“Oliver is doing so well in his Budo classes, Thankyou Sinead Byrne 2 1/2 yrs have flown by your amazing with him ninja love”- Oliver’s Mum Facebook post.
With this post it got me thinking about Oliver and his training. I think the world should know how remarkable he truly is but also see that while no journey is easy, it is always worth it in the end. And when times get tough, quitting should never be an option. Because pushing through and achieving what you set out to do will always prove worth it when you get there. Too many places like to put tags on us all, depending on our abilities. Most places refusing people who are perceived to be “different” or with any hint of an additional need. This always angers me, my life goal as a martial arts instructor and sports coach is to change this. Every child and adult deserves the right to the same opportunities as everyone else and has the ability to achieve what ever the hell they want. We have lots of students who train with us, they have different stories, different reasons they train and achieve different things. This is Oliver’s story:
Two and a half years ago, Oliver’s Mum contacted me and asked if her son could try a class, after hearing about our class through a friend. She wondered if Oliver could come along, due to his Autism and SPD and the fact he never tried anything like this before, she wondered if he would like it, would he settle, would he make friends etc. Just like most other parents ask when they make an enquiry. We signed him up for our brand new class for a taster.
Oliver’s first lesson was just him and one other little boy. We played games, learned stances (of which I think Oliver remembered almost all of them instantly!) Then the second little boy stopped training after a few weeks and switched to another day to train. For many months, Oliver would turn up every week, we would train, play ninja games and his Mum would watch on from the side.
Eventually we started to get a little interest in our group and had 2 other little boys join us. Together they became good ninja friends and Oliver finally had someone else to train with and play games. Which was great!
Eventually Oliver tested for his Red belt, it was a huge deal for him. To stand up in front of everyone, perform his stances and techniques.
But also to be the first student ever to test at our Montpellier dojo. He passed with flying colours and I think he floated out of the room he was on such a high. His Mum and Dad of course just as happy as he was.
Then sometime later we found out that Oliver despite not showing it, had badly fractured his knee. Which led to him being in a cast for quite a long time. Did this stop him coming to class? Of course not, nothing could stop him. He came along and sat on the side, following all our moves while he sat down. A little cast (Red cast of course as it’s his favourite colour!) was not going to get in Oliver’s way!
When Oliver’s leg healed he was back in full training mode as he prepared for his Yellow belt. It was tough to get back into the swing of things, especially with such a long break in his training routine, there was times he took a few steps backwards and lost his belt for not joining in, but each week he came back he earned his belt back, but with a little understanding and care Oliver was back training like a pro! Alongside his ninja friends.
Then came grading time, which was a huge challenge of rolling and breakfalling. But apart from that Oliver was to do it at our huge event ‘Budo on the Beach’. In front of a much bigger group of students in a new space. Things were tough at some points, making Oliver struggle to stay on the mats, or at some points hiding under a table, but there was always Sinead or Sam on standby to help Oliver focus and get through it. We knew he could do it. It was always going to be tough, but not impossible.
Of course after some cooling down time and deep breathes, Oliver passed with flying colours once again. It was in no way easy for him. It would be easy for a teacher to not push a child who finds it more difficult to follow the crowd and just give the reward. But in actual fact every child is capable of achieving what they want and nobody should ever feel they need to follow the crowd. Every child struggles in their own little way, some children panic on the inside and some on the outside. But all it takes is for a teacher to adapt what they do, so nobody feels they stand out and that nobody gets given anything for nothing. Oliver shows this every lesson, it’s not easy, there are good days and bad days. But those good days are much more rewarding when Oliver knows he did it himself and worked hard for it. The smile below says it all!
Later on that year at our end of year awards, Oliver struggled to sit still and understand why some children got awards and he didn’t. But what he didn’t know was there was a special award never given before just for him. That award was for never missing a training session for a whole year! He couldn’t believe it, and was totally in awe of his little trophy!
Little did we know though that 2017 was to be Oliver’s biggest year yet! He trained every week, sometimes twice a week. Paid a visit to our Bristol dojo as an adventure with his Mum. Made new friends, learned some super cool weapons techniques with his special Jo Staff. And created a valid argument for why our uniforms should be red, it’s his favourite colour! He asked the other students and they all agreed, and so our uniform colour changed.
In 2017 he also knew what Budo on the Beach was all about, and desperately wanted his Orange belt. For months it was tough, there was a lot to learn, which meant he had to try even harder. We had some tough weeks where Oliver didn’t want to try anything new. Or wanted to sit down for the whole lesson (On one occasion even had a cheeky little nap haha) But his teacher and friends never gave up in encouraging him.
After many plans and trials and errors we figured out a way together, between Sinead, Oliver and his Mum and Dad that we could get Oliver to his orange belt. He began to change and join in again, super excited to get his next technique in his training book. And once again at BOTB stood up, next to Sinead along with everyone else. And he performed his heart out. Showing a huge leap from last year to this year. He never left the floor, we took deep breathes together and got through it all. He made Sinead and his parents so incredibly proud, but most of all he was proud of himself. He did it! It was scary, it was hard, but he did it!
In the coming months after this event, Oliver had the idea he wanted to enter our first ever inter club tournament. This was a huge step for Oliver. On the day, he needed a little extra time but got up and performed his Kata in front of the judges really really well! Then it was time for Sparring, Oliver struggles with this aspect as it involves a lot of contact. So he competed against two of our older students.
He fought his heart out and won a first place trophy. To which he shouted out in excitement when it was presented to him. A few moments later he was presented with a special badge for his perfect attendance record for the second year in a row. Such an amazing achievement, by an incredibly dedicated and determined young man.
Oliver is now at a point where he just can’t get enough of training. Asking for an extra lesson, determined to learn all he needs for his purple belt. Not even a fracture can stop him! He knows what he wants, and he understands what he has to do to get it. Calling himself “Shorn’s Ninja Apprentice”. Oliver even started doing some teaching to help his newer friends learn some of his favourite techniques. Then informed Sinead “When you retire and get old, I can keep teaching Budo to everyone for you”, Sinead agreed and told him he could. Oliver giggled and said “but we won’t do warm ups anymore then”! (Oliver’s most disliked part of every lesson is generally the warm up)
Will his purple belt come easy, no of course not. But with Oliver being the main driving force going forwards, this kid can achieve anything! But inspire any other child who comes through our door.
If you are reading this blog and thinking, I wish my child could do that. Then contact us and we can arrange a trial session for your child. Don’t let society dictate what your child can and cannot do because of any additional need. Your child can achieve things that maybe even they never realised they could. Although Martial Arts is not everyone’s cup of tea, it’s always worth a try.
And who better for your child to learn from than Oliver himself!