How Jiu Jitsu Supports Dyslexics
When educators reflect on how to support students, especially students with learning disabilities a major misstep is to look at the learning challenges in a vacuum without taking the entire person into account. One of the goals at Heritage Academy is to provide a well rounded and varied approach to support for our students. This was the impetus of having 100% Martial Arts, an innovative martial arts program combine with Heritage Academy, a cutting edge educational institution for students with dyslexia to create a complete educational program that works with all aspects of the brain and body to support the student as a complete entity.
Heritage Academy is a school primarily for students with dyslexia in Ottawa since 1989. We have an environment with small class sizes and specific programs designed to teach dyslexic students to read, as well as a highly developed classroom environment to accommodate each student and their specific needs. These are students who are perfectly able to learn, they simply do so in a different way. Heritage Academy is an independent school that follows the Ontario curriculum, but delivers the material in such a way that its population can better understand it. Heritage Academy is a welcoming community, we believe that if you create a positive environment where students feel comfortable to learn, and then they will feel comfortable to take risks. If a student can take risks then they will excel.
Shihan Bill Gatchell, the author of Kanzenbudo Jiu Jitsu taught at the 100% Martial Arts schools of Jiu Jitsu, kickboxing & fitness. He teaches that that the whole mind and body are engaged in jiu jitsu techniques offering cutting-edge programs that promote artistic freedom while honoring traditions of the past. Shihan Gatchell has spent hundreds of hours developing a revolutionary curriculum that focuses on safety while teaching you the most effective combative moves. The progression creates a bank of movements that get committed to muscle memory, allowing the student to develop continually and achieve great success in the sport. Jiu Jitsu is the art of movement, the science of self-defense, and a phenomenal way to train your mind, body and spirit. Jiu-Jitsu is the original martial art of Japan’s samurai warriors. It is a strategy of self-defense that uses kicks and punches, strikes, throws, locks, holds, grappling and weapons systems. Jiu means gentle and Jitsu means art or science.
Dyslexia is a language based learning disability that presents itself in a variety of ways. Dysnemkinesia affects the motor skills, while dyseidesia effects the visual perception of an individual, finally dysphonesia is auditory dyslexia. People can be affected by one, or multiple types of dyslexia, and varying degrees of each type. The result is a unique combination with every person who presents as a dyslexic learner. While most documentation examines how dyslexia effects students in the classroom, Heritage Academy supports students as a whole entity as they move through school, of course, this extends outside the classroom as well. Taking this approach allows us to see that dyslexic students have challenges in executive functioning, memory, organisation, time management depth perception and muscle memory.
It is important that educators support all sides of the student, and using a variety of strategies. With this in mind Heritage Academy and Shihan Bill Gatchell of 100% Martial Arts collaborated to create a symbiotic program. The goal of this program is to extend students to learn a martial art and at the same time have that martial art support the classroom. In the end this is exactly what we found is happening at the school. The program has completed one year at Heritage Academy and the students enrolled have improved in all of the noted challenges. This is an ongoing project, but it is the goal to graduate students from Heritage Academy with an Ontario Highschool diploma and a Black Belt in Kanzenbudo Jiu Jitsu.
Unlike some martial arts, this program does not include a significant amount of wrote memory activities. Instead each move flows naturally into the next, and the logical addition continues, as each attack has a counter and a counter to that counter, etc. The final result is a long combination to moves that the student can commit to memory. Sequences that were boggling when our students first start, a few months later are very simple. The practice of these gross motor skill memory activities have the brain practicing the exercise of remembering with the support of have a physical flow to each move. This support makes what can be a very challenging activity much easier for the dyslexic mind. Interestingly the practicing of the physical activity helps increase memory in all types of tasks. Students who can remember complicated jiu jitsu patterns on the mats seem to find it easier to remember scientific terminology, or other more academic tasks.
Shihan Bill Gatchell’s Kanzenbudo Jiu Jitsu program has come together with heritage Academy’s unique environment to allow students functioning at a wide variety of athletic abilities improve in athletics as well as academics, they co-exist in a symbiotic manner that is teaching to the whole student, and allowing the organisations to see great improvement.
Vice Principal Heritage Academy of Learning Excellence
OCT-Special Education/Reading Specialist