Martial Arts Can Help Special Needs Children
Will Campuzano, two-time world champion mixed martial artist and owner of Campuzano Martial Arts, shares his lifelong passion for martial arts with his wife, Adi, at their new studio in Frisco. Many parents of neurocognitive diverse children say its hard to find appropriate physical activities for their families, but the daughter of holistic health practitioner Dr. Rebeca Gracia, is a high functioning autistic child that enjoys classes there.
Gracia says, “I would never have imagined finding a family-friendly martial arts studio who could accept my daughter, much less her fall in love with and commit herself to the practice. My oldest daughter is sensitive to loud noises and harsh words. She is also legally blind and has significant muscle weakness. She shies away from playing outside with the kids at school, and has never been able to participate in sports; not exactly the type of kid you would think would enjoy kickboxing and grappling.”
“Three years ago, my daughter accompanied me to a few private training sessions with Will and she watched me drill, drill, drill, and slowly improve my strength. She asked to try a session, and Will didn’t hesitate to accept the challenge,” says Gracia. “Most people act nervous and unsure around someone with autism, but Will just accepted her, and never showed surprise or judgement when she couldn’t complete even the most basic moves. Yes, she fell and yes, she cried a few times. Will encouraged her to walk it off and try again. For a man who is highly trained in brute strength and skill, and has spent his career fighting, he is balanced with a firm gentleness and understanding beyond most people I have met.”
Gracia’s daughter showed improvement in her muscle strength and coordination and became more comfortable in the outside world and started playing more with other children. Her sensitivities diminished, and some have disappeared altogether. She was proud of her improvements and was motivated to continue. Transitioning into a group class, Gracia’s daughter loved it.
“Many specialists in neurocognitive development don’t recommend aggressive physical therapies such as marital arts because it can be too stimulating and actually result in more damage to the sensory centers and muscles,” says Gracia. “Warm-up exercises with stretches and cross muscle routines better train the body than just multiple repetitions of the key moves. Each student is assessed individually and allowed to progress at their own pace.”
With her background in the medical field, Gracia says she knows that physical activity, applied effectively, can help improve brain function. She notes, “My daughter certainly has demonstrated remarkable improvement in brain function from her martial arts experience with Will and Adi, but I think it is more than a simple effect of physical activity. I think it is the combination of physical activity appropriately selected for her, balanced with strong emotional encouragement and acceptance that has created a fertile environment for her to grow and blossom.”
Campuzano Martial Arts is located at 2626 Stonebrook Pkwy., Str. 600, in Frisco. For more information, call 214-269-9340 or visit CampuzanoMartialArts.com.