People with disabilities are 50 percent more likely to be victims of crime, and women with disabilities are 80 percent more likely to become victims of sexual violence, says Paul Brailer, who, six years ago, refused to become one of these statistics. Brailer, who has suffered from spina bifida since birth and is in a wheelchair, studies a modified form of martial arts he refers to as “criptaedo.” He will test for his second-degree black belt this weekend.
Brailer could have been a victim a couple years ago, but things turned out differently than expected for the would-be assailant.
“I used to work at Rolling Acres Mall and there is a transit center up there. I was leaving and going down towards the bus stop, and a tall skinny guy comes up and grabs my fanny pack. He wanted my money or phone or whatever, and I was able to put him into a wrist lock and arm lock and popped his elbow for him,” says Brailer, who adds that criptaedo is a play on words from the “hand foot way” translation of Tae Kwan Do.
Brailer’s seeking funding to establish tax exempt status so he can take his modified program to karate schools and certify them on how to teach people with disabilities.
“It’s an honor and an accomplishment that someone who has a disability can learn to modify the techniques,” adds Brailer. He’s modified different ranks throughout his six-year martial arts education, “to make it as close to what an able-bodied person can do as possible.” For example, for his upcoming test, Brailer has learned 10 knife defenses, so he’s doing five from his wheelchair and five from his crutches.
Even without martial arts training, he says his upper body strength is greater than the average person’s.
As a person with a lifelong disability, Brailer grew up with low self-esteem and a negative self-image. He’s also lost friends with disabilities due to poor health, along with seeing other friends become victimized.
Beyond self defense and physical fitness, martial arts are a great way to boost self esteem and confidence, says Heidi Rudibaugh, an instructor at Art of Karate, the family-owned studio in Barberton where Brailer trains.
“(Paul) was always told what he couldn’t do in life. And I think a lot of people with disabilities are dealing with that and are told, ‘You can’t do that, you shouldn’t do that,’” says Rudibaugh, who adds that Brailer is the first Art of Karate student with a born disability to achieve black belt status.
A sixth-degree black belt herself, Rudibaugh has taught a number of others with disabilities throughout her career.
Art of Karate is a family-owned business, which Heidi’s father, James Rudibaugh, started in the 70s. The studio teaches karate, Tae Kwan Do and kickboxing, among other activities, and is accepting students. The school also hosts birthday parties, self defense classes and private lessons. To find out more, visit artofkarate.com or call (330) 848-3500.
Brailer also is available for speaking engagements.
For info about the nonprofit, visit www.criptaedo.com.