I would like to practice a martial art full time for the sake of getting fit and dealing with my personal issues, but the problem is that I don't have much coordination with my body, and I can't repeat peoples' movements with my body.

I feel like I get lost and I can't replicate the movement. I took Judo as a sport on my college. I want to keep practicing, but I need to know if there is a way for me to do it in spite of my disability.

I have dyspraxia to some degree.

  • I tried to edit your question to clarify it, but I'm not certain if I understood the first question of your second paragraph. Jun 19, 2018 at 20:18
  • In addition, can you tell us what disability you have that interferes with your motor and coordination skills? It may helps us help you with your problem. And was there anything different that you did in college than now? Or were not disabled then? Jun 19, 2018 at 20:19
  • I have dyspraxia to some degree Jun 19, 2018 at 20:26
  • 2
    You have practiced in the past, so what happened then that you think you cannot continue? Is it just you are not happy with how fast you are progressing?
    – mattm
    Jun 19, 2018 at 20:54
  • So what's the question? Go train. I've trained with guys that can't use their legs, and are wheelchair bound for transportation. They just keep showing up to the gym.
    – coinbird
    Oct 23, 2018 at 15:39

6 Answers 6


Martial arts are a journey on your own path, at your own time and speed.

I have (or have had) a number of students with wide ranging issues with co-ordination, flexibility and movement. As an instructor it is very important for me to take these things into consideration when running the class - perhaps demonstrating things more slowly - or giving alternate exercises where the remainder of the class are doing something not (currently) possible for a particular student. If your instructor does not alter their teaching to your needs find a new instructor.

I commend you on choosing martial arts - they will test your movement, co-ordination, balance and mind (and much much more). This is fantastic if you struggle with these things - you will learn to cope, gain resilience to failure, your balance and co-ordination will improve. You might never reach the highest levels of ability in your art - but you will get better than the you are today.

So train hard, grade when you are ready and look back at how far you have come/how much you have improved every once in a while - you may surprise yourself.

  • 5
    "Martial arts are a journey on your own path, at your own time and speed." ← This could have been the only line of your answer and I would still have upvoted it. This is critical to gain insight! Jun 20, 2018 at 11:56
  • 2
    Mimicking movements works for some people, explaining movements works for others, and some have to be moved for a couple of times before the body learned the series of moves, especially when the connection between consciousness and body is problematic. I want to emphasise the point of finding an appropriate group plus instructor. Instructor, as he has to be able to teach according to your individual needs. Group, as partners and size have to be supportive and accommodate your needs as well. But martial arts will help you either way, you just have to be attentive regarding what helps you. Jun 20, 2018 at 16:59

I started judo for that very same reason. It's a great sport to learn spatial perception of your own body. 13 years later I can see a huge improvement in coordination and balance. You'll see the results in a few months. Try it.

Now I just enrolled in karate :)

As Jigoro Kano is rumoured to have once said, or maybe not:

It is not important to be better than someone else, but to be better than you were yesterday.


Going slow is one of the best recommendations I could give you.

While many techniques are done "in an instant" it's important to slow them down to a snail's pace once in a while & figure out all of the body mechanics (of yourself when executing a technique and your opponent as you apply a technique).

That & practice physical literacy, & improving your coordination with balance & hand-eye coordination exercises.

Coordination can be learned just like reading or arithmetic. It's just a matter of creating those neural pathways through repetition so that your body can complete the maneuvers without you thinking about it.

  • 1
    Any suggestions for practising physical literacy, etc.?
    – Mike P
    Sep 9, 2019 at 10:52
  • Ball-sports & dancing @MikeP. Sports which require the practitioner to catch, throw, and maneuver and object (ball, stick, paddle, etc...) are a great way to improve hand-eye coordination and environmental awareness. And dancing, whether via shaking hips while cooking dinner, or mixing up foot / hip positioning during one's running or walking, even more elaborate manoevers that challenge balance and timing (gymnastic, ballet, skateboarding) can do a lot to help build awareness of one's own forces and how they interact with the surrounding world
    – admcfajn
    Oct 28, 2020 at 0:03
  • Great; you should expand your answer with the extra detail.
    – Mike P
    Nov 2, 2020 at 15:27
  • Technically hasn't that already been done via the comment @MikeP? Feel free to edit my answer if you think it should include the additional detail.
    – admcfajn
    Nov 2, 2020 at 16:47

The answer to your question is that you need to find a dojo/club/class where you feel comfortable.

One of the reasons I do martial arts is because I'm bad at it and I'm allowed to be bad at it. If I make a mistake in my work life, people suffer. If I make a mistake in my family/interpersonal life, there are consequences. But if I make a mistake on the practice floor, we get up, laugh heartily and try again. Modern martial arts is structured to privilege safety over effectiveness.

Like you, I'm not the most coordinated person in the world. I don't have a diagnosis of dyspraxia, but I'm somewhere on that spectrum. I have to work harder to learn physical skills. I've practiced martial arts for decades now and I've learned enough that I have overcome some of the issue, but I still have to think it through slowly, and sometimes I have to break it down differently. (The secret is that everyone has to do that; for you and I it is merely a bit more evident).

Find an instructor who cares more about teaching people than about teaching the curriculum. Find a class that welcomes, encourages and accepts the student, not the belt. When you're looking, look for white belts with grey hair. Talk to the students and ask how they feel about their next promotion. Listen for "I don't really care; I'm having fun learning".

Aside: Like many martial arts questions, the corollary is that some instructors are right for some people and some instructors are wrong for others. There was a famous instructor in my area who was exceptionally demanding of his students - like drill sergeant demanding - very popular with his students, but he would have been a horrible fit for me. Don't get distracted; find the instructor who will instruct you.


I have a question for you: can you do a proper star jump/jumping jack?

If you can, then you are facing a difficulty in your mind. Forget about the Dyspraxia. Don't call it a disability. You must accept the fact that you will need to work harder than others to learn skills that are easy.

When you learn any martial art, you learn single techniques first. For example, a block. Then you repeat that block a few thousand times in every class. Practice that block at home until you can do it in your sleep without conscious thought. When that happens, learn another single technique.

With the single technique as your building block, add on top of it. My personal view is that combinations are endless (you can't memorize them all), you need to come up with your personal system/keyword to repeat the combination that your sensei (during that class) is doing.

Using karate as an example, there are 4 main blocks.

  • OUTER block
  • INNER block
  • UPPER block
  • LOWER block

I use internal keyword prompts for myself.

up, inside, outside, down

For left and right hand, it becomes

right, other hand

As for repeating people's movements, you have to approach it another way. Don't struggle to mirror the movement; name the technique that is shown (internally) and do your version of the technique.

  • 2
    This answer would apply if Dyspraxia was a mental disorder. But it is a development disorder. This means that his brain's motor functions are underdeveloped to the point where his brain can't properly instruct the body to move. This means that he probably can't do jumping jacks efficiently. He can probably do them, but they won't be by any means symmetrical. That said, this development can still be progressed by practicing. So that part of your answer stands.
    – Sjana
    Dec 4, 2018 at 12:49

Some people, myself included (for reasons similar to yours), believe that Tai Chi is just a much slower version, or pace, of Kung Fu (for the most part) for balance. There are many other benefits, such as improving and maintaining balance and flexibility.

I have spinal stenosis (cervical), degenerated disks and a couple of fusions. On top of that, I have Osteoarthritis and Fibromyalgia; I've had nearly all of these for almost 21 years and I'm not even 48 years old. If I were to skip my morning Tai Chi + stretch routine for any reason, which gets oxygen to more muscle tissues and promotes regrowth of nerve and brain cells, then I would be in too much pain to eat, sleep, smile, socialize or laugh. This makes me hurt even more.

Yoda said; "There is no 'try.' Only DO, or DO NOT!" Yoda only said DO. He never said to hurry up. I am already on disability. I am not going to let that own me. I have some disabilities; they don't have me. I am not "DIS-ABLED"! I am Michael. I am not as fast, strong, or agile as I was at one time. I can WALK and TALK! I can still LAUGH, LOVE, ENCOURAGE, LEARN FOR FREE, AND SO MUCH More!

I could also be angry, hateful, spiteful, and blame others for reasons that not even my doctors have figured out. I could waste my time with negative, hurtful, useless feelings. I could. But I don't want to and I REFUSE TO!

Martial arts is more than just physical movements to be memorized. In fact, the mental and spiritual, the Chi (Qi), that is the hard part. You want to see what is after 1st and 2nd grade? A ton of "Internal" that is not easily taught and is even harder to learn. You, I, we. We are more. So? Do, Be, Become MORE.

  • 5
    There is a good answer in there. However, it is buried in lack of formatting and too much rant-like wording. I strongly encourage you to please rephrase it so it reads more like an article and less than a rant. Thank you. Sep 10, 2018 at 7:37
  • I agree that there could be some formatting changes. However, +1 for a great attitude - often, that is what people lack when introspecting.
    – Andrew Jay
    Dec 4, 2018 at 20:19

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