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A deaf taekwondo instructor defies the odds and inspires others


KATY, TX — A taekwondo instructor in Katy never let a disability stop him from becoming a two-time inductee into the American Martial Arts Hall of Fame. Now he hopes to build his own students’ confidence through martial arts and encourage them to pursue their dreams.

“With me, not having hearing is a big hurdle,” said Master Joseph Santarose of Rock Solid Martial Arts. “I just want to encourage fellow students to say, hey, you might have these big hurdles in life, but you can keep going no matter what.”

Santarose is legally deaf, with approximately 90% hearing loss. Growing up, he says participating in martial arts tournaments helped him gain confidence.

“Hearing is very important in martial arts, I believe it is, because one of the things they teach you is to be aware of your surroundings,” Santarose said. “When you’re 90% deaf, being aware of your surroundings is quite difficult, so that really helped me learn to adapt to my surroundings, with my hearing loss.”

In 2013, Santarose represented the United States on the world stage at the Deaflympic Games in Bulgaria. Now two of his own students are in the running to compete in the US Olympics in 2024.

“I don’t want to take all the credit. These guys come in, they work, they put in the hours and they do what they’re supposed to do,” Santarose said. “My job is just to help them push them, to give them that advantage, hey, we’re going to go further. If they want to quit, no, we’re not quitting. They want to quit, no, we’re not. to abandon.”

But he says the most important thing to him as a taekwondo instructor is for his students to learn how to be better people through martial arts.

“Whether they’re here for a day or ten years, my ultimate goal as an instructor is to help these students become better people,” he said. “We accept you for who you are. And I’ve been blessed to have these students who accept me for who I am, with my hearing loss and speech impediment. I know one of my students has says I’m clumsy and all that, but they accept me and love me for who I am and I accept them and love them for who they are.”

To learn more about Rock Solid Martial Arts, click here.




ABC7

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