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Changing the Way We Talk About Autism in Martial Arts

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Taekwondo tournament results rarely receive mainstream American media attention outside of Olympics coverage every four years. But the results of the 2016 American Taekwondo Association World Expo, held earlier in this month, recently graced the digital pages of Yahoo!, Fox News, and even People Magazine thanks to one of its young champions.

Ethan Fineshriber’s victory caught the attention (and hearts) of the non-martial arts world because the 11-year-old Sandy, Utah native is autistic. Diagnosed when he was 3, he struggled to make friends, so his mother enrolled him in a TKD class in an effort to help him socialize.

Ethan flourished on the mats. “For the first day it was just leaning those new moves and it started getting me interested like I can learn this stuff and I can memorize this stuff and then I can do more of it,” he told Fox 13.

When he was 8, Ethan set his sights on earning a world title. Three years and a lot of hard work and dedication later, he was able to realize that goal when he clinched the XMA Forms World Championship with a perfect score at the ATA World Expo. He also silvered in XMA Weapons.

Ethan’s training partners—and his friends—rushed to congratulate him after his big win. “I felt nervous that I wasn’t gonna win, but I thought I had a chance and then the judges called the numbers and everyone around me went insane,” the newly-crowned champ said of the experience.

It’s easy to see why a story like this would capture the interest of people who have previously paid little mind to the martial arts world. What’s not to love about a young disabled boy finding companionship, purpose, and, ultimately, glory in a calling that truly speaks to him?

But the tone ….View full article

Source:: fightland.vice.com