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Local dojo teaches people with special needs self-defense, life lessons

People with special needs interested in learning self-defense can stop by Cat-Ching-Do Defensive Arts at 4817 West Farmington Road in Peoria as all are invited to come to throw and block punches.

“When I opened my own school I decided to keep doing it. I work with anyone who comes through whether they’re handicap or not. If you can work with someone with a disability you can work with anyone,” Head Instructor Ray “Sonny” Couch III said.

For Couch, an amputee who lost a leg after 10,000 pounds of steel fell on it on a barge, helping others is a passion. Couch’s right-hand man, Jeremy Richards, fell in love with martial arts through movies.

“I wanted so badly to learn martial arts when I was 13, 14-years-old but I couldn’t find anybody,” Richards said.

Richards was 18-years-old when he met Couch, who taught him he is more than his disabilities.

“I see people all the time that think ‘oh I’m in a wheelchair, or I use a walker. I could never do martial arts, I could never defend myself, I can’t work out.’ But they can. They think they’re limited by their little bubble,” Richards explained.

For student Cody Bessler, who has been studying until couch for 28 years, the program has taught him more than just self-defense.

“From doing something as simple as learning how to take my own showers. Certain skills I may not have learned here in the classroom, but things that he taught me inspired me to be able to do and work with those things on my own,” Bessler said.

For Couch, giving people the skills to defend themselves no matter their abilities is what his dojo is all about.

“You’re not going to get rich but when I see light comes on when someone tells me they can’t do something and then all of a sudden you start seeing them do it, a million dollars couldn’t pay for that,” he said.

If you are interested in learning Cat-Ching-Do you can visit their website at, or by contacting Couch at (309)-253-0869.

Stephanie Rodriguez

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