As a person that does taekwondo in a wheelchair, I get a lot of weird looks and questions. I want to address two of them here. I get this question a lot, usually around testing time, each cycle: “What’s it like doing taekwondo in a wheelchair? Isn’t it easier?” Well, yes and no. It is easier in that I don’t have to worry about stances and footwork.
It is harder to move around and evade other when sparring and I can’t move laterally, which is pretty important. Every time I go to move the wheelchair in sparring, I have to drop my hands, which allows my opponent to kick me in the head. Same situation in combat, when I go to move the chair, I’m leaving myself wide open to get hit. I do miss jump kicks and spin kicks a lot.
The timing on a form from a wheelchair is different too and sometimes it is really challenging to learn it when the only form you see is one done on the feet. There really isn’t a standard on video of what my form should look like.
Doing taekwondo from the wheelchair is definitely restricting in some ways too. Doing ssahng joel bongs, the jahng bahng, and occasionally the Sam dan bong, are extremely challenging. At this time, I have not found a good way to do the nunchucks in the chair. I’m not sure there really is a good way honestly. I’ll stick to my stool for now. Every single one of my kicks is restricted, some worse than others and unfortunately, doing a technically correct kick doesn’t always happen depending on my position. My kicks don’t get as high as I’d like them to be be. Certain stretches, while modified, aren’t as effective.
Now, one might think that sitting down makes balancing so easy. It’s easier, but not easy. When I do any kick other than a front kick, I am balancing on one hip. Remember, that cushion under me is very dense. That is all pure core, back, and hip muscle strength keeping me from falling one way or another.
When doing a taekwondo form in a wheelchair, the pressure is on to make it look like I’m not even moving the chair. After all, the chair is the tool I’m using and I’m what I want people to see, not the chair. Like any martial artist, I want to make others believe that I am fighting someone during my form.
I would say that there is extra pressure to have strong, crisp hand techniques with good timing when doing a TKD form in a chair. In my mind, it compensates for the lack of stances or footwork. I mean there is definitely wheelchair handling involved too. I guess that makes up for the footwork in some ways. Handling the chair on the mats is definitely harder than typical footwork in my opinion.
All that being said, it’s made me a better martial artist and instructor. It drives me crazy that almost 10 months later, I’m still in the wheelchair, but I know that it will be all worth it in the end. So it is easy? Definitely not. Is it easier? Depends on the circumstances and what technique you are referring to. It’s a complicated answer just like me!