Our Saturday morning at Affinity Martial Arts usually starts with a semi-private lesson with the Ludwig family. Brad and Alex are a father and son dynamic duo that make our Saturday mornings bright, regardless of whether the coffee has kicked in or not.

Alex has autism and his father Brad deals with his son’s individuality with compassion and understanding like very few of us possess or could understand. To watch these two grow together and progress in martial art is a blessing.

However, here is the rub, as they say….Alex has been really teaching us…

Alex finds techniques and concepts for us to work almost by accident, it is fascinating to watch him analyze shapes and structures as we move forward.

For instance, one week in we were working a basic double stick drill from the Filipino Martial Art of Kali. Alex enjoys the impact of the drill called Kob Kob, a staple in the Filipino Martial Arts. In order to challenge Alex and Brad more we added footwork by drawing the basic triangle on the floor for a visual aid.

After a few rounds Alex began changing angles while doing his favorite drill and his father Brad began to help him stay on track as usual but this time I asked Brad to let him flow a bit to see where the lesson might go. Alex began following the lines on the floor and that day he found three more footwork patterns that we could incorporate into out drills.

I was reminded of this lesson over the weekend as I was watching my teacher Guro Dan Inosanto explain structure and off-balancing at a martial art seminar at MKG Minneapolis. A few of the charts that Guro pulled out showed some of the routes that Alex found that day. Alex had found some of the same motions that the best martial arts instructor in the world had traveled half the country to teach a group of accomplished martial artists.

The Ludwigs made my morning again and they were not even there.

That isn’t the first time that this has happened while sharing martial art and I hope it isn’t the last. Our students, friends, and coworkers show us ways to communicate with them effectively everyday if we choose to notice. Let’s listen with all our senses to the best of our ability and give everyone a chance, huh?

-Instructor Jamie Sparling