Lydia Zijdel


Lydia Zijdel (1951), became a martial artist after a car-accident in 1982. In March 1983 she started as the first permanent wheelchair user (paraplegic T12/L1) to train Aikido. In the summer of 1984 she also started with Okinawan Shuri Ryu Karate. Currently she is a 3rd degree black belt in Aikido, a licensed 3rd degree Aikido teacher, 3rd degree Shuri Ryu Karate and a Tai Chi Chuan student. Both styles inspired her together with her academic background to develop feminist psycho-social self-defense for disabled women and girls. Besides her martial arts she was active as a social scientist in the field of disability and gender (MAs in Leicester and Leeds Universities), and worked as a consultant for the European Commission, for various European NGO’s (including the European Disability Forum, Chairperson of the European Women’s Lobby) and was an EU representative in the drafting process of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability.
Not only she developed feminist self-defense, she taught more than 15,000 disabled women/girls world-wide (including in third world countries) and trained thousands of feminist teachers how to teach the various target groups. In the 2020-2021 she put all her educational work, together with her colleagues in an on-line curriculum with instruction films and learning materials.
Lydia has a long international career in women and sport as i.e. board member of the International Working Group on Women and Sport (IWG), WomenInternational and Sport, involved in the United Nations working group on sport and disability. She is also frequently invited as speaker in the context of women, sport, martial arts and disability.
From her hand several projects and books (as author or co-author) are published, such as Empowerment for Disabled Girls, PRIME handbook for martial arts instructors (Participation, Recreation and Inclusion through Martial Arts); Online program for self-defense instructors No Means No EU project. She developed the Sport and Physical Activity Trainer (SPAT) program for disabled persons, who became after this three year educational program SPATrainers in both Ethiopia and South-Africa (2009), which project still runs.
After a minor stroke in 2021 she decided to retire from her international active life and projects.