When the WTF created the Para-Taekwondo Committee in 2005, a journey began and no one knows where it will end. Just weeks before the start of the 5th Para-Taekwondo Championships, and the inclusion practitioners-athletes with intellectual disability in the Poomsae competitions, we know that this will event will mark a milestone in the history of Taekwondo in the world.
In this article, we will try to analyze some actions and social imaginary built in the culture of Taekwondo practitioners and society in general regarding the practice of sports and Taekwondo by people with special educational needs.
Teaching Taekwondo aimed to people with disabilities is not new in the discipline. Surely the vast majority of readers-practitioners knows or has met an instructor or teacher who had among his pupils, people with physical or mental disabilities. Others, less likely, have worked or are working exclusively with groups of practitioners with disabilities.
Moreover, it can be observed in social networks or comments made by Taekwondo instructors or teachers that some of them, through self-education or contact with professionals in education, psychology or medicine, have planned their Taekwondo classes taking into consideration people with special educational needs (SEN). Teaching people with SEN, as with conventional students, must be an act of love without distinction. That is why, any Taekwondo instructor or coach that does not feel comfortable in that role and does it against her/his will, surely due professional ethics, will not take the responsibility to be in charge of a group of SEN students since it would represent a great challenge.
Before we continue our analysis of Para-Taekwondo, it is important that we clarify some concepts. When we talk about people with SEN, we refer to a concept that first emerged in 1978 and appears as an alternative to universal names that were being used to refer to people with disabilities. There, the emphasis would be put into the context and social environment aspects. It is said that this is an essential step towards the ratification of integration as a pedagogical strategy. Also, diversity and differences of each person were acknowledged. Beyond their capabilities and possibilities, students are valued for their own uniqueness, a fact that has enriched the educational and institutional practices but in turn they have become much more complex.
We must emphasize the need of pedagogical education and training of any person who teaches Taekwondo in any level, in the sports or martial arts area. While there are people with SEN practicing Taekwondo, teachers and coaches may perceive the need of specialization or a systematic training platform in order to be professionally prepared to deal with SEN students. Moreover, why not to think that the Taekwondo Instructors themselves develop and present a project of intervention in schools for people with SEN, according to a disability in particular? In those cases, the federations, associations and all those institutions involved in the in the formation of Taekwondo teachers should consider to take an immediate and direct action to fill these educational needs.
The onset or the first experiences that people with SEN may have with a systematic practice of Taekwondo depend, as with every person, on the interest shown to practice the sport, and of course of a statement issued by a licensed physician stating that the person is suitable for physical activity. If the doctor considers necessary he would recommend in detail which activities the student may or may not perform during the various practice sessions and the recommendations should be taken into account by the TKD instructor. Definitely, any person who wants to practice the sport can do it, unless a licensed physician deems hazardous to his/her health.
The WTF has adapted the competition rules to those who can and want to develop in the Para-Taekwondo. All those practitioners with some degree of disability in their upper limbs can participate in the combat discipline and athletes with intellectual disabilities can participate in Poomse mode. In the near future competition rules adapted for blind people or having cerebral palsy will be designed.
It is important to highlight that in adaptive sports or Para sports, athletes must pass the same stages in their career as happens in conventional sports, where athletes have their onset in sports, then they go through the stage of specialization and development, and some get to the high performance. Moreover, the analysis of the logic of sport, the technical and tactical aspect, nutrition, sports psychology, training planning, the leadership and family support, etc, are also aspects included in the Para sports and exactly similar to conventional sport. Para-Taekwondo athletes are not to be considered neither more nor less favored, but provide them with the same opportunities as the rest.
To conclude, we emphasize the importance of education and specialized training, in this area in particular, in order to plan with a scientific approach the training sessions aimed to people with SEN. Improvisation cannot be sustained over time, much less in this particular area. There are different federations or associations that gather each Para sport and the Paralympic Committees as well. Any of them, may probably have a team of Physical Education teachers specialized in adaptive sports willing to train.
The Para-Taekwondo is growing and we need to be prepared to develop it to its fullest potential with ethics and professionalism.
– Ministerio de Educación – Gobierno de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires (2008) La diversidad en el proceso de enseñanza y aprendizaje. Buenos Aires.
– Orsatti, L. (2011) Deporte para discapacitados mentales. Ed. Stadium. Buenos Aires.
– Sitio web: Unesco (ingreso 18 de mayo de 2014) “Educación para personas con discapacidad”http://www.unesco.org/new/es/education/themes/strengthening-education-systems/inclusive-education/people-with-disabilities/
– Sitio web: World Taekwondo Federation (ingreso 18 de mayo de 2014) “Para-Taekwondo” http://www.worldtaekwondofederation.net/para-taekwondo
Fernando Akilian, Exclusive masTaekwondo.com
Free translation by masTaekwondo.com Team