Whaleyville youth battles attention-deficit disorder with martial arts

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Karate is a martial art that develops, among other things, self-confidence, self-control, and discipline. For a person with attention-deficit disorder (ADD), these things can be hard to learn.

Diana Jones understands this; three years ago her son Brandon was diagnosed with ADD. &uot;He was jumping from seat to seat to seat when he was in first grade,&uot; says the Whaleyville resident. &uot;When he was at home, I never knew where he was.&uot;

Around the same time that Brandon was diagnosed, he and his older brother Joseph began taking lessons at Jeff Bateman’s School of Karate.

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&uot;They were having a thing where they were giving out free lessons,&uot; recalls Joseph, 12. &uot;I started it one day, and he started it the next day.&uot; The brothers and Diana have stuck with the art; Diana has a green belt, Brandon a blue, and Joseph a brown, which he tested for last Sunday.

&uot;Before karate, Brandon wouldn’t do anything else except play his Playstation,&uot; says Diana. &uot;But he can’t drop out of karate now; he’s come too far to turn back.&uot;

When he first met the youngest Jones, Bateman suspected something might be wrong. &uot;I’ve worked with a lot of kids with ADD, and I saw that Brandon didn’t have the attention span that most kids do. Most kids yell things out when they do their moves; he just said things softly. We knew that he didn’t have a lot of self-confidence.&uot;

Over the next few years, Bateman, Diana, and Brandon worked to improve the eight-year-old’s social facilities. Last weekend, they took a big step in the right direction; Brandon competed in his first tournament, the Commonwealth Games of Virginia in Roanoke.

&uot;The competition made me nervous, but it was cool,&uot; says Brandon. &uot;I had fun working with the bo staff.&uot; He won gold medals in weapons and kata (forms), and a silver medal in sparring.

In the stands, Diana was overjoyed at her son’s progress. &uot;We were all really excited during the whole tournament,&uot; she says. &uot;When he got first in kata, you could hear me all the way on the other side of the gym.&uot;

When asked if he’s prepared for another tournament, Brandon nods vigorously. &uot;I’ll be ready then, because I’ll know what to do.&uot;

He prefers Bateman’s karate classes to the schoolroom. &uot;School’s kind of boring sometimes, because I already know most of what I learn,&uot; says the Robertson Elementary School student. &uot;But I don’t know what’s going to happen in karate class.&uot;

His work there is improving, says the renshi (high instructor). &uot;He’s been working harder. Just about everything we ask him to do, whether he likes it or not, he does it.&uot;

Brandon still isn’t entirely clear on what his disorder means. &uot;I don’t know why I have to take my medicine every day,&uot; he says (he takes the drug Concerta every morning). &uot;But when I don’t take it, I get pretty hyper. I’m just getting tired of taking it.&uot;