For the first time, two wheelchair-using Aikido teachers have taught together in Aikido clinics in Europe. Lydia Zijdel, the Chairperson of the Disability Working Group of the IAF, from the Netherlands, and Molly Hale, a member of the same working group, from USA, organised a tour where they taught together in the Netherlands. This event was organised in cooperation with Aikikai Netherland, under the aegis of IAF.
Lydia Zijdel (Sandan) started Aikido with Erik Louw Shihan, with the assistance of Wilko Vriesman Shihan, in Amsterdam in March 1983. This was only 6 months after a car accident where her cervical spine and spinal cord were damaged. She not only learnt on the mat the beauty of Aikido; she also realised its effect on her rehabilitation to sit, to balance her body and become more at ease with the physical abilities she had lost. Since then, Lydia has become a driving force in Europe for the inclusion of people with a disability within the Aikido and Martial Arts community.
In 2010 she became the IAF Ambassador for Aikido in the Beijing Combat Games. The Disability Working Group of the IAF, chaired by Lydia Zydel, has been in operation since 2017. She is also one of the co-authors of “PRIME: A Practical Guide for Coaches”, a handbook for Martial Arts teachers on how to teach disabled persons.
Molly Halebegan with Aikido in September 1984 at Aikido West in Redwood City, California, USA. She became the senior instructor of the Aikido West Children's programme in 1988 and instructor of Oracle Aikido Club in 1991.
Her Sandan exam in 1995 was postponed when a car accident damaged her cervical spine and spinal cord. She returned to the mat in March 1996, working with the physicality she had. Molly demonstrated in September 2013 for Yondan and was awarded her 4th Dan certificate from Hombu Dojo.
Since 2018 she has been one of the members of the IAF Working Group on Disabilities, with special permission, as non-USAF member, to join this group. Beside the tour in the Netherlands, Molly also had a private teaching session in France with one of the dojos of FFAAA (Federation Francaise d'Aikido, Aikibudo et Affinitaires).
At The World Games 2021, two wheelchair sports will be in the programme for the first time: Wheelchair Rugby and Wheelchair Basketball.
The World Games is a multi-sport event staged every four years by the International World Games Association under the patronage of the International Olympic Committee. The 11th edition of The World Games will be held in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, 15-25 July 2021. 3,600 athletes from over 30 sports and 100 countries will take part in the Games.