written by Glen Leonard
My name is Glen I. Leonard II and I?m confined to a wheelchair. I am also a martial artist. Impossible you say? Nothing is impossible once you put your mind to it. Never Give Up, Never Give In is my philosophy.
Let me start with a little background about my life. I was born on April 13, 1971 in Okinawa, Japan. I am a Japanese-American. We came to the United States when I was 1-1/2 years old.
I grew up like any regular kid until the age of 4. It was then that I was diagnosed with a Medulla Blastoma. A Medulla Blastoma is a brain tumor. The tumor was cancerous. I had surgery to remove the tumor, and was also given radiation treatment after the surgery.
I was a fairly normal ? kid just weaker than everyone else due to the radiation treatment. Then at the age of 9, I contracted the first known case of Transverse Myelitis. Transverse Myelitis is a weakening of the spinal cord. I was then confined to a wheelchair.
From the age of 10 to about 14, I started progressing from wheelchair to walker, then walker to crutches, and finally crutches to cane, but then everything went down hill. Everything started to go backwards. My hamstrings knotted up and I had a fluid-filled cavity on the spine. At the age of 15, I had surgery to rectify these problems. I have been in a wheelchair since.
My interest in Martial Arts started when I was about 6 years old. The interest was sparked by Bruce Lee, old Kung Fu Movies, and my older cousin who was taking karate at the time. Being weak and frail during most of my life, my doctors did not feel that it was feasible for me to do anything strenuous.
I was about 22years old before my health was good enough for the idea of doing martial arts. The first style I trained in was Shotokan Karate. .I trained in Shotokan for about 2 years. During that time, I only went up to yellow belt. My instructor really didn?t know how to train someone who was disabled. He was mainly trying to get me to do tournaments. My instructor wanted to ?show off? that he was training a guy in a wheelchair.
The reason that the training only lasted about 2 years is that one day, my instructor packed up and went back to Japan. None of his students knew anything about this. The nearest Shotokan School was in Vienna, VA which was out of the way for me. So from 1994-2000, I have been trying to find a school and instructor who would be willing to train me.
Then in March 2000, I went to check out Trident Academy of Martial Arts. That was when I met Sifu Pat Tray. I asked if Sifu Tray had any misgivings about training a person in a wheelchair. His reply was ?I?ve been in the Navy Seals for over 20 years. Nothing can phase me.? Right then I knew I found the school and instructor I wanted to train with.
Through Sifu Tray, I had the privilege to meet and train with Guro Dan Inosanto and Sensei Erik Paulson. I have also trained with Sifu Burton Richardson. I have also made good friends training in Martial Arts. The best friend I have made since I started at Trident Academy is Clay Johnson. Clay is my inspiration and my motivator. I like to refer to Clay Johnson as my ?Big Brother.?
I cannot forget to mention my best friend Ken Chun, who is also in a wheelchair and who trains with me. We have known each other for 19 years and we?re closer than any brothers could be. Clay, Ken and I like to refer to ourselves as the ?Wheeled Warriors: Self-Defense By Any Means Necessary.?
I currently hold a Red Belt in Thai Boxing, Filipino Martial Arts, and Jeet Kune Do at Trident Academy. I am also training in Sayoc Kali. One day I hope to be an instructor. I would mainly like to teach disabled children. I want to show them that there is nothing impossible if they really want to do something. I also want to give them the self- confidence so that no matter what obstacles come into their lives, they can be overcome.
The philosophy of Jeet Kune Do applies best to the Disabled Martial Artist: ?Use No Way As Way, Use No Limitation As Limitation. I take to heart the philosophy of Jeet Kune Do and my own philosophy of ?Never Give Up, Never Give In.?
If anyone would like to contact me here is my information:
Glen I. Leonard II
13422 Pinetree Drive
Woodbridge, VA 22191-1842
Thank you for taking the time to read this article.
~Glen I. Leonard II