St. Louis Down Syndrome Martial Arts Course Makes A Difference

“I’ve been saying this for 10 or 12 years, I see more hugs the night these guys are teaching than I do the rest of the week combined.”

ELLISVILLE, Mo. — Once a week at the St. Louis Family Martial Arts Academy in Ellisville, 30 to 40 teenagers and adults with Down syndrome escape to a world without constraints, just fun.

Dwight Trower is the teacher and owner, and he originally wanted to spend his life working on cars. Instead, it impacts lives.

“I’ve been saying this for 10 or 12 years, I see more hugs the night these guys are in class than I do the rest of the week combined,” Trower said.

But these classes are not child’s play and these athletes are serious about what they do.

“He works us like a dog. He makes us sweat every time,” student Joseph Neimeyer said.

“The real challenge with our students with Down syndrome is getting them to connect. Because they’re so nice and so sweet that they don’t want to hurt each other,” Trower said.

Some of these athletes have been doing it for decades, and their dedication and good attitudes have had an impact on their teacher as well.

“In English we use superlatives all the time. We say something is ‘unbelievable’ or ‘great’. I can see something from almost every class with these guys that is really impressive. It’s really heartwarming to see some of the things these students can do. And I just think we should all be doing something to make a difference,” Trower said.

But at the end of the day, it’s all about having fun.

“I’m off on Wednesdays so I come here and compete every time. I love it here. It’s fun. It keeps me energized. It tires me out in the evenings, but it’s definitely worth it,” said Neimeyer.

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Kristen T. Prall