Special Ninjas: Karate for all Abilities in Toledo

Ninja. The word likely brings a vivid picture to your mind. Generally, it’s the stereotypical Hollywood image of lithe figures sporting all black as they jump across rooftops and scale walls in the blink of an eye. But, when it comes to a certain karate and therapeutic program, the word is much more inclusive. 

Special Ninjas Therapeutic Martial Arts, located near Key Street and Heatherdowns Blvd., is a program that has been serving our community for a handful of years, helping young children and adults with mental and physical disabilities to gain new skills with each lesson. 

Meet the Sensei

The brains behind it all is Sensei Rachelle, the creator and sole instructor who leads each lesson and sensory play activity. Her career with special needs programs began over a decade ago in 2009 when she worked as a paraprofessional, following students to various schools as a part of IEP (Individualized Education Program) meetings. Her experience with karate is even more extensive. She fills readers in on her background: “I started Martial Arts when I was six years old. My parents put me in karate for confidence, socialization and physical fitness. Looking back, karate played a huge part in helping me with the symptoms of [ADHD, Dyslexia, and Anxiety] . I feel like I can connect and have a deeper understanding with my students because I too deal with my own challenges.”

Besides holding multiple Black Belts, Sensei Rachelle is also, “the second woman in the United States — my mom being the first — to achieve black belt in a style known as Chukidokwan. I am a National Champion and silver and bronze medalist in WKC world championships.”

Lessons Available 

“I saw great potential in differently-abled people, and I knew karate was something they could be included in and have fun with, all while working on therapy needs.” 

There are a few different options when it comes to working on those needs:

Private in-person lessons allow students to have a one-on-one experience, learning and exercising with their sensei. These tend to run for twenty minutes Monday-Thursday, though participants are able to add an extra ten minutes of curriculum time onto each lesson. Classes are first-come first-served, but you can schedule up to a month in advance.

Group lessons are also available, where participants are encouraged to build important skills such as partnership, self-confidence, and socializing with others. Therapeutic skills are also taken into account and improved. Classes run for thirty minutes every two weeks on Fridays. Both private and group classes are aimed for those seven years of age and older.

The final class offered is a sensory play activity, where those four-years and older are welcomed to come and explore their sensory needs. Textured mats, balancing beams, stacking items, climbing, and much more are available during the hour-long session every Monday and Friday.

Classes are to help everyone and anyone, says Sensei Rachelle. “It feels good seeing students accomplish multiple techniques. I get excited to see even the smallest strides. A crunch or a jumping jack can be a huge success. No matter the severity of the disability, I use creative ways to modify and breakdown techniques, so class partipants have the greatest chance to succeed.” 

To check class availability and pricing, go online to their website, specialninjas.mykajabi.com, or visit their Facebook page.

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