About 10 years ago, Eric Bortels, 5th Dan – Technical Director JKS Benelux, started to teach karate to disabled children, in a local school in Belgium. Amazed by their enthusiasm, and the impact on not only their physical well-being but more importantly on their social integration, he started to develop a specialized approach of inclusive karate for children, youngsters and adults with different disabilities. Eric has his own club GoNoSen, counting 120 members, and on top, together with his team, he is training more than 150 I-karatekas. His group is growing, as well in Belgian as internationally, under the umbrella of the Inclusive Karate Federation IKF IKANDO, which he founded.

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“I believe in the idea of bringing valid and disabled children, youngsters and adults together, creating mutual respect and hereby facilitating the integration and acceptance in daily life,” explains Eric Bortels, “a disability is not a reason to withhold someone from new experiences and sports, especially if it can help them grow in different ways.”

During the years, a safe and secure competition system has been developed, and it has been used during several successful competitions in Belgium already. Important element of the training is the partnership with buddies. Buddies are regular karatekas who have taken the challenge and the commitment to train together with disabled wheelchair athletes. This partnership results in good karate exercises, but more importantly, brings real friendship and respect between both partners.

Last weekend, Kagawa Shihan, JKS World Chief Instructor and president of the technical commission of the World Karate Federation, was in Belgium for an international training, and he also instructed a group of wheelchair karatekas. It was an amazing experience for all!

Next big event to look forward to: on May 3rd, 2015 the European Championship I-Karate will take place in Belgium. Currently, there are already more than 90 participants registered, from several European countries. For more information, or if you are interested to join, please contact eric.bortels@i-k-f.net.