Thursday, July 25, 2013

Rabbi Uses Martial Arts as Physical Therapy for Children with Disabilities

For Rabbi Gary Moskowitz, efforts to hold a clinic at Glendale’s Forest Park Jewish Center about integrating martial arts into health care and education for children with disabilities and illnesses has been a long and winding road.

Rabbi Gary Moskowitz, uses martial arts as a method of therapy for children battling cancer and other illnesses or disabilities.

Moskowitz grew up in the South Bronx in the 1970s. He was often targeted and victimized through robberies for wearing a yarmulke. By the time he was 14 he had already been on the wrong end of four armed robberies.

Moskowitz, went on to become a New York City police officer, private investigator, teacher, principal, and social worker.

He began training in karate as a child for self defense. Now has gone on to found a nonprofit called Martial Arts Therapy.

Martial Arts Therapy combines several forms of martial arts to provide children battling cancer and other serious illnesses and disabilities to teach them methods in pain management, physical therapy and deep relaxation.

On one Tuesday afternoon, Moskowitz stood in front of a group of martial arts instructors, physical and occupational therapists, and special education teachers gathered at the clinic in Glendale.

He provided them with an outline of how he hopes educators and health workers can include martial arts in their work.

“Most people don’t know what the martial arts are – they think it’s a punch and a kick but martial arts is a health system,” said Moskowitz, who has taught martial arts to the police, self-defense to women and hostage situation tactics to Israeli anti-terrorist units. “Martial arts is about living a healthy life, about nutrition, about exercise – it’s how to use force for healing purposes.”

He has seen firsthand how teaching martial arts has helped to heal, if not heal, at least help children who have, a range of disabilities.

“They push themselves because they want to,” said Moskowitz, who himself has a daughter with special needs. “They push themselves more than they ever thought they could do. It’s all about empowerment.”

The leader of the Self Defense Academy on Kissena Boulevard in Kew Gardens Hills, Avi Avramcheyiv, volunteers as a coach for Moskowitz and said he hopes to help the rabbi build support for an increased use of martial arts in places like schools and children’s hospitals.

“We work with kids in wheelchairs, kids who are very sick, and we want them to know they can do things with whatever they have,” said Avramcheyiv.

Moskowitz said his main goal is to continue providing free therapy for children in his own center manned by volunteers like Avramcheyiv.

“I’m convinced we can help a lot of children,” Moskowitz said.

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