I'm looking for a martial art or combination of martial arts that do not require a lot of footwork to practice. I have cerebral palsy and walk with forearm crutches. I would like to learn martial arts so that I can defend myself and stay in shape. If anybody knows of any martial art or combination of martial arts I would be greatly appreciate it Thank you for your time

  • 5
    I think this is actually a great question. You need to find an instructor who will adapt the art to fit your limitations. Many of the arts can be adapted but the key thing is finding the right instructor.
    – slugster
    Commented Jun 13, 2018 at 11:16

4 Answers 4


Defending yourself when you are walking with crutches is going to be tricky and martial arts are not your ideal solution for this. Please check no nonsense self defense as it contains plenty of good advice to help keep you safe. In a nutshell, you want to concentrate on prevention, not reaction.

Staying in shape when you have cerebral palsy is not trivial and I would not expect any martial art instructor to have a clue about how to go about it. The last thing you want is some clueless instructor giving you bad advice which makes it all worse. You are much better off seeking a specialist gym and trainer. Your doctor should be able to suggest something. Clearly, your diet will need looking at too.

However, if with all that, you still want to do a martial art, I strongly recommend archery (either eastern or western). There is no footwork whatsoever, it is great fun, and will keep your upper body fit. As a close second, I would suggest axe-throwing.

As to which specific style, that is more or less irrelevant. The instructor matters much more than style and they should be able to modify their style to fit your condition. Clearly, some styles will be right out: horse archery comes to mind. You should look around where you live and see what is on offer and take an introduction class.

  • Thank you for the helpful advice does anybody have more information on Eastern archery I shot Western when I was younger and I would like to try Eastern could somebody give me some helpful info? I would really appreciate it Commented Jun 15, 2018 at 0:11
  • @Sardathrion: Given there are a number of different styles out there, is there one which is more appropriate for someone with a disorder such as cerebral palsy? Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 13:12
  • @SeanDuggan Answer edited. Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 13:27

It isn't the style that's going to help you - it's the instructor. Be sure to find an instructor who knows how to teach someone like you the skills you need. This will be a tall order for you; few instructors have the skills or experience to teach students with disabilities and impairments so it may take a lot of time to find one. Start with your doctor and physical therapist. Those will be your shortest links to a good instructor.


Caveat: I do not know much about cerebral palsy, particularly with regards to what is possible with hard work, and what simply cannot be expected.

Be realistic about self defense

You have to be realistic about self-defense goals with forearm crutches; there is a huge difference in physical capability between a person with normal use of their body and someone who needs a forearm crutch on each arm to walk. Without mobility, it may not be possible to reach a reasonable level of self-defense proficiency.

Some years ago, I met a man with very limited use of his legs who could stand on his own but not walk. He had studied judo long enough to earn a brown belt, which was at least a couple years. His instructor did a reasonable job adapting judo to his limitations, and the man demonstrated sacrifice throws and mat techniques reasonably within these limitations. This man was not, however, capable of defending himself effectively because he had no mobility.

There may be plenty of other good reasons for practicing martial arts: physical challenge, coordination, exercise, mental training, social factors, etc., but self defense may not be a realistic goal.

Body training

Self-defense aside, the body training from martial arts may be helpful to you. In the Chinese internal martial arts, all practitioners are basically retrained how to stand and walk. Taiji walking, for example, is:

  1. Shifting weight completely onto one foot
  2. With weight on first foot, reach out the second foot
  3. Place the second foot on the ground, heel first
  4. Start to transfer weight

Doing this slowly and in a reversible way is hard and not flashy. It's more thought than most people put into walking. It might be useful for you if you think you can improve your leg strength and control.

It should be reasonably easy to find an instructor who can teach you taiji walking.

  • Thank you I looked at the internal martial arts a couple months ago the problem is I want to find an instructor who will teach the complete art. The ones that teach Tai Chi and such at senior centers do mostly the stretching aspects of it which I do yoga for. But thank you I have not heard of this I will look more into it and maybe it's what I'm looking for. May I ask you more questions if I come across something I do not understand? Commented Jun 20, 2018 at 23:36
  • @TylerBarnhart Although such an instructor is best, realistically, you will have to be able to stand and walk unassisted before this will really make a difference. Anything you can do to get there should not be time wasted, whether that be basic taiji, physical therapy, or something else.
    – mattm
    Commented Jun 21, 2018 at 3:32
  • @TylerBarnhart You are always free to ask questions. As you have already encountered though, it's best to research what you can first and come with informed questions. Whether I or anyone else can answer with something useful is another matter.
    – mattm
    Commented Jun 21, 2018 at 3:36

I know this is a late answer, but I thought I'd add my two cents. I'm not a martial artist, but I'm interested in martial arts and self-defense. I think while a martial art for you will be a challenge, it won't be impossible - as long as you find/develop one which suits your nature.

What I mean is that because of the nature as cerebral palsy, it will be relatively more difficult for you to move your legs in time, and you don't have free movement of your arms because you are on crutches.

This seems like a liability. It may not be one necessarily. Here are my thoughts from an open mind. Again, I am not a martial artist.

Since realistically movement is unreliable and punches are suicidal (you drop the crutches), it seems to me you have two primary modes of combat. One you stand still on your feet, and actually use your crutches as weapons. That is, you have larger range due to the crutches, so you can try to end fights before an opponent gets too close to you. This will depend on how stable you can stand still on two legs, while moving your upper body. The other mode of combat, is forcing fights to the ground as soon as possible. That is, get really good at forcing yourself and your opponent to the ground, in positions of power/leverage which don't require you to move your legs fast.

I think your biggest asset frankly are your crutches. They are essentially added tools, which can be a sort of skilled weapon if you invest in them. And since most opponents will assume you are weaker then them, they may not expect your crutches to be utilized as weapons.

If you are truly serious about a martial art for you, you will likely have to develop one through consistent trial and error, which will likely be really hard. But it may be worth it. I hope you do try and develop one. It would be really awesome for you to not only develop a martial art suited for you but also to help others who experience different physical conditions develop better techniques for self-defense.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.