More MS news articles for April 1999

Man who suffers from multiple sclerosis pursuing black belt

Published Saturday, April 17, 1999

MENOMONIE (AP) -- John Stricklin hasn' t let multiple sclerosis and a wheel chair stop him from pursuing a black belt in karate.

"It' s something I' ve wanted to do all my life," said Stricklin, 33, of Menomonie. "Unfortunately I waited until I was sick to do it." Multiple sclerosis is the best thing that ever happened to me. It made me look for who I was. It made me find me. I had no focus in my life. Now I see my goal in front of me."

He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in December 1991 and started using a wheelchair in September 1992 because of the chronic disease, which affects the central nervous system.

Stricklin began taking classes for therapy in January 1996 at Karate American in Menomonie. On Saturday, he will take his final public tests for a first-degree black belt in American freestyle karate, a goal he set for himself when he first started taking karate class.

"You can do anything your heart desires," said Stricklin, who lectures at the Center for Independent Living in Menomonie and also teaches Karate classes at Karate American. To prepare for the black belt tests Stricklin has been working out for two hours each morning and attending karate classes regularly. He exercises with free weights.

"I feel confident, but I feel very nervous," Stricklin said. Derek Motschenbacher, owner and head instructor of the Menomonie Karate American, said the test will take about three hours.

"I think (Stricklin' s) going to do exceptionally well," Motschenbacher said. "He' s physically prepared and focused." John Stricklin has a wife, Mary, and two children, J.J., 12, and Amber, 11. The children are brown belts. Barb Anderson, Stricklin' s sparring partner, said she believes having people, especially children, see Stricklin succeed is good.

"They really learn a lot about overcoming adversity,"Anderson said. Motschenbacher had similar thoughts.

"When Stricklin does it there' s no excuses," he said. "He proves you can do this if you really want to."