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Vyacheslav Mayseryk and Anastasia Sindeeva, Adaptive Taekwondo GTF in Moscow and Tula

Developing Adaptive Taekwondo GTF in Russia

Traditional martial arts are considered to be among the most suitable and effective forms of sports for children with special needs in mental development. Among them is Adaptive Taekwondo GTF, which has been actively developing in Russia since 2018. It was in that year when the first group opened in Moscow, with only 6 athletes initially training. Gradually, the practice began to scale, and as of today, over 700 children and teenagers with special needs in mental development are practicing this sport in nearly 40 cities across Russia.

Adaptive Taekwondo GTF is a non-contact sport, where children learn blocks and strikes, but do not apply them in practice during sparring matches. Athletes take belt assessments, participate in inclusive training sessions, competitions and sport camps, thereby improving not only their physical abilities but also their social skills.

The Vladimir Potanin Foundation has supported a number of projects related to Adaptive Taekwondo GTF as part of the "Sports for All" grant competition under the "Power of Sport" program. These include the "Inclusive Taekwondo Academy" and "Adaptive Taekwondo — More Than Just Sport."

Coach Vyacheslav Mayseryk is an international master of sports in Adaptive Taekwondo GTF and founder of Adaptive Taekwondo GTF in Russia. At the age of 11, he became the youngest holder of a black belt in Russia. He is an 11-time world champion, a 9-time European champion, and a multiple-time absolute champion of Russia.

While still competing, he also began coaching non-adaptive groups. In 2011, he established the Moscow School of Martial Arts. One day, a woman approached him with a request to enroll her son in a class. She informed Vyacheslav that her son had special needs, but he was very eager to engage in the sport. The Martial Arts School team had no prior experience in this field, but the coaches saw this request as a unique challenge and decided to give it a try. After some time, Max – that's the athlete's name – began attending sports camps, participating in belt assessments, and competitions alongside everyone else.

In 2018, the Adaptive Taekwondo GTF championship was held in Argentina. The School organized fundraising to enable Max to participate in the competition. The necessary funds were raised, coaches and the athlete spent a long time preparing for the trip and training. In the end, Max became the first Russian athlete to win the World Championship in Adaptive Taekwondo GTF.

Upon returning from the championship, the Martial Arts School team decided to develop adaptive direction further, and in September 2018, the first group for Adaptive Taekwondo GTF opened in Moscow. Within a few months, the first competitions took place as part of the New Year tournament of the Moscow School of Martial Arts.

Adaptive Taekwondo GTF is a unique sport for children with special needs in mental development. Firstly, it embodies a sense of "rituality": the athlete enters the training hall, bows, shakes hands with the coach, and repeats the same process at the end of the training, fostering certain mechanisms.

Secondly, Adaptive Taekwondo GTF includes a discipline called "hyeong" – a series of exercises performed individually by the athlete. The actions are non-contact, which helps improve coordination, enhance sharpness and endurance, and also boost memory. Moreover, Adaptive Taekwondo GTF offers various levels of intensity – low, moderate, and high. Alternating between these levels of intensity leads to astonishing results.

A significant factor present in Adaptive Taekwondo GTF is the system of motivation, namely the belt system. A belt is a tangible object that you can touch, wear, and realize that you've moved one step closer to the black belt – this is highly motivating. Furthermore, the rules of Adaptive Taekwondo are quite straightforward and easy to remember.

Today, athletes of Adaptive Taekwondo GTF engage in inclusive groups, attending training sessions several times a week. They perform the same exercises as their prepared peers, which allows them to progress rapidly. It is also essential that they become more sociable. As Adaptive Taekwondo GTF has been developing at the School for quite some time, other athletes know how to interact with children with special needs. They offer support, assistance, advice, and become partners for practical exercises, which undoubtedly contributes positively to the achievements of the youngsters.

Two years ago, Adaptive Taekwondo GTF groups were established in the Tula region. The leader of this initiative is Anastasia Sindeeva, a two-time Russian champion in Taekwondo and the founder of the Adaptive Taekwondo Federation in the Tula region.

Anastasia moved from the Moscow region to Tula and realized that there was no one to train her own child, which led her to take on the role herself. Starting from scratch, the project developed rapidly, as this niche turned out to be unoccupied – there were fewer sports sections and groups in the Tula region compared to Moscow.

In 2021, following the example of their Moscow colleagues, the Tula Adaptive Taekwondo GTF team attempted to form adaptive groups for children and adults with special needs in mental development. In addition to her coaching education, Anastasia also holds a degree in pedagogical psychology. She believed that she could handle training athletes with developmental differences, as Adaptive Taekwondo GTF is a discipline involving both sports and pedagogy.

Anastasia's inspiration in her work always stems from the achievements of her athletes. For her, these achievements go beyond medals and titles, of which her athletes have earned many. What truly inspires her the most are results not directly linked to the sport – progress in socialization and communication, fostered through Adaptive Taekwondo sessions.

Anastasia recalls a case from the previous year when one of her athletes participated in the CIS Cup in Kyrgyzstan. He successfully completed his performance, winning two first places and becoming the absolute champion in Adaptive Taekwondo GTF. However, what impressed Anastasia the most was a situation she observed before the award ceremony. The young athlete struck up a conversation with a normotypical boy. The athlete wanted to interact with him, jump, run around, and have fun. Watching the two boys, Anastasia realized that the second child hadn`t perceived any differences in her athlete. These moments inspire Anastasia far more than victories and awards. At times, she may feel that her job is challenging, but when she witnesses such moments, she receives such a surge of motivation that she feels compelled to continue her work, regardless of any obstacles.

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