Sunday, June 18, 2006

Teaching karate from a wheelchair

I found this wonderful article today about Sensei Clay Johnson. He
describes what the reaction is when people enter his dojo and ask
for the Karate Instructor....

"...... when they walk in, they see a guy in a wheelchair. Then they
ask to speak to the instructor. I reply, "You are speaking to him."
Sometimes people just turn and leave. Most of the time, I get
strange looks and they ask questions about the class. Sometimes,
they don't ask the questions, but the look on their faces asks for

How does this Sensei teach martial arts, stick, and knife fighting
from a wheelchair?

"My teaching style includes breaking down everything to the bare
essentials. I ask my students to try and picture in their minds what
I'm asking them to do, and then do it, and it really works."

He was born with Cerebral Palsy. He has no left ear, very thin legs
that twist to the right, and a right arm that had difficulty moving.   
He had to survive over 30 surgeries on his legs, feet, and jaw.
Teased constantly as a child, he was taunted unmercifully, and
beaten for his lunch money.    He watched the "Kung Fu" series, and
felt a connection with the Caine character. Later, when he was
around 10 years old, he witnessed a disabled man with no legs
demonstrating martial arts, and defeating 5 able-bodied opponents.
Inspired, Sensei Johson went on the search to find an instructor. It
was difficult for Sensei Jonson to find someone willing to teach him.
However, he found Sensei Eddie Thomas who accepted him as a
student.   Within 5 years of training, Sensei Jonson achieved black
belt. At 44 years of age, he has trained in Martial arts for over 20
years, and has his own dojo since 1987.

"Johnson tolerates no laziness. "If you want to trade places, you take
this chair and I'll take your ability and go off," he will tell a slack
student. "

On Friday, Nov. 21st 2003, Sensei Jonson was inducted into the
American Freestyle Karate Organization's Hall of Fame.

For the full articles, please click:

Here is a video showing Sensei Jonson teaching a class:


[Mat] said...


Very impressive. I'll try to remember that the next time I want to skip class/training which has been happening a lot more than I'd like to remember these days (summer...)


Congratulations to your Sensei, and big thanks for sharing his knowledge.


supergroup7 said...

Mat.. This gentleman Black Belt is not my Sensei.

I would be honored, and thrilled to go visit his dojo, and train under him. Maybe one day I will have that chance.

Yes, it is impressive, and I will hold the memory of his dedication, and courage within me when I wish to complain about my limitations as I train. What excuses can I come up with that can match the obstacles that he has surpassed?

[Mat] said...

Oh! I got it wrong. Sorry, I will read better next time.


My bad.

supergroup7 said...

Ha haha.. Mat... it's so easy to get the wrong idea when reading. I've done it tons of times. Too many to count. Ha ha ha.