View Full Version : Lincoln boy kicks cerebral palsy, works toward black belt

10/24/2005 5:57pm,
Lincoln boy kicks cerebral palsy, works toward black belt

Lincoln boy kicks cerebral palsy, works toward black belt
By Cindy Lange-Kubick / Lincoln Journal Star

Go ahead, try to knock Mark Yuen down

Think you can do it?

The kid’s got two bum legs, eyes that don’t see straight and a shunt buried in his head.

When you hear his story it sounds like a butterfly with a burst of adrenaline could knock this middle-schooler to the floor.

Heck, he doesn’t even need your help. He’ll fall down on his own.

He’ll be running around the dojo one minute and the next he’ll be on his back, like Dempsey, down for the count.

But, guess what?

Mark gets up.

There’s a Japanese saying: Fall down seven times. Get up eight.

That’s what the head of his karate school says Mark does.

How many times has Mark fallen down?

You don’t have enough fingers.

Mark is 12.

He’s had surgery 11 times.

He was adopted from an orphanage in the Philippines when he was 16 months old, a black-haired toddler with cerebral palsy.

For 6 years, he’s worked and worked and worked to get here — standing in the middle of his dojo at the Okinawa Karate Center on 58th street.

He could have quit. Lots of times he could have quit.

He didn’t.

Two mornings a week the sixth grader wakes up before the newspaper hits the front porch.

Karate class starts at 6.

Mark sets his own alarm, no one needs to nag him to get up.

His mom, Sharon, goes with him. She and his dad, Gary, are there when their boy falls.

They know it’s hard. They know something else. They know he can get back up.

A few weeks ago Mark dropped band. He flat out refused to keep playing the baritone.

His mom had to give up the dream her boy would one day perform in the marching band.

“That wasn’t Mark’s dream,” she says.

Mark wrote about his dreams and his battles.

In karate I have fought several battles. ... My eyes can’t focus straight every time I do a move ... my feet won’t always position right ... my kicks are small ...

In life I have also fought battles ... living in fear of when my shunt will shut down ... if I don’t have surgery in time I might die ... fear is a battle that I’ve had with my surgeries ...

A week after surgery there’s Mark, back at the dojo in his wheelchair.

Then he shows up on crutches, battling back, bit by bit.

“He’s a breath of fresh air,” his karate teacher Steve Saathoff says.

This is the kid who tried to stuff a fake rat in Saathoff’s gym bag as a prank, the kid who has a neon smile and black hair that sticks up like a wire brush.

“He’ll never be the star of the basketball team or the football team,” Steve says, “but this is something he can do.”

Out of a thousand kids who start out in karate, maybe 10, no maybe five, will make it this far.

When Mark was 5, this place was his physical therapy office, the dojo was smaller, down the strip mall. Every time he left his therapy appointment he’d walk by and look inside.

Mom can I try this?


Mom can I try this? Mom can I try this?

He was 6 when she said yes. At first it was fun. And then it got harder, each belt harder and harder than the next.

The work was worth it.

“It’s pretty cool,” says Mark. “Whenever I tell someone how far I am their jaw just drops.”

Thursday night the dojo is full; all around the edges, people sit watching.

Five men are here to test for their black belts.

Five men and one boy.

The boy has two bum legs, eyes that don’t see straight and a shunt buried in his head.

In an hour, he will have his first- degree black belt. They call it shodan. To begin. There are 10 degrees of black belt beyond this.

I will always have battles in life and in karate. I will face battles with a positive attitude and courage. I will not give up.

I will continue to progress towards tenth-degree black belt ...

Fall down seven times. Get up eight.

Go ahead, try to knock him down.

Watch Mark Yuen get back up.

Picture and original article at

I don't like the way the author tried to communicate the boy's difficulties to make it seem like what he has accomplished is monumental.
Doesn't work well at all and portrays him like a freak.

Toby Christensen
10/26/2005 4:46pm,
I agree. Fucking patronising journos.

I'll twist the fucker's legs when I get to Kyanada.