Mr Bonfield from UTA Northampton Tkd has been working with a brain rehab unit now for a number of years. I decided it woulfd be a nice insight to conduct an interview with him about the breat work he is doing there.
My name is Darrin Bonfield and have been teaching the Northampton TaeKwon-Do schools for the past 12 years at Roade and 10 years at Brixworth. We also run a Lil Dragons school at Grange Park and an after school club in Duston. All ours schools are very busy with a great family atmosphere at the centre of my teachings.
- “How long have you been teaching the brain rehab group”?
The opportunity came about by pure chance back in the summer of 2007 when I was waiting outside my Roade Dojang as there was another activity taking place before our class. The former owner who set up Oakleaf care was a Gentleman by the name of Ian Mosley. He liked the concept of TKD and thought that it would be great as a form of rehab for his patients at Oakleaf and would I be prepared to give it a go on a trial basis as this had never been done before. Obviously to me TKD should be for everyone so I had no issues in giving this a go as we had nothing to loose.
A few years ago Channel 4 did a documentary call “My new brain” about one the the lads that was staying at Oakleaf. I was in this documentary (for about 3 seconds) and can be seen teaching one of my classes.
2. “What sort of injuries have the students sustained”?
There are many injuries that have been sustained by the patients which are very scary to think that within hours any of our lives can be changed forever. Theses health issue can be from birth, Strokes, Car accidents all the way to falling down the stairs after a drunken night and worse case physical attack on the street. I also taught a really nice young lad that had a reaction to a prescribed drug for depression.
All the above are just a few reasons why these people have all had their worlds changed, but now follow the same paths together.
3. “How does if differ from teaching at your other clubs”?
This is a totally different concept and cant be thought of in the same method as conventional teachings. By this I mean that every day for some of these patients can seem like an eternity and what ever I teach results can only be seen after weeks, months and sometimes years of persevering on a single set of techniques. It is similar to conventional teachings in a way that all students will progress after time, however this is a much slower process that cant be rushed. A real point to mention is that in our regular TKD classes we teach a simple punch! We give the method, purpose & application for all out techniques given, I however cant do this in these classes! A punch is a simple shoulder and elbow exercise, they can still be taught the method and application to apply the power, but cant be taught the purpose. The same applies with any kick we do, it is purely physical exercise due to the injury that some have sustained, teaching an attacking move would be detrimental to these patients as anger boundary’s can often be over looked. In the class there is a punch bag which is great for balancing work, and I often take rubber footprints to lay on the floor so that feet can be paced in the right place which in turn aids balance and co ordination skills.
4. “What sort of grading structure do you have if any”?
There is no grading structure within this class as the ability to perform or even understand a grading requirement can simply be too much and overwhelming for some that I thought best not to carry this out. I did try an attendance certificate, but again giving these out to some that were due, others at that time could simply not understand why they were not getting one at the same time and this could lead to frustration and stress, so this was dropped shortly after.
5. “Do you see a real impact with the students, if so in what way”?
This is a very tough question to answer, as all patients are so very different in their needs. In the class you have to think on your feet but also understand that you may only have 4 patients (which can be too much) all with differing needs. Some will have balancing issues, some co ordination issues and others just carrying out the full 45 minutes can be a challenge. Given this in mind, praise is not only given for those that achieve a certain move, but is mainly given for the ability to try, this in turn is such a booster in confidence that this simple gesture becomes a priceless act to some. Emotions can also run high in anger and frustration as a patient knows what they want, but simply cant do the task in hand. Others however can be seen almost crying with the sense achievement in finally believing they can do something they never thought possible.
6. “How hard is it to keep them motivated and enthusiastic”?
Motivation in class again can be challenging. For some you learn very quickly to pick your battles, by this I mean if someone tells you “I'm not dong it”, you cant say “yes you are” as you have then lost the request. But if you say “Lets just do 1 minute, then you can sit down” this often gets them started and the fun flowing.
7. "Is this something you would like to see more of”?
Yes I would like to see more of this skill being applied and offered to other rehabilitation centres across the country. It is hard work and sometimes we feel that its like swimming against the tide. But then the results and achievement start to shine through. I feel that any instructor thinking of this or being inspired by this article should give it a go. We have the life skills to offer, why should we deny these patients to opportunity to learn?
8. “What guidance would you give to instructors thinking of starting such a club”?
If its something you feel you would like to start up, write to your local rehabilitation centres requesting a short meeting in offering your services to teach TKD. Maintain that TKD can be adapted for everyone and as part of the UTA and UK ITF with 10 years teaching in this field I would offer a reference to any organisation asking what values can this Art offer
9. “How has it developed your understanding of people teaching this kind of system”
Patients is a virtue and this type of teaching cant be rushed. I am currently working with two really nice men, one had a stroke, he was told that he would never walk or talk again. Doctors shook his hand as if to say there is no more we can do. Less than a year later he is talking which is a great start. The other man I knew could walk, but uses a frame stroller as a comfort blanket and can't or rather wont walk without it!
In both cases I have often learnt to show tough love tactics in a way that we just get on with it. Now! by this I mean that safety and welfare is paramount, but the way you tell these patients they can do it and distract their mind elsewhere whist walking proves to them they can walk completely unaided. I have to say that this is an amazing sight to see and more rewarding that words can describe.
To conclude I will try to explain what a small part these guys are going through. Ian once said to me “If you were going to London how would you get there and how long would it take?” I replied I would jump in my car and go down the M1 for an hour.
He then said imagine trying to decide, which one of the hundreds of roads that lead to London do you take? They will all get you there in the end, but there is no set time to how long this takes!