Paul was born with spina-bifida, a type of birth defect that occurs when the bones of the vertebrae don’t form properly around part of the baby’s spinal cord. Spina bifida can be mild or severe, resulting in some relying on wheelchair for functional mobility.
Growing up was difficult for Paul, as kids picked on him, making it difficult for him to fit in among his peers. Doctors, teachers, and caregivers discouraged him from new experiences or anything they believed would “hurt him”. This led to low self-esteem and self-image, which followed Paul into adulthood.
“As an adult, I looked for the approval of others. When I reached my 30’s, I lost a few of my friends from poor health in a short amount of time. Another two of my friends were mugged. This got me thinking…how could I stay active and healthy and be able to defend myself if I had to? Then one day, a chance meeting changed everything.”
Paul was at a local burger joint when he say an old lady wearing an “Art of Karate” T-shit. They began talking about karate, and she invited Paul to the school to watch the class. It meant a lot to Paul that she did not assume his disability meant he could not participate. Four years later, Paul was the first person in the school, born with a disability that achieved a black belt from The Art of Karate in Barberton, Ohio.
“I had to modify what the instructors were teaching the ambulatory students to fit my abilities. For example: for a front kick, I do a palm-heel strike and for a round-house kick, I use an elbow-strike. My skills have had gone through real-life trials as well. Instead of being a victim of a mugging attack, I was able to defend myself. My assailant, probably realizing I was not the easy target he assumed, fled the scene. But he left me with a desire to teach these skills to others.”
In the summer of 2012 , Paul and his friends Tony and Jaret started talking about self-defense for people with disabilities. Jokingly, Paul said they should call it “Criptaedo”. “The name is not intended to offend. It’s to poke fun of ourselves as we fall, stumble &, mess-up, learning something new.”
Tae-Kwon-Do means “hand-foot-weight” in Korean. So, he (Paul) took the “Kwon” out of Tae-Kwon-Do and replaced it (kinda) with “Crip”. OK, “Criptaedo”…got it.
They liked it, so the name stuck. Jaret, one of Paul’s friends, now runs the technical side of “Criptaedo” and Tony is one of the instructors. Since the creation of “Criptaedo”, the team has done numerous speaking engagements with demonstrations, been the subject of multiple articles as well as produced instructional You-Tube videos.
“Being born disabled I have fallen, messed up, stumbled and if I took myself too seriously when I started karate, I would have quit.” Paul future continues to look bright. He has plans to partner with local karate schools to instruct them on how to teach adaptive karate to individuals in the disabled community. Look him up on You Tube, visit Criptaedo on Facebook to learn more about the adaptive art, Criptaedo. Come on, give it your best shot. It goes to show how finding your passion can change your life, no matter your level of ability!