Anyone who sees 29-year-old Alexis Melnick in action will easily notice she is gifted in martial arts. A unique thing about it is that Alexis is not merely breaking records, but life barriers. She is part of an inspiring story of two martial arts enthusiasts.
He father, Greg Melnick, reveals that in addition to exercise, Alexis needed martial arts to learn self-control.
His daughter was diagnosed with autism when she was 4 years old. Greg says that “there was not much known back then, so it has been a tough road. She just clammed. She really shut down between four and five.” Greg says autism can sometimes manifest as outbursts of aggression. These outbursts are the reason they turned to martial arts for her to learn self-control.
It is almost eight years since Greg enrolled his daughter in Colorado Springs’ CFMAF Martial Arts & Fitness where they met trainer Isaac Costley, or “Master C,” and his students.
Isaac knew much about autism as his son, Jacob, was diagnosed with the condition when in 2nd grade. Jacob said he “felt a kind of isolation and sometimes like the weirdo in classes.” Isaac does not exclude and “feels blessed enough to have people in wheelchairs who trained here.”
Class message and benefits
The trainer pairs each class with a message. Isaac says every person has a challenge and an obstacle. They are taught to be the best without being limited by challenges and obstacles. The message became an invaluable part of growth for both Jacob and Alexis.
Greg says the most important thing he did for Alexis as a parent was to sign her up at CFMAF Martial Arts & Fitness. “She is a different person. She is still growing and changing even at 29,” said Greg. She is now bonding in class, yet there was a time she could not stay in a room with other kids.
Meanwhile, Jacob progressed to be a trainer of martial arts. He has taught solo for a decade now. Isaac says “Jake fought through many things that others did not go through, and I let him see that as a blessing.”
His rare challenge makes him valuable because he has a testimony. He can say “I did it even when I did not want to,” and serve as inspiration for others in class who they feel they cannot do something. This statement embodies victory. It is the kind of victory Jacob hopes to hear many kids with autism experiencing. He believes autism makes persons who they are, uniquely and beautifully. He insists, “I would not be who I am without autism.”
Jacob’s message to people with autism is that he found people just like him, so they too “will find people like you.”