Man paralysed from the waist down becomes a top martial arts instructor – after gaining a black belt in kickboxing
Carl Hodgetts was born with spina bifida, which left him paralysed from the waist down
Gained black belt by using his arms and hands instead of his feet to 'kick' opponentsUsed his skills to defend a woman from an attack in a pub
00:15 GMT, 14 August 2012
A country ranger who is paralysed from the waist down has defied the odds to become a top martial arts instructor – after gaining a black belt in kickboxing.
Carl Hodgetts, 34, was left wheelchair bound after he was born with spina bifida. But incredibly, Carl achieved a first dan black belt in kickboxing – by using his arms and hands instead of his feet to ‘kick’ opponents.
He is also an expert in Wing Chun, a close-quarter fighting technique created by martial arts legend Bruce Lee.
Carl was awarded a black belt in kickboxing by the world governing body, the World United Martial Arts Federation in 2006. He followed the criteria for able-bodied kickboxing but to reflect Carl’s disability the federation rebranded his technique to ‘freestyle martial arts’.
No limits: Carl Hodgetts in a standing frame aged eight (left) that allowed him to take part in school sports. Today he teaches both able-bodied and disabled students how to kickbox (right)
Carl, from Monks Kirby, near Rugby, Warwickshire, said being in a wheelchair is actually an 'advantage' to being an able-bodied fighter.
He said: 'I joined a kickboxing club in 2003 – which was quite ironic to be honest.
'When other people do kicks I do different blocks and different techniques – I have to do two or three times more work with my arms.
'But being in a wheelchair actually has its advantages, I can even use it to block people. It’s made of metal, there’s less of a target area to hit and, let’s face it, there’s not a lot of point attacking my legs.
'If someone is 6ft-plus it’s a case of attacking their knees, legs, shins, stomach and private parts.
But if they’re really short I aim for their face.'
Mr Hodgetts now teaches able-bodied and disabled students kickboxing.
Carl has had to use his skills on a number of occasions, including defending a woman from being attacked by a drunken assailant in a pub in Coventry three years ago.
Carl, 9, with sister Emma, 8 (left). Carl's other sister Sarah encouraged him to take up kickboxing 10 years ago
Carl said: 'I was talking to a girl and she was crouching down and there was a drunk chap who was jumping around.
'He saw us chatting and tried to barge into the woman but I instinctively saw what was happening and got my wheelchair between her and the man.
'As he tried to shove into me I used his weight against him and spun myself out of his way so that he fell on the floor instead of us.
'My friend and the chap were quite astonished but it was just a deviation technique.
'He seemed quite embarrassed and left shortly afterwards, I was just glad no one got hurt, including the man.'
Carl first got into the sport ten years ago after his sister Sarah, 37, got chatting to a martial arts instructor on a night out.
He said: 'He had a problem, a disability, with his arm, and was encouraging people like myself to do martial arts.
'My sister asked me ‘would you like to have a go’ and I said ‘why not’
'At the belt gradings people looked at me thinking ‘what’s he doing here’ People have always asked me so many questions about it, which is great because it helps raise the profile of disability sport.
'Even now I am still learning different techniques, different ways to move the chair, going through different angles. It’s helped with my confidence so much.'
Carl, who also works as a part-time education ranger at Coombe Abbey Country Park, now hopes to gain his second dan grading so he can train people up to black belt.