Initiation lessons Taekwon-Do for people with psychological vulnerabilities

Report by Master Eddy Van Damme:

On Saturday 09/09/2023, I gave an initiation lesson Taekwon-Do in Sportshall Driebeek in Gentbrugge. It was for about 15 people with Autism during 1,5h. The question came from the Flemish Organization ‘Sterkmakers in Autisme’, who regularly organize sport activities for people with Autism. Because I already did some volunteering work for the ‘Flemish Autism Association’, and they knew about my thesis “Opportunities in Taekwon-Do for people with Autism”, they asked me to give this course.

I explained some history, the oath and the greeting, then we did some warming-up exercises, individual basic movements and pre-pattern-movement exercises. Some easy punches and kicks for a start, and to give them an idea about the movements. Then I performed Yon-Gae tul in a demonstrative way, in order to give them an impression about what a pattern looks like. Then we did some basic sparring exercises on pads, a few easy breaking moves, ending with a cooling down and a small meditation.

I explained them that I am also on the Autism Spectrum, and that I was as nervous as they were, and that was a catalysator to make things easier and to make a better connection. On the other hand, my 33 years of experience in Taekwon-Do reassured them that they were in safe hands. I illustrated the opportunities for balance, proprioception and body awareness with some simple exercises, then I explained the psychological, mental and social chances of this Martial Art with my own perseverance throughout the years. In that way, I could pass through a few of my own life experiences to them by example. Despite the level of performance, these beginners were very enthusiastic and interested by asking many questions afterwards. They quickly felt safe to do that. It was a positive exchange for everybody.

On Thursday 28/09/2023 in the afternoon, I gave more or less the same introduction lesson for a group of 12 internees in a forensic-psychiatric hospital in Zelzate.

There I started to explain that we were not going to fight today, because I wanted to show them the strength of Taekwon-Do on moral level (to win over oneself), instead of the physical level (a lot of people struggle with an aggression problem). So the meaning of self-control in daily life as a central part of their problems, was an issue that was very important to talk about, before we started with about the same initiation program.

The emphasis was put on pleasure in movement, without any physical contact because of safety reasons. Afterwards, everybody seemed to be happy and relaxed, and they came to me to ask some more questions about Martial Arts.