Woman With Spina Bifida One Step Closer To A Black Belt

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In The News

Since she was 11 years old, Kelly Schultz has dreamt of getting a black belt in karate. And she is one step closer to achieving this dream, as she will be testing for her black belt. 

Kelly was born with spina bifida, and has been learning karate since she was a young girl. Kelly admits that it has not been easy. Her confidence and self-consciousness are still affected by others’ perceptions of her abilities, and they have contributed to her 12-year hiatus from training.


woman in martial arts pose

Her sensei, Jim O’ Hara, encouraged her to shift her own perceptions about herself, and to view her wheelchair as an ally instead. With the advice of her martial arts teacher, Kelly returned to karate, embracing a different attitude. 

“When you bow, I tell myself, ‘Own it.’ It changes you,” Kelly shares.

Karate has helped to build up Kelly’s physical strength and find new ways of engaging different muscles. Kelly trains and competes in the able-bodied division. By maneuvering her wheelchair and adjusting the angle of her attacks accordingly, she is able to block, throw punches, and make full kicks. Her physical training and therapy has enabled Kelly to feel movement in her legs as well. 

Kelly’s determination in pushing herself to do the best she can has paid off. Passing her black belt pre-test, she is now close to reaching her goal of earning a black belt.

“How much she has accomplished in the years that she has been here, just from a mental aspect… it’s pretty motivating, actually,” Jim comments. And Kelly looks to karate as a metaphor for life. It is a stepping stone for her to achieve greater things in the future. “I want to walk again,” Kelly says. “I look at it as I’m not getting a black belt in karate… I’m getting a black belt in life.”

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