. The organization is a not for profit tax-exempt 510c3 and they welcome any help anyone can offer. Rabbi Sensei Gary is the founder of the not for profit Martial Arts Therapy and the Moskowitz Martial Method. He is a seventh degree Black Belt in Karate and Ju-Jitsu among other black belts having 42 years training and teaching martial arts. He has a MS in Education Administration, is eligible to sit for the NYS Bar, is ordained as a Rabbi trained in pastoral counseling and is a former NYC police officer who was a guest instructor for the elite Israeli Border Police’s Anti-Terror Unit.  He is also president of “Global Protect” a security consultant company. There is a feature film in development of Rabbi Rambo.

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