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Martial Arts and the Blind

Editor's Note: Ms. Green is a Massage Therapist based in Regina, Saskatchewan. In her free time she enjoys playing the Koto (Japanese Floor Harp), reading, and tutoring English as a second language.

Martial arts were very important to me for so many years. Due to a busy work schedule and other interests, however, they have been put on the backburner. Despite that, I want to share a little about my experiences. I do plan to train again.

I was a 32-year-old female who had been totally blind since the age of four due to retinoblastoma. At the peak of my martial arts training I was a Gokyu in Shotokan Karate, which is the first level purple. I started training with Shotokan after a good friend told me about the University of Regina Karate Club (http://uregina.ca/~karate/). We had two Senseis (teachers), Basil Schmuck (Sandan--third degree black belt) and Sylvain Rheault (Nidan--second degree black belt). Both these men were fantastic instructors, and had been wonderful in my karate development in terms of technique and spirit. I also studied karate in Kingston, Jamaica, for five months at the Errol Lyn's International Martial Arts Institute. There, we practiced a form of karate called Juifushinkai. Dean-Sensei, Kay-Sensei and Dayne-Senpai (senior student) were also integral in my karate development.

I loved being in martial arts, as it really changed my life. I learned body awareness, discipline, fighting spirit, confidence, and a stronger ability to sense my surroundings. I had good skills before, but they became even better. I think blind people should really try out a number of different martial arts, in order to find out what each one has to offer. Taking two or three different styles will educate the person about what will work for him/her and what won't. Also, they may feel an affinity with one type that they may not have known anything about if they hadn't tried it. Alternative-format martial arts books have been limited, but reading a book doesn't really teach a blind person anything about martial arts. Of course, you can learn the background, terminology, some cultural aspects and so forth, but in order to really learn about a martial art, you really must jump in and try it.

I had heard that dividing your attention between multiple disciplines wasn't really a good idea, but I disagree. I had also heard that it's not possible to focus properly on improvement in the main martial art style if you are dividing your efforts over two or three disciplines. This may be true, but it's my belief that each discipline has strengths and weaknesses, and if you are not sure of your own personal strengths and weaknesses, then why not try different styles in order to find the one that suits you? The purpose for martial arts training is self-defence, self-improvement, body awareness (for yourself and others), and the emptying and focusing of your mind.

I took about one year of Aikido training at the Seishinkan Aikido Dojo (training hall) under Lea Sensei here in Regina, which I really enjoyed. Unfortunately, I tore a ligament in my shoulder in my third class, and injured my back, which took about two months to heal. These injuries really affected my karate, and karate being my first love, I decided that Aikido wasn't the martial art for me. However, I found the hands-on work of Aikido very effective in developing body awareness. I missed that aspect of training, because karate has a more distant approach to working with an opponent.

After reading a couple of general martial arts books, in which I read about Ninjutsu, I learned that Regina had a Bujinkan Ninjutsu Dojo. I found what I read about the Ninja very intriguing; hence, I joined the Bujinkan Ninjutsu Fudoshin Dojo. This martial art is very wide-ranging. We worked with grappling, wooden staffs, knives, swords and throwing techniques. We also worked on "Sensitivity Training" for which a blind person has the advantage. The lights are turned off, so the dojo is pitch black, and then we worked on the other senses such as hearing, direction, and sensing other bodies around us, as well as other objects. Smell can also be very effective in this situation.

I encourage any blind or partially sighted individual who has an interest in personal development to try a martial art. It is amazing what a martial art can do for you!

Comments

Nice to see yet another capable Martial Artist with vision loss. Hope you get back into training and find joy in it.

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