Martial Arts – A sport for all!

I was a keen martial artist with black belts in Kung Fu and Karate before being seriously injured in a car accident in 1990, when I was 35-years-old. The car accident happened when my family and I were on our way to a shopping trip. A speeding motorist ploughed into our car at a junction. My wife Lyn and our four-year-old son Stephen escaped with minor injuries, but I took the full impact.  I sustained spinal cord damage on impact at L1 to L5 and S1.

After my accident, I used to take my sons to a Taekwondo Club twice a week. I would sit in the corner of the club and watch my sons going through their paces in the class, wishing and hoping that I could find someone who would teach me. My motto is to never give up. In my mind, I would go through the pattern with them and take on board the techniques, and convert them to work for me.

It took years of searching, and disappointment until I met Mary Sellen who is a 5th Dan Master with 23 years’ experience in Taekwondo. Mary runs the Taipan WTF Taekwondo Club. She had never taught anyone with any type of disability before she met me. When I asked I her why she agreed to teach me, Mary said she wanted to teach the person not the disability. After intensively training with Mary for five months, Mary graded me to a blue belt in Taekwondo.

After a great deal of thought, Mary has developed a pattern where movements of hands can represent kicks and other disabled people will be able to benefit for years to come. In October 2006 I achieved my red belt and in April 2007, I achieved black tag 1st Kup. Not bad for a 51-year-old!

Teaching martial arts to other disabled people is a passion of mine and in 2007, my son and I set up the Disability Martial Arts Association in Enfield, Middlesex. It has grown over the years and we now have links in 24 countries around the world. In the future, we would like to form a wheelchair martial arts team to represent our charity.

Life does not stop when you have an SCI, so if you would like to learn about or return to martial arts, please do get in touch. I am now 60 and I do not intend to give up any time soon, so let me help you discover a new and exciting sport.

Dave Lee
Founder and CEO Disability Martial Arts Association,

Dave’s story was adapted from an article that appeared in the August 2015 edition of our Forward magazine.