Dear Aspie: Should Aspies Take Martial Arts?
“I am a social worker working with a 13-year-old-boy with Asperger’s. He wants to learn martial arts, in part because he’s in a rough school and gets bullied. His father is concerned that the boy’s impulse control problems will result in him using his martial arts skills to seriously hurt or kill someone. The father, who is most likely an undiagnosed aspie himself, said he would have (literally) killed someone in high school if he’d had those skills. Do you have any knowledge or could you point me to any research on this topic?”
–Paula Soto MSW, LSW
Read on for GroovyDruid’s response!
I can see why you’d be concerned, since you’re NT, and the mindset of Asperger’s is to you completely foreign territory. What would an aspie think to do with such skills?
Here’s a place to start on this question: I got bullied occasionally when I was small. I got in a few fights. I then took martial arts for a couple of years.
I haven’t been in a fight since.
Any good martial arts instruction teaches the ability to handle force. That’s the goal. Whether the force is directed AT you or OUT from you, martial arts teaches you how to control, manipulate, generate, and nullify force.
Once you can handle force, you usually find out you don’t need to fight. Most people think of force as just the physical aspect, but really, force starts and ends in one’s thoughts. When you have experience and skill in the application of force, you can see it coming far away in an opponent. You can also see anger or frustration building in yourself as merely emotion that needn’t translate to physical action. Training in martial arts tends to promote self-confidence and responsibility in the area of force.
I recommend the boy try martial arts, and I would put the following reasoning before the boy’s father: self-confidence and ability to handle force are not dangerous; fear of force is. It’s the scared child who slaughters neighbors and schoolfellows with a shotgun, not the black belt. Thinking to make anyone less dangerous by taking away his ability to manage force is backwards logic. It’s the other way around: a person becomes irrational when finally confronted with things he feels he cannot face, and refusing the boy training denies him the chance to confront force in a constructive environment. If done properly, martial arts should instill a feeling that the boy can face any situation with his wits intact, and that’s a good, solid recipe for a sane and peaceful human being.
You can assuage your concern by monitoring the boy’s progress. Some martial arts centers are lax teaching self-control; and sometimes the training fails to stick with a child, either because of immaturity or premeditated aims to use whatever new skills he learns to hurt those that hurt him. However, the signs of poor training or immaturity show up immediately. The child will go around karate-chopping doors and slapping up dogs, for example. He won’t become Bruce Lee overnight, so you and the father can observe him and see how he responds to his new training. If he shows signs of increased self-confidence coupled with restraint, then you’re all set. If he karate-chops doors, well then …
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