Karate for Everyone

Coach Brian Carroll ethos is that Karate is for everybody especially for people with special needs or a disability.

Brian (Bing) Carroll has worked for many years with different organisations such as GHEEL AUTISM, DUBLIN CITY COUNCIL, THE HSE & ST. MICHAELS HOUSE.

Please check out his Facebook Page Karate is for everyone 

At the moment we teach Karate to Students with Aspergers, ADHD, Dyspraxia, Autism, Cerebral Palsy and similar diagnosed conditions, as well has our Mainstream Students.
These Students have gone from Strength to Strength grading through the belts and some have represented Ireland at International competitions.

A Recent Facebook Post From a proud dad


Over one hundred kids, in their pristine white karate pyjama-thingies (possibly not the technical term), were in the Sports Hall on Saturday afternoon.

Some were hanging out by the wall, quietly, with their bewildered adults, who, like me, were wondering if this was where they should be standing. Other kids practiced their moves, or chatted in the middle of the floor, or chased each other around, each one playing their own little jazz solo on the eardrums.

I had brought my daughters, Ailbhe (11) and Sophie (9), to be graded, so that they could move up to the next colour belt.

My wife, Martha, has been bringing them to a karate class in Ashbourne called “Ripples,” for kids with special needs, for the last few years. It’s run by Brian Carroll, who is the KARATE ASH club kingpin. (I don’t get to go to the class that often, because I’m not home from work in time, but I’m pretty sure that that’s what you call someone who runs a karate club.)

Ailbhe shied into me, and pulled my arms around her: “Dad, there are a lot of people here, I’m don’t want to make a fool of myself.”

Sophie, however, was running up and down the hall, delightedly. She is a human pinball, and she sees any large indoor space as her machine.

(My daughters are evidence that “autism” is a ridiculously broad term.)

I kept an eye on her, with my tiny parental pinball flippers at the ready, to guide her out of the trouble if needed. At one point, she spotted a little kid with a buzz cut, and she ran over, rubbed his head, kissed him on the cheek, and ran away (in her head, she probably got bonus points for that), but otherwise she was golden.

When the grading started, Ailbhe and Sophie’s group were the first to go. The girls lined up with two other kids, while everyone else in our half of the hall watched on (there was another group of kids in the other half of the hall.)

Brian stood in front of them, and began. My stomach lurched.

I wasn’t worried about Ailbhe. When she was younger, we could tell her to stop at the line between our driveway and the footpath, and she would run up to it and stop dead. Her determination to follow Brian was palpable.

Sophie, however, lives in a world without borders. If she was let out in the front garden, and you took your eye off her for a minute, she’d probably be in Switzerland by the time you looked back.

In fact, after a few months of going to the class, Martha said to Brian that it was probably for the best if Sophie stopped going. All she did was run around the dojo, or hang out of Brian’s neck, while he was trying to teach the other kids.

But Brian assured Martha that he could teach Sophie. He asked her to persist. So, she did. (Which is for the best, because I certainly wouldn’t be able to take over teaching karate to Sophie. If I were Mr. Miyagi, by the end of the first half-hour of The Karate Kid, Daniel San would probably be dead. And not in a fight with the “bad” kids. Probably during the fence-painting bit.)

As I watched Sophie that Saturday afternoon, I could feel every one of my crevices getting sweaty (and I mean ALL of them), because I thought there was an even chance that she would make a break for it, and go bouncing around the hall again. Then I would be that parent, chasing their child around, like an eejit. And, when I caught her and tried to bring her back, it might end up setting off one of her patented, public tantrums. (Think “flailing air-raid siren.”)

“Please, don’t let it be one of those days,” I thought.

But as Brian did the moves, Sophie did them too, following him as best she could. The relief! The pride!

Why did I ever doubt her? Or him.

Over the years, little by little, Brian has managed to get Sophie to take part in more and more of the class, because he seemingly has endless patience. The man must be made of chi.

When people say “it takes a village to raise a child,” they are talking about people like Brian, people who have the faith and ability to take a shy girl like Ailbhe and give her a little bit of determination to overcome her social anxiety, or take a red-headed hurricane like Sophie, and help her to direct that boundless energy. And it’s not just our kids, either. The man is the embodiment of community spirit.

And, yes, there was one other small incident: Sophie’s group had to take turns going through moves on their own, and while she was supposed to be sitting, waiting for her turn, she got up, walked over to where the wheelchair karate group were lined up waiting to go next, and methodically moved down the line, touching each person in a wheelchair on the chest as she went.

So, Martha and I have some work to do on Sophie’s social conventions, but, when it comes to karate, thanks to Brian, both of our girls are now yellow belts.