A self-defence academy in Manchester opens its doors to wheelchair users, teaching them the art of Keysi to make them feel safer on the streets. Lauren Bones spoke to Chief of the academy Richard Lawrence about the new classes.
Established by Chief Instructor Richard Lawrence, Keysi NorthWest is a Keysi Academy specificially for the North West of England. They train in both Manchester and Liverpool for people of all abilities and from the age of 15.
Earlier this year, Keysi announced that they were going to start providing classes for wheelchair users to increase their safety on the streets and at home. “The wheelchair lessons are something that the owner of the Fighting Fit gym, Jay Cahill and I do as demonstrations to show people with disabilities what their bodies are capable of,” Instructor Richard explains. Before becoming the chief of Keysi NorthWest, Richard served in the army for 9 years in Iraq and Afghanistan, “Some of my comrades are now amputees. This and the fact that Jay is an above the knee amputee and is a brown belt in Brazilian jujitsu is what made me think about what is possible for a wheelchair user to be capable of, in the means of self-defence”.
They train individual wheelchair users on a need by need basis however classes aren’t regular as such, Richard explains that “It’s very difficult to get groups of wheelchair users together in one place at the same time for such a thing!”
“We train two things in essence – attitude and body mechanics” Richard explains that Keysi is a form of self-defence which is seen in big Hollywood films like The Dark Knight and Jack Reacher. It focuses on how the body moves during a fight and relies on recognising what the body is capable of which is perfect for wheelchair users.
Wheelchair users will do a lot of work striking the focus mitts and this works on their timing, coordination and spatial awareness, as well as lifting emotional energy, “We also do some floor/ground work for the more advance students. Everyone has different capabilities and that is why the training is different from person to person.”
Richard states that “I’ve heard so many stories of wheelchair users being threatened but so far I’ve seen no evidence that wheelchair users are more likely to be attacked.” The classes take place to help wheelchair users feel less vulnerable and more safe in their everyday lives.
For more information about Keysi and their wheelchair classes visit: http://keysinorthwest.co.uk/ or Richard via Twitter @keysinorthwest