Our very own creative director, Jen Shannon, is involved in martial arts. When she discovered one of her favorite martial artists, Tyler Weaver, was diagnosed with autism, we decided it would be a good idea to highlight someone in the autism community that is not only thriving, but highlight an often overlooked activity for people with autism.
Martial arts, at its core, is founded on discipline, respect, and training hard to succeed. Many forms of martial arts require a lot of repetition, something people with autism typically need in their day to day routines. Many people with autism do something called “stimming” which are repetitive movements and/or noises, usually as a way to cope with something bothering them, such as being overstimulated or stressed. It’s the need for repetition that makes something like martial arts a good fit for someone with autism.
According to an article on Century’s blog, one form of martial arts called Kata was particularly helpful for people with autism. See below.
Martial arts as a training exercise uses repetition of movement and verbal cues to help instruct and guide students to learn responses to exterior stimuli. Movements are organized in steps called kata, the basic foundational movements for defensive and offensive action.
Going through these movements helps to create muscle memory based on repetitive actions, exactly what those coping with a autism deal with already. By transposing external motions over the internalized need to repeated movement, students can overcome impulse and become confident in their own bodies.
The use of the kata as a method of reducing stereotypy is more than just a concept. A study in Iran took 30 school-aged children (5-16 years of age) and split them into a control group and a group enrolled in a martial arts program. The results were extraordinary.
While the control group recorded no change, the students instructed in kata for 14 weeks (or 56 sessions) showed a significant loss in stereotypy. With an over 40% reduction of impulsive movement, these students saw the benefit persist even months after the study concluded.Century Martial Arts
Now let’s introduce you to Tyler Weaver. Tyler wasn’t diagnosed with autism until the age of 22. He’s been training in martial arts since the age of 2, thanks to his father, who owned a karate studio. He was the youngest black belt to take home a world title. It wasn’t until his younger brother was diagnosed with autism that he was able to put the pieces together. He struggles with communication and relationships.
Tyler wants to be a role model to others on the spectrum and to let them know they are not alone and help them get the help they need. To watch Tyler’s story, visit this video on YouTube. We hope you are inspired!