By Tammy Van der Kamp
Many of us, when we think of the martial arts, think first of the kinds of movies made popular by Jackie Chan, where the good guy’s noble character is matched by his almost superhuman strength, speed, and grace. We don’t think of a kid from a small town in BC, and if we did, he probably wouldn’t have cerebral palsy.
But on August 21st, Tammy and Breeze were on hand at the 2008 Wado Kai Karate Championships at Hollyburn Country Club in West Vancouver, to recognize the achievements of 12 year old Jacob Potvin, a kid from Mackenzie, BC who has cp and epilepsy, and practices the discipline of karate.
Jacob’s achievements deserve recognition because of what they mean for every one of us.
Those involved in the martial arts typically share certain attributes: things like determination, passion, commitment and stamina, along with physical gifts like strength, agility, a good sense of balance, and speedy reflexes. They probably don’t begin training with the kinds of neurological deficits that come with cp.
Karate is an activity that requires balance, muscle coordination, aerobic fitness, strength and flexibility… So what do you do if you want to learn karate but you were born without all of these gifts? You rely on the gifts you DO have, and that’s what Jacob did.
His early medical history shows that he had the determination, guts, and focus to go after what he knew he was capable of, despite appearances. Jacob has enough inner stamina and agility to more than compensate for the physical effects of cp.
Jacob began karate training as therapy – something new that might go beyond the tedium of the same old physical therapy. He started training in fall of 2005, an hour a day, four days a week. He stuck to the work, even though his body didn’t respond the same way it did for his peers in the class. He learned new ways of stretching and strengthening his muscles.
He was encouraged by teachers and classmates who treated him like everybody else. But it was Jacob’s own effort, sweat, and determination that kept him at it, and that saw him enter his first competition in November of 2005, where he won 2 medals for special achievement.
After that, Jacob got real karate fever, and began training 5 days a week. He earned his first belt in December, and that was when Jacob convinced his mom to come along for the ride.
In spring 2006, Jacob attended a 2-day special training session from 10 – time National Karate Champion Gary Sabean. This cardio and fighting technique training was so intense that some black belts gave up after the first day. Jacob didn’t – he stuck it out. A week later Jacob was at another special training session with the head Sensei of the club, who only comes to town once a year because he’s also the personal karate trainer for the Prince of Dubai… Jacob learned a lot from him.
And so his career continued; this kid from Mackenzie who has cp but practices karate anyway, and earns his belts and medals.
Silver and bronze medals, green and purple belts.
This is a kid whose parents were told he wouldn’t walk without leg braces, and that he’d never ride a bicycle.
But he walks, rides, golfs, swims, plays volleyball, cross country skis, and let’s not forget, does karate.
We’re honouring Jacob for his achievements today because he sets an example for all of us. We all face obstacles in life – some of us find a way over, around, or through them, and some of us stop trying when things begin to look daunting, or we’re faced with our first failure.
Jacob is one of those people who doesn’t stop striving, and that’s why his accomplishments deserve to be recognized.
Jacob, on behalf of The Cerebral Palsy Association of BC, and everybody who’s ever faced a mountain, congratulations.