View Full Version : Matheny's karate students earn yellow belts, confidence

10/22/2004 3:50am,
Matheny's karate students earn yellow belts, confidence
By Rob Seman, Daily Record

PEAPACK -- Even though she had come out of her shell in the last few weeks, Amanda Cochell still was visibly apprehensive in the minutes before she and the other students in her karate class showed off what they learned.

"I'm nervous," Cochell said.

"Don't be nervous, take a deep breath," said one of her instructors, Carol Conicelli.

Others in her class were a little more eager to prove they had the chops.

"Do you want a piece of me tonight?" the students' sensei, Tom Kately, asked Jason Weiner in a manner that was meant both as a joke and a challenge.

"I want a piece of you," Weiner replied.

But emotions that preceded the karate exhibition held Tuesday night at the Matheny School and Hospital -- both anxious and enthusiastic -- had less to do with fighting than it did personal achievement.

The students, who suffer from developmental disabilities, are wheelchair-bound or cannot speak, Tuesday night meant earning their yellow belts and showing that they had overcome at least some of their limitations in control and self-expression.

For Rasheedah Mahali, 24, of Somerset, the yellow belt was just a beginning.

"Orange, then green," she said of her belt aspirations.

Kately, chief instructor at Quest Karate in Washington Township, began conducting the karate course every Tuesday since July at the Matheny School with fellow instructors Conicelli and Jason Neuschwander.

Kately, who teaches Isshinryu, a form of karate that teaches natural moves that originated in Okinawa, helped teach a course to patients with spinal problems at Overlook Hospital in 1995. He brought a demonstration of his program to Matheny earlier this year, and the school opted to try the program with some of its resident patients.

The movement involved in the martial art, Kately said, is a simple guise for physical therapy. Although it is perceived as being taught to punch and kick, the intention is to get the patients to make controlled movements.

"I like it," Mahali said. "It makes you focus on things."

"I think it's great," said Mahali's mother, Geri Brewer. "She's getting more coordinated. She's in control when she's not restrained."

Many of the karate students must be restrained regularly. Three of the students have a chemical imbalance that often leads to self-mutilation.

"But during the half-hour sessions they were here, all you needed was supervision," said Sean Bielefeldt, a recreational therapist at Matheny.

It also has made the students more controlled in other programs, and more cognitive, Bielefeldt said.

"It's amazing," Bielefeldt said. "They've come a long way."

Cochell and Shaleena Tomassini, both of whom suffer from spina bifida, a condition that limits control of their legs and confines them to wheelchairs, took up karate for different reasons.

Cochell's reasons were based in fitness and achievement.

"It helps get my arms stronger," Cochell said.

"I was just in the mood to do it," she added. "Just to get a hang of it. I was never in that kind of tournament before."

For Tomassini, 21, who already lifts weights, wheelchair-races and does ballet, the martial arts instruction was meant for self-defense.

"I have more confidence in myself and learned how to defend myself," Tomassini said. "I've had bad experiences. I knew how to fight but not well."

"At first I was hesitant, but then I got pretty good at it," she said. "It looked like a whole lot of fun."

Tomassini and Cochell took first and second place, respectively, in the exhibition on Tuesday.

Kately and the Matheny School would like to continue the program. The karate course, which costs $50 per month per student, is funded by the school's budget. That might not be possible as time goes on, said Sanford Josephson, a spokesman for Matheny.

"If it were to continue to go on and grow, we would need some outside funding," Josephson said.

It was after a few practice punches and kicks into the pads that Kately held in front of her that Cochell finally looked up at her sensei confidently.

"I'm ready," she said.


Haha the place is called Peapack?

I personally think it is great that these people are able to still do something despite their disabilities and have a sense of accomplishment. I never mock people that can't change how they are, rather understanding and maturity need to be gained for perspective.

10/22/2004 3:27pm,
I can. Retards mutilating themselves is funny enough even before they put on a karate gi and slur "yellow, then green!" before smashing their genitals with a claw hammer.

Traditional Tom
10/23/2004 2:18pm,
Hysterical Boyd, really. However good find by Pizd, certainly an interesting article.