board with their hands, execute a pin-point accurate roundhouse kick
or perform the intricate moves needed to perfect the ancient martial
art of taekwondo.
Seibel, who trains at Andre's Martial Arts in Burbank, will get a
chance to put three-and-a-half years of hard work, training and
sacrifice to work today when he obtains his black belt in a
qualifying test at the studio.
That's what is so special about Seibel.
Although his skills as an accomplished martial artist make Seibel
unique, he is used to being a little different. Seibel was born with
autism, a developmental disability that affects the functioning of
Vincent Rodricks, who owns Andrew's Martial Arts, and who is a
grandmaster and eighth-degree black belt, said in spite of his
disability, Seibel has been able to thrive in taekwondo.
"Most of the kids in the class, especially when their young, if
they're not interested, they're never going to get better," Rodricks
said. "You have to have an interest. Jesse has shown an amazing
amount of interest and he wants to progress and get better."
One of the common characteristics of autism is a propensity for
memory and an uncanny ability to deal with numbers. Rodricks said
Seibel's ability to memorize lessons and the fundamentals of
taekwondo has been invaluable in the student's success in the sport.
"There is something about Jesse that is amazing," Rodricks said.
"You have to teach him something twice. But once he gets it, you can
ask him a year from then what he was taught and he can remember it
perfectly. He has a very good memory.
"I never have to worry about Jesse remembering what I have taught
him. When there is a belt test coming up, I have to ask the other
kids 'Do you remember what you have to do?' Most of them forget a
little of what they've learned. But not Jesse. He never forgets and
he is always ready."
Jesse's mother, Cheryl, said she is constantly impressed by her
son's acute memory.
"He can tell me what day of the week it was when he first went to
Disneyland. I can't even remember that but he knows it," Cheryl
Jesse said he used a mathematical equation in figuring out how far
he had to go to attain his black belt.