If You First Believe…And Set Your Mind to It…Everything Is Possible, Including Overcoming Spasticity

Written by Nazareth Barragan

Ever feel like your body just refuses to listen to your requests? I do. That is part of my life every single day. I have learned to deal and live with everything that comes with my type of cerebral palsy.

Now I'm 28 and I have tried to find something new to do to help with the spasticity in my muscles. I had always wanted to take a martial arts class ever since watching Hollywood movies like “The Karate Kid” and “The Best of the Best.” Over a month ago, I started looking for a dojo close to where I live. After personally visiting some dojos and calling others to inquire about their classes or even private classes for people with disabilities, I kept hearing the unfavorable word "NO."

Until one day walking back from the movies, I saw a really cool dojo in Burbank. My family and I stopped in and were greeted with a smile. We spoke to a Master who was about to give a class and shared with him my interest in taking a class. Master Hector asked us to wait in their lobby, and waited for Master Lee to come out from his office. Master Lee came out and greeted me. I was able to share with him my joy and excitement at finding a dojo to take a class. Master Lee asked me if I wanted to take one private class to see if I liked it. I almost jumped out of my chair. They gave me an appointment right away for the following week and asked ME which day I wanted to take my first taekwondo class, so I chose Wednesday. Master Lee asked the young lady at the front desk to hand me a T-shirt. I got to choose between blue, red and black. I was so happy that they had my favorite color – red.

On Wednesday afternoon, July 25, 2012 wearing my favorite red-colored T-shirt, I was able to take my first taekwondo class. I started my class with Master Hector. I was able to show him that even though I sat in my wheelchair, I had a passion for martial arts and that I could learn the basic arm positions one through five. After sweating through my tiring class, I learned how to concentrate on my breathing techniques, relax my spastic muscles and stretch my upper body muscles.

Master Lee showed up during my class and I was able to show him my abilities. He was so happy that I could move my legs and my arms. He told me something I will always remember: "If you first believe, set your mind, when that happens, everything is possible." That really happened; I never thought I would be able to break a board with my fists. I listened to Master Hector and with his coaching I was able to earn my white belt. I was so amazed at my own strength. I didn't even know I had that strength in my spastic body. I feel that I do not have any more limits in my mind. I cannot wait to see what more classes will do to help my body.

A very special thank you to Master Lee and Master Hector at Ultimate Tae Kwon Do in Burbank for giving me a chance when other dojos were not open to having and teaching a student like me. I'm looking forward to taking more classes at Ultimate Tae Kwon Do.

Following is an update from Nazareth Barragan with highlights covering the past six weeks since he took his first taekwondo class: 
My experience has been unbelievable and a blessing. Master Hector has taken me as his student and dedicated his expertise to modifying my lessons. I have gained so much respect for him because he treats me just like every other student and his listens to my questions. Every week, he has shown me how taekwondo can be beneficial to my health. It has sparked an interest to further read and research this kind of martial art at my local library. I have been able to improve my flexibility, my ability to sleep and breathe better. I have also improved on my concentration which has helped me to practice my basic moves, punches, kicks and blocks. Master Hector has also pushed me to challenge myself as a student by leaving me weekly homework. It is so important that I practice counting in Korean and practice my combination moves. In the last week, I have earned my blue stripe for punching. I am so happy. I cannot wait to continue learning and maybe one day I can earn my next level belt.

View additional pictures on Shutterfly