13 August, 2022

Overcoming adversity with personal training

TAKING up martial arts has been a revelation for special needs children Isobel ‘Izzy’ Lister and Zenith Ayres.

Zenith Ayres and Isobel ‘Izzy’ Lister in action at Red Dragon Martial Arts, where they have developed numerous skills.
Zenith Ayres and Isobel ‘Izzy’ Lister in action at Red Dragon Martial Arts, where they have developed numerous skills.

The two 14-year-olds attend the Caboolture-based Lee Street Special School, and spend some of their spare time at Red Dragon Martial Arts as Izzy lives with cerebral palsy while Zenith has Down Syndrome.

Izzy, who alternates between a frame and a wheelchair, took up martial arts a little over two years ago, while Zenith began early this year.

Izzy’s interest was sparked when she saw her siblings Jack and Abbey undertake martial arts, and she wasn’t prepared to allow her disability to hold her back.

“It’s good for my mental health, and it’s something I enjoy doing,” Izzy said. 

“It’s a hobby.”

Flexibility, mobility training, sensory training and building core strength have been among Izzy’s activities, as she has personal training.

Izzy said Ju Jitsu was something she wanted to do in the future.

Izzy had major surgery on her legs about five years ago, with her dad Jason saying “this set her back a fair bit” and that it was very demanding for her to stand up in her frame.

Jason said martial arts was a good tool for his daughter, rather than relying solely on physiotherapy.

“When you go to physio, it’s all a bit the same,” he said.

“Working on her posture is a big thing.”

Red Dragon Martial Arts owner Brett Fenton said a special internal tournament was designed just for Izzy, with events including shotput, and running in the frame.

Medals, a presentation dais and the national anthem have also been part of these tournaments.

Having coached countless people with a range of conditions, Brett said he sometimes needed to be strict with Izzy, but also needed to give credit where it was due.

“If she slackens off, it’s only her who’s holding her back,” Brett said.

“To Izzy’s credit, she’s a powerhouse. She works so hard.

“Sometimes she’s not in the right head space to train, but we work through it.”

Since Izzy took up martial arts, her dad said she didn’t have nearly as many meltdowns as previously.

Meanwhile, Zenith took up martial arts after his sister Athena also took part.

Like Izzy, Zenith has also had personal training.

“I wanted him to keep fit, toned and active,” Brett said.

Zenith’s program includes fitness workouts in the gym, cardio, weights training, punching and kicking a bag, and running on a treadmill.

Brett said Zenith would take part in competitions some day, but that they needed to find the right type.

“He’s very strong and athletic, and just needs to find the right one that ticks the box,” Brett said.

“The training we’re doing is gearing him up towards any sort of athletic sport he wants to do.

“The world’s his oyster.”

After Zenith took part in a modified rugby union program at school last year, Brett said Zenith could adapt to soccer, AFL, swimming or wrestling.

Brett said Zenith’s passion also showed when he was a spectator at martial arts contests, as he yelled and cheered.


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