Texas Connects Us: Adaptive Martial Arts Program in Dallas

Discipline, structure and confidence are all pillars of martial arts.

And they are all things Tony Rios instills in his pupils at his My Martial Arts studio in Dallas.

"Everything is earned here. Nothing is given," Rios said.

He's loved martial arts since his youth, but he never expected it become his purpose until he met children like 11-year-old Grover Hood.

Grover was born with Down syndrome and autism, and he has had five open-heart surgeries. What others may view as simple tasks can be a challenge for him.

"Grover's been through a lot," said his father, Chris Hood. "Milestones for us take longer to reach. It's a very slow journey."

But after working with Rios, that's changing.

"He's learning how to follow instructions and that there's a reward around the corner for hard work," Chris Hood said.

Those milestones prompted Rios to create a program that caters to kids and adults with unique needs. It's a personalized program that still maintains the fundamentals of martial arts.

"There is an absolute need for this," Rios said. "There is a need for these guys to spend energy, focus their anger management, [and] it's giving these kids the confidence to say, 'I can do that.'"

Watching their confidence grow has only fueled Rios's own calling.

"I like to think that, for me, I'm just a platform. I'm a platform for these guys to stand up and show they can actually do this stuff," he said.

Rios hopes his program will one day be adopted by other studios so more children and adults with special needs can participate in martial arts.

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