Wheelchair man of iron is martial arts master
Wheelchair user Paul
Irons has a martial arts black belt
by Alan Watkins
A man confined to a wheelchair after breaking his back in a
crash has become a martial arts black belt.
Paul Irons, 49, threw down the challenge to his teacher more
than three years ago.
The instructor, Frank Fallon, had just met Paul – a part-time
learning support assistant at North West Kent College in Dartford –
while promoting taekwondo in Gravesend.
"I'd been saying that I could teach anyone, whatever their
disability,” said Frank. "He said he bet there was nothing I could
do for him."
Frank is the sensei (teacher) for Twin Dragons Taekwondo
and its toddlers' group, Baby Dragons, which meet at Cascades
Leisure Centre in Thong Lane, Gravesend.
One problem was that taekwondo is a kicking martial art, and
Paul cannot use his feet after breaking his neck in a car crash
nearly 30 years ago.
Frank said: "It was really challenging. I had to rewrite the
taekwondo syllabus, and he had to work hard to do it."
From left, Katie Bignell,
Brian Gadd, Tom Gadd, 12, Paul Irons, James Tubbs, 14, and Lauren
Instead of using his feet, they developed a programme where Paul
used his fists – and the wheels on his chair.
Paul, of Augustine Road, Gravesend, said: "It is very hard at
the moment, but I would say to anyone in my sort of situation:
don't be afraid. Give it a try."
There are seven grades of black belt - and Paul is
determined to progress further, but will have to wait a year for
his second dan.
Frank said: "I am now hoping to find a wheelchair basketball
team who will be able to help with training him to use his wheels
He received his black belt at a ceremony at the club attended by
other new and recent qualifiers.
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