Criptaedo: Making Self-Defense Possible for Anyone
By Juliette Verlaque
Ohio native Paul Brailer has a second degree black belt and a video with 100,000 views on the Mixed Martial Arts website. He also has a rare condition called spina bifida, meaning for Paul, he must use a wheelchair to get around. For the first 36 years of his life, he allowed the condition to define who he was and how he viewed himself. That all changed seven years ago, after two friends with cerebral palsy were mugged, and he recognized just how important it is for people with disabilities to be able to defend themselves. His subsequent journey as a martial artist has proved life-changing, setting him on a new path as a taekwondo blackbelt and founder of the organization Criptaedo, which operates as a non-profit and is striving to get its official 501c3 status from the IRS.
After his friends were mugged and unable to defend themselves, Brailer was forced to consider his own challenges as a person with disabilities. “I started thinking about how I could defend myself if I had to,” he recalled. “If you look at the statistics, a disabled person is 50% more likely to become the victim of a [violent] crime than a non-disabled person [according to a 2009 government study].” After a chance encounter with a martial artist at a local restaurant in Ohio, Brailer began training at The Art of Karate. Three years later, he became the first person born with a disability to achieve the rank of blackbelt at his studio; and on May 30, 2015 he received his second degree black belt.
Brailer credits martial arts with boosting his self-esteem and courage. For much of his childhood, he was constantly held back and told that he was different from other kids. Even as an adult, he had difficulty seeing himself as ‘normal’, and was afraid to be wrong or appear stupid. “When I first started martial arts, I would do all of the techniques, but if I was asked questions, I would freeze. Now I’m not afraid to answer questions because I know I’m not stupid.”
Brailer’s successes in martial arts have only pushed him to new heights and accomplishments. “After I became a blackbelt, I was joking around with a friend of mine and said I should something for disabled people and call it Criptaedo,” he explained. “And they were like, ‘that’s cool, we should do it’”. In the years since, Brailer has developed Cripteado as an organization that spreads awareness about martial arts for people with disabilities. An avid public speaker, he regularly travels the country to share his story with groups large and small, discussing his life story and his experience with martial arts. His long-term goal for Criptaedo, he says, is to “to partner with existing schools in areas that I speak, and to partner with schools and train people how to train handicapped people.”
To contact Paul Brailer, please reach out to him at any of the following:
Juliette Verlaque is a senior at Hopkins School in New Haven, CT. She is a martial arts enthusiast, a Harry Potter fan, and a lifelong writer and traveler. Her work can also be found in the Hopkins school newspaper, The Razor, and Wilton Magazine.