Jason Davis describes himself as having been a fighter from the moment he was born: “The doctors told my parents they did not think I was going to make it.” But make it he did. His parents and siblings always treated him no differently than if he was not affected by cerebral palsy. He looked up to his older brothers with respect and love, so it made sense that when they decided to try martial arts, Jason did not want to be left out. The school refused to teach Jason, despite receiving a phone call from his parents. The school would not see Jason as an individual, just a person with a disability.
“That was the first time I was told no. And I didn’t understand,” Jason said. “When you are 8 years old, it is a tough thing to understand. But I sort of went on and took it in stride.”
The dream of doing martial arts never faded for Jason, even over decades. He finally got in touch with the owner of a local martial arts school in Pittsford, Vermont, Kathleen Maxey-Scarcello, to request that she help him earn the coveted black belt.
“Jason anything you put your mind to, I know you can do… Never dreaming he was going to show up on my doorstep, because I had a children’s program. I didn’t teach adults. And I got home and there he was, like, ‘OK! I am going to do this!’” Maxey-Scarcello said.
Maxey-Scarcello began to train Jason, adapting moves to compensate for Jason’s weaknesses. To both of their delight and surprise, Jason began to notice improvements in balance, breath control and flexibility almost immediately. Jason’s doctors wanted him to go on medications to relax continuous muscle spasms he was having in his legs, but Jason wanted to wait and see if the martial arts training would help. Even the doctors, who had originally had their doubts, were convinced of the great efficacy of the martial arts training on Jason’s condition.
“Jason is basically our shining example of somebody that has been able to use exercise to get away from having to use medications or other interventions,” said Dr. Michael Kenosh, Jason’s doctor.
When Jason saw how much martial arts helped him improve his health without the use of drugs, he wanted to share this experience with others. Jason therefore founded the Adaptive Martial Arts Association, which helps disabled students who want to train with martial arts schools find the right school that is willing to take on the challenge.
Since attending the largest martial arts conference in the country last year, where lines of people came to their booth for information, the AMAA has been able to place 35 students into programs to learn martial arts. The AMAA now has a list of 250 schools around the country that will train adaptively for disabled people.