Martial Arts Drugs


(July ‘95/#11)

I have a horror story to tell. The horror concerns drugs. Interestingly, it is not street drugs, but prescribed drugs.

About two years ago a father brought his son into my school and signed him up for a course in karate. The father had been recommended to my school by a friend of mine, and I had no reason to turn him away. Unfortunately, there was something that I didn’t know. Upon calling my friend to thank him for the recommendation I found that my friend felt that a study of karate might be just the thing to start ‘weaning’ his friend’s son off of ritalin.

Ritalin is a ‘psychodrug.’ Actually, recent research has led me to believe that it is nothing more than a combination of speed and downers. As such it is designed to pacify children who are ’hyper or unruly.’

I have no doubt that giving a child of slight body weight a daily dose of speed and downers will subdue him. The downer will subdue, and so that nobody gets alarmed at a dopey, dazed kid, an upper speeds him up.

From the start Johnny (not his real name) proved to be a wild hair. He would come in and literally spin in circles on the mat for the length of the class. He was so out of control we would frequently tell him to go out and run around the building several times. This always seemed to work, as he would come in gasping and exhausted and settle down long enough to work on a form.

Over the course of a couple of months he began to tone down. He required less running around the building to control himself and, though he showed an astonishing inadequacy at forms, he would at least try to do them.

One day, after a couple of months, I sat down with the father. I explained that ritalin was probably a combination of speed and downers and that it probably wasn’t good for Johnny. I had to be very circumspect in my statement of these facts because I am not a doctor, and there are penalties for prescribing, and possibly even for ‘unprescribing,’ medical programs. I did have the strength of my observations concerning Johnny’s behavior, so I went ahead and stated that I thought Johnny would probably learn faster if he didn’t have the drug in his system.

At that point the father thanked me and said that I was exactly right. He said that Johnny had gotten better since he had taken him off the drug, and that…

I was astonished to find out that the father had taken his son off ritalin shortly after starting karate!

And suddenly I realized something else, Johnny’s inadequacies to learn  were directly related to the effects of ritalin!

Over the months Johnny had ‘sweated’ much of the drug out of his system, and he had shown a resultant improvement, but he was, irregardless of the ‘sweating,’ ‘learning impaired!’ SOMETHING THAT HE HAD NOT BEEN BEFORE RITALIN! (I base this last observation on things the father told me about his son prior to ritalin.)

Over the course of months Johnny did finally manage to learn a couple of forms. But in the end, when Johnny moved away, though he was much calmer, something he had not actually achieved, in spite of the apparencies of a ritalin induced state, he had the disadvantage of having a tremendous inability to learn. All I could do was hope that this impairment wouldn’t last the rest of his life.


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