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Karate Kids with special needs get their kicks

10:05 PM, Oct 28, 2010   |    comments
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By: Mike Bush

Bridgeton, Mo. (KSDK) -- They would love to take you out back.

That's because this weekly class takes place in the

back of a North St. Louis county warehouse.

"It's a nice big area, plenty of room for all the kids, " says teacher Ken Sills.

There are two things you should know about Thursday nights at Ohana Martial Arts.

One, these students are tough.

"The kids hit pretty hard. They're stronger than people think they are, " says parent Dan Adolphson.

And two, every one of them has special needs. Adolphson comes here with his twins

Andrew and Danielle.

"They both have cerebral palsy and are visually impaired, " he explains.

Ken Sills has been teaching this class for more than a decade.

"Ken is all about the kids, " says parent Debbie Christensen. "He has got a heart that is big as all outdoors."

"I like helping people and this is one thing I can do, " says Sills.

Sills is a 3rd degree black belt who didn't take up martial arts until he went to college. He wasn't allowed to be a karate kid.

"I think my folks thought I'd get hurt!", he laughs.

But Sills now believes that everybody can benefit from the techniques they learn in this class.

"They learn self control and balance like they didn't know they could have, " says Sills.

Eric Christensen has been coming here for more than three years. His parents say for someone with Down Syndrome it's been like therapy. It's even helped him in school.

"He became much more attentive and focused, " says his mom.

"For somebody that is physically disabled, you have to work 10 times harder, " explains Will Jenkins.

The 32 year old Jenkins has cerebral palsy. It didn't stop him from having a full-time job, getting married and recently, after some intense training with Ken Sills, earning his green belt.

"The next levels are brown and black belt, " says Jenkins.

He says he owes a lot to this class because you not only learn self-defense but you gain self-esteem.

"So many of these kids have friends who tell them what they can't do and here they tell them what they can do, " says parent Jon Christensen.

"It shows they can do, basically they can do anything they want, " says Adolphson.

Folks say Ken Sills secret weapon isn't his hands or his feet but his patience. He believes what may seem impossible has possibilities.

"I thank god that we have people like Ken, " says Debbie Christensen

One man helping kids and adults who sometimes feel like outsiders, find an inner strength they never knew they had.

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