Jordanian Special Needs Team of Eight Wins ‘Best of the Best’ Karate Trophy

Jordanian Special Needs Team of Eight Wins ‘Best of the Best’ Karate Trophy
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Published April 5th, 2018 - 18:15 GMT via

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Jordanian karate coach Hussam Ayyad (centre) joins winners of an international competition in a group photo held in the US recently (Photo courtesy of Hussam Ayyad)
Jordanian karate coach Hussam Ayyad (centre) joins winners of an international competition in a group photo held in the US recently (Photo courtesy of Hussam Ayyad)
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“You are stronger than your disability’ is what I have been telling my trainees over the past 25 years, promising to make them world champions,” said Hussam Ayyad, karate coach of the Jordanian team “Ahel Elhemmeh” (“People with Determination”).

The eight team members, who live with various disabilities, recently won the “Best of the Best” trophy at the 43rd edition of “Battle of Columbus” at the 2018 Arnold Martial Arts Festival in the US, seizing five gold medals, three silver and three bronze.

“The battle was not only the theme of this year’s championship, but the theme of our entire journey towards this achievement,” Ayyad told The Jordan Times.

“It tore me apart to hear a child with special needs saying ‘I can’t’ when asked to join his peers during a sports class 25 years ago. From that moment, it became my duty, as a human and then a coach, to give a helping hand to this forgotten group,” he recalled.

“The team members are real heroes, and their powerful determination made them overcome every difficulty they faced,” team manager Raed Shammout said, explaining: “We travelled with very limited financial resources and, unlike other teams, we did not even have an accompanying medical team and we stayed in a very humble hotel.”

The team received funds from the Youth Ministry and a number of private companies, but that was only enough to cover the costs of two supervisors and eight members out of the 50 trainees who qualified to join, according to Ayyad.

“The team we chose included three members on wheelchairs, three with Down syndrome and three with various motor disabilities,” the coach said.

“To every parent, never feel ashamed of your disabled child or ‘hide them’ from the society. Let them experience life and learn from its hardships” Hamzeh Al Daboubi, the team captain, said, stressing: “I was born with a disability, but that did not stop me from earning the black belt in Karate, being a world champion, pursuing a job, getting married and having two children”.

For Majd Athamneh, another team member with Down syndrome who went through 15 heart surgeries prior to joining the team, “coach Hussam is like my father, and I love him so much. He trained me until I earned the brown belt and I am on my way to get the black”.

Since 1994, Ayyad has volunteered to train more than 1000 children with different types of disabilities in various regions across the Kingdom. “Training every child constituted a unique battle, as some of them had mental disabilities in addition to the physical ones. I had to make a physical and psychological rehabilitation programme for each child before starting the regular Karate training”.

“I lost some of my battles, but won many in return as a number of the children I trained, who are youth now, have earned black belts,” Ayyad continued.

“In 1999, we participated in a national sports show attended by Their Majesties King Abdullah and Queen Rania, whose encouraging words to me that day were a great motivation that I never forgot,” he recalled.

The students, Ayyad has trained over the years have been paralyse, hunchbacked, knock-knee, blind, deaf, down syndrome, autistic, and on wheelchairs. “These young people are not disabled because once they are given their ‘special needs’, they can become world champions,” Ayyad commented, adding: “I have learnt great lessons from these young people while training them. I’ve learnt the real meanings of love, hope and patience”.

According to Ayyad, the youth he trained had also participated in several European championships in Italy, France and Spain during 2012 to 2016, seizing first places in all.

In addition to the free Karate training the Jordanian coach conducts, he said he is an activist and advocate of the rights of people with special needs: “I believe in the power of sports and that it can be a cure to their souls and bodies”.

Ayyad conducted several awareness campaigns across the Kingdom, the recent of which was to Ariha Charity Society for Social Development in Rusaifeh, Zarqa Governorate, where the team members presented a Karate show in front of disadvantaged and orphan children, sending a “powerful message of hope to every person that with determination, nothing can stand in their ways towards achieving their dreams,” Ahmad Mari, the society director, said.

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