Stories About Blind
Stories About the Blind and Martial Arts
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have a story about martial arts and the
free to write me and I will be happy to post
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Rose Wants to Fight the World
Fighter Teaches Mixed Martial Arts
Disability Doesn't Halt
Boy Who Sees With Sound
Camp Verde Teen to Earn Black Belt in Tae
Blind Girl Beat Bullies to Black Belt
Man gets Black Belt in Judo
Art of Seeing Without Sight
women praise self-defense class
Loss of Vision Leads
to Heightened Senses in Judo
Oceanside girl gets a kick out of karate
no impairment to Karate Student
impaired man learns aikido
Redondo Beach Jui-Jitsu
instructors say blind students pick up
faster than sighted peers
Daily Breeze, California
Sunday, May 14, 2006
By Robert Iafolla
If you close your eyes and focus on the sounds
inside MC Brazilian
Jiu-Jitsu in Redondo Beach any Thursday
afternoon, you'll hear the slap of
bodies hitting the mat, grunts of effort and
occasionally the laughter
of teenage students.
With your eyes closed and mind focused on the
sounds, you might
experience the studio a little like these teens
Ten blind students from the Los Angeles Braille
Academy have been
coming to MC Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu since February
to train each week with
owner and head instructor Marcelo Cavalcanti.
Jeffrey Oglesby said learning martial arts has
made him feel safe.
"I know what to do if somebody grabbed me out of
nowhere, instead of
just being helpless," said the 16-year-old
Brazilian jiu-jitsu was developed in Rio de
Janeiro in the early 20th
century by a family of martial artists named
Gracie. It was based on
Japanese jiu-jitsu but stressed fighting on the
When two combatants practicing Brazilian
jiu-jitsu square off, they
don't need to see one another because the
martial art centers on locks and
holds, he said. Almost all the fights end up
with the fighters
grappling on the ground.
"Once in a while, somebody will get a good
strike in, like Mike Tyson
10 years ago -- bam! -- but not many people,"
Cavalcanti said. "Maybe
one in a thousand."
In fact, Cavalcanti said that when he was
training in Brazil, his
instructor would sometimes have him fight while
wearing a blindfold. He
sometimes employs blindfolds during his other
classes, as well.
Teaching blind students does call for some
modified methods. Cavalcanti
and Bruce Elkind, his assistant instructor,
break down each technique
into step-by-step moves, explaining how each
combatant is situated,
where to grab, and how to shift and pivot.
"In a lot of ways blind kids can learn quicker
than sighted kids,"
Elkind said. "They're really attentive and
listen closely when you explain
step-by-step instructions. You don't have to
tell them more than a
couple of times and they get it. We were blown
away by how easy it was to
After just three months of training, their
experience already shows.
During a class exercise, Cavalcanti grabbed
14-year-old Brittney Clark
from behind and choked her. Even though she was
outweighed by at least
50 pounds, Clark grabbed her instructor's arm,
flipped him over her
shoulder and pinned him to the ground. With a
few quick movements Clark
applied an "arm-bar," a submission technique in
which her legs pinned
Cavalcanti's upper body while she bent back his
outstretched arm. The
black-belted instructor quickly tapped out.
"The kids were timid at the beginning, but
they're not any more," said
Rocio Vallejos, a Braille Academy youth adviser.
Bridgette Frazier, another adviser, said Clark
and some other students
are totally blind, while others are legally
blind, with vision that
can't be corrected to better than 20/200.
They go to the academy to learn living and
vocational skills, but also
for recreational classes. In the past, the
academy has offered programs
in rock climbing, surfing and white-water
The students in Cavalcanti's class attend school
during the day
(several at Narbonne High in Lomita), and then
bus to the Redondo Beach
For Clark, aside from chasing around her little
cousin, she gets her
exercise from Cavalcanti's class. Although she
is a self-described neat
freak who doesn't like to sweat, she looks
forward to jiu-jitsu every
"Although most of them go to regular schools,
they often miss out on
the social component that other kids get because
a lot of times they're
excluded from sports," Frazier said.
Just like Little League or youth soccer, the
benefits of the class go
far beyond the sport.
"They're learning much more than just
jiu-jitsu," Elkind said. "They're
getting healthy, getting strong, improving their
balance, and --
probably most of all -- their self-confidence."
Rose Wants to Fight the World
Bucks Free Press (UK)
Friday, June 16, 2006
HIGH WYCOMBE Paralympian Ian Rose warmed up for
next month's IBSA World
Championships with a silver medal performance in
The Great Britain judo star was competing in the
Championships in Colorado where the British
Visually Impaired squad competed
against more than 250 sighted players from
around the US.
Rose was pleased with his display at the
tournament and cannot wait to
get stuck into the World Championships.
He said: "It's been important for me recently to
stay focused on the
job. The competition in the US was a great
"It was an important event to see what level I
was at but at the same
time prove to myself that I am still capable of
"It's given me some added confidence and now
it's all down to
The 34-year old was included in an experienced
squad to travel to
Brommat in France for the Championships which
take place from 29 June- 3
The squad will travel to France knowing that
this is the first of three
vital qualifying events for the Beijing
Paralympic Games and Rose is
eager to get going.
He said: "I'm very excited. It's another chance,
another big stage and
yet another big event which I can't wait to get
"These three events culminate with the
qualifying for the Beijing games
and that's the peak for any seriously minded
athlete. I'm hoping to
stay clear of injuries and stay on the right
track for those games with a
good competition in France."
With fingers crossed to stay clear of injury,
Rose was clear with his
aims when it came to the Championships.
"The goal is to be World Champion again. I was
World Champion in 1995
and I think it's time I won back my crown, it's
what I'm aiming for.
"I feel ready, I'm fighting fit and I'm waiting
for the challenge. I
love judo as a sport, not just to keep fit and I
feel this is my time to
deliver as I'm getting older, these
opportunities won't be around
Blind fighter teaches mixed martial
Monday, July 24, 2006
ELIZABETHTOWN, Ky. -- In an interview, nothing
seems unusual about
Jason Keaton. The 28-year-old mixed martial
artist is 5-foot-11 and 190
pounds of mostly muscle on a wiry frame. He has
short-cropped blond hair,
glasses and is well-spoken, with a voice that
sometimes betrays the
passion he feels for his sport and way of life.
He is courteous and
patient with newcomers asking questions.
But his nickname is "Blind Fury" for a reason.
Keaton is legally blind.
Keaton's sight is not an issue. He rarely brings
it up himself and, as
his opponents will note, is not totally blind,
Asked how he survives in the ring, he said his
opponents have to be
close enough for him to see them to strike.
"You learn to keep your hands up," he said.
Keaton has spent a lifetime studying different
disciplines. He began
wrestling at age 4, and has trained in various
martial arts, including
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai, Kung Fu and
judo. He's also tried boxing.
The combination of these mixed martial arts
skills has earned him a
12-3 professional record in the ring.
While he is strong on the canvas, his truer
passion may be for
teaching. Last February, he opened his own
school in Radcliff called Cyclone
Martial Arts and will begin giving lessons at
Energy Sports and Fitness
in Elizabethtown in early August for children
and adults plus a
"We needed something to bring more energy, to
bring in people not used
to it," said Dustin Edge, manager of the club.
"It's something to make
us better. That's our main goal."
His perspective on teaching children mixed
martial arts is unique.
"Having fun is the first thing," Keaton said. "I
try to keep a high
energy level, where the only expectation is to
have fun. It will amaze you
what they can do. Nobody's going to push them
into it. They'll decide
for themselves if they love it."
Keaton does not use exercises as punishment and
attempts to get
children used to the physicality of the sport
"in a way that's fun."
"I want them to love martial arts like I love
martial arts," he said.
Keaton, who is from eastern Kentucky and grew up
in Louisville, learned
to love the sport after moving to Lexington.
There, he had access to
several high-profile sparring partners, as well
as teachers. It was at
Straight Blast Gym many of his teaching
techniques were formed.
"I absorbed everything I could. I watched how
people taught classes,"
he said. "Matt Thornton, the president of
Straight Blast Gym, opened my
eyes to how martial arts are taught and how to
Keaton thinks it is important to teach at his
students' pace, in their
comfort zone. Students do not need prior martial
arts experience or
even be in peak physical shape to take classes.
A boon for the classes is
that, aside from learning and getting in shape,
self-defense and guarantees it will work.
"We put them in scenarios and use a suit to make
it as close to real as
possible," he said. "The overall goal is to get
away. I teach the
element of surprise, to play until they see an
opportunity and then strike."
Students also get an intense workout.
"I think running is boring," Keaton said. "This
is much more
Edge said it is a welcome addition to the
classes and programs in place
"It's pushing fitness, its the best of both
worlds," he said.
It also teaches students more than how to kick
"Doing techniques, training the way we train,
the changes it causes in
people it gives people real confidence," Keaton
said. "A student in
Lexington lost 100 pounds. It gave him the
confidence to be himself."
Keaton is experienced in the ring itself, which
he draws on for
teaching. He estimates he fought 30 or so
amateur fights, as well as 15
professional, including on pay-per-view for a
King of the Cage tournament.
He is involved with several teams and will be
taking one to the
Ultimate Cage Challenge in Madisonville on July
Information from: The News-Enterprise,
Doesn't Halt Judo Progress
At a judo class on Sioux City's
north side, Darcie Boyok looks just like
She does her warm-up stretches just like the
other students. She's right there with her
classmates when, in one quick movement, they
drop from a standing position to roll onto their
backs on the floor and then back up into a
Boyok even looks like the other students as she
springs across the room doing a series of
front-falling rolls. But now suddenly there is a
Listening you hear a classmate on the other side
of the room calling, "This way, Darcie. This
The classmate is calling to Boyok because Boyok
Many people who have their sight probably
wouldn't dare to try a martial art. But two
Siouxlanders who are blind are advanced students
at the American Judo Club in Sioux City.
"I get, 'That's amazing!' a lot," said Greg
Hanson, the other judo student who is blind.
"That really bothers me. It's not amazing. It's
Making a choice
It all started 22 years ago when Hanson lost his
vision. He had just turned 28 years old.
"I had to make a choice when I lost my
eyesight," Hanson said. "I could sit in a
rocking chair and feel sorry for myself, but
that just wasn't me. I just had to be the best I
First Hanson learned the basics of dealing with
blindness at a nine-month program offered by the
Iowa Department for the Blind in Des Moines.
Then after that nine-month school in Des Moines,
Hanson enrolled at Briar Cliff College in Sioux
City. He worked as a truck driver, a mechanic
and a construction worker before he became
blind, but without his vision, he knew he needed
more education to get a job.
Besides getting that education, Hanson also
dealt with his blindness by looking for a way to
stay active that wouldn't require chasing a ball
around. He decided he'd join one of Sioux City's
tae kwon do clubs.
As it turned out, the first three tae kwon do
clubs Hanson tried wouldn't even accept him as a
"They didn't know how they could teach me," he
said. "They didn't know how a blind person could
do a kicking, punching type of martial art, so
they refused to try."
But Hanson kept trying, and it paid off. The
fourth tae kwon do club he visited agreed to
For the first couple of months, instructors
worked one-on-one with Hanson teaching him the
nine or 10 techniques upon which all tae kwon do
moves are based. Then he was incorporated into a
Later Hanson moved away from Sioux City, but he
returned to the community about 10 years ago. By
that time he had a first-degree black belt in
tae kwon do and a high brown belt in aikido, a
martial art that's similar to judo.
Once Hanson was ready to enroll in a martial
arts class, he opted for judo. He said judo
isn't about kicking and punching; it's more like
wrestling. And he felt that would be a better
option for a person with his abilities.
"Really, from 4 or 5 feet away, I can't tell
what you are doing to me," Hanson said. "But
once you touch me, you're mine."
So Hanson joined the American Judo Club and
began studying under Frankie Williams, a
sixth-degree black belt.
"When he told me he had a black belt in tae kwon
do and a brown belt in aikido, I thought it
would be a challenge to see how we could work
together, but actually it was very easy,"
Williams said. "In fact, he learned faster and
better than a lot of those guys who have their
Hanson has gone to competitions and done well.
But he said the big thing for him isn't so much
the competition as it is mastering the art of
judo and teaching at the American Judo Club.
"He is exceptional at transferring knowledge to
other people," said Johnny Tureaud, another
instructor at the club. "He breaks down each
movement into smaller parts and is able to
relate that to a student without visual cues or
other things so that the movement is
reproducible by the person."
Today Hanson has a first-degree black belt in
judo, and he'll be testing for a second-degree
black belt in the fall.
Trying something new
About eight years ago, Boyok by chance came
across Hanson at the grocery store.
They shook hands and talked a minute as Boyok
petted Hanson's seeing-eye dog. Hanson told
Boyok about judo. Later she decided to come to
class and check it out.
Boyok was so impressed during her visit to the
American Judo Club she signed up that first
night. She was 47 at the time.
"It took a lot of courage," Hanson said. "She'd
never done anything athletic at all."
To learn a new judo technique, Boyok listens
closely as the instructor explains what to do.
Then she might ask the instructor to demonstrate
the technique on her so she can learn by feel.
If Boyok were used to demonstrate a choke hold,
for example, she'd bring her hands up by her
neck during the hold to feel her teacher's
hands, arms and shoulders and where they were
positioned in relation to her body.
"Darcie is tenacious and never stops asking why,
and those two categories are the most important
attributes that any student can bring to any
type of study," Tureaud said. "She always wants
to understand why and wants us to demonstrate on
her so she'll feel why."
Boyok said the neat thing about judo is that
it's not about being strong enough to muscle
someone over you. It's about the momentum of
another person's body working with yours, and
that makes it possible for her to throw people
who are bigger than she is.
"It's all very possible, and it's really
exciting," she said. "I feel like if someone
gets in my space and they touch me, they're
mine. I can defend myself."
Boyok has already mastered more than 45 throws
to earn a low brown belt in judo, and she said
some of the advanced throws she's learning these
days are pretty scary for her. But her choices
are either to quit or to move forward, and she's
decided she's going to move forward.
Boyok said it's pretty common today for girls to
go out for sports, but that wasn't so true back
when she was young. She said she appreciates
finally having the chance to be an athlete.
"I never realized how strong I was or how strong
I could become," she said.
As for emotional strength, Boyok found a lot of
that back in her early 30s when she first lost
"A lot of times, people will say, 'I couldn't be
blind; I just couldn't handle it,'" she said.
"Well, they would. You learn the skills you need
to get through it."
Whether it's blindness, cancer or another
hardship in life, Boyok said there are always
people out there who went through that same
experience before. She said other people made it
through the hardship, so that means others can,
"We're a heck of a lot stronger than we think we
are," she said.
These days Boyok can do almost everything she
did when she still had her vision. She cooks
everything from lasagna to lemon meringue pie,
paints furniture, sews, goes shopping by herself
and paints her own fingernails. Eventually she
wants to pick up the piano or the cello -- this
time playing by ear.
Boyok said she's not like Hanson. She doesn't
want to go sky diving or riding in a hot air
But she said she does think it would be fun to
try pole vaulting.
"From her, I don't doubt it, and I bet you
she'll be pretty good," Tureaud said. "She has
- The Boy Who Sees with
- Blind since age 3,
Ben Underwood skateboards, shoots hoops and
plays video games. How does he do it? Just
like bats and dolphins
- People Magazine
FRIDAY JULY 14, 2006 06:00AM EST
There was the time a
fifth grader thought it would be funny to punch
the blind kid and run. So he snuck up on Ben
Underwood and hit him in the face. That's when Ben
started his clicking thing. "I chased him,
clicking until I got to him, then I socked him a
good one," says Ben, a skinny 14-year-old. "He
didn't reckon on me going after him. But I can
hear walls, parked cars, you name it. I'm a master
at this game."
Ask people about Ben
Underwood and you'll hear dozens of stories like
this – about the amazing boy who doesn't seem to
know he's blind. There's Ben zooming around on his
skateboard outside his home in Sacramento; there
he is playing kickball with his buddies. To see
him speed down hallways and make sharp turns
around corners is to observe a typical teen –
except, that is, for the clicking. Completely
blind since the age of 3, after retinal cancer
claimed both his eyes (he now wears two
prostheses), Ben has learned to perceive and
locate objects by making a steady stream of sounds
with his tongue, then listening for the echoes as
they bounce off the surfaces around him. About as
loud as the snapping of fingers, Ben's clicks tell
him what's ahead: the echoes they produce can be
soft (indicating metals), dense (wood) or sharp
(glass). Judging by how loud or faint they are,
Ben has learned to gauge distances.
The technique is called echolocation, and many
species, most notably bats and dolphins, use it to
get around. But a 14-year-old boy from Sacramento?
While many blind people listen for echoes to some
degree, Ben's ability to navigate in his sightless
world is, say experts, extraordinary. "His skills
are rare," says Dan Kish, a blind psychologist and
leading teacher of echomobility among the blind.
"Ben pushes the limits of human perception."
Kish has taught echolocation to scores of blind
people as a supplement to more traditional
methods, such as walking with a cane or a guide
dog, but only a handful of people in the world use
echolocation alone to get around, according to the
American Foundation for the Blind. A big part of
the reason Ben has succeeded is his mother, who
made the decision long ago never to coddle her
son. "I always told him, 'Your name is Benjamin
Underwood, and you can do anything,' " says
Aquanetta Gordon, 42, a utilities-company
employee. "He can learn to fly an airplane if he
plays basketball with his pals, rides horses at
camp and dances with girls at school events. He
excels at PlayStation games by memorizing the
sounds that characters and movements make. "People
ask me if I'm lonely," he says. "I'm not, because
someone's always around or I've got my cell phone
and I'm always talking to friends. Being blind is
not that different from not being blind."
Ben was just 2 years old
when doctors discovered his retinal cancer. Ben's
first Braille teacher, Barbara Haase, believes the
boy's ability to see during his first two years
helped him develop "a sort of map of the physical
world," she says. Growing up, Ben got help from
his brothers Joe, now 23, and Derius, 19, and
sister Tiffany, 18. (His father, Stephen, died in
2002.) "They taught him how to find the seams on
his clothes so he puts them on right side out,
stuff like that," says Aquanetta. "But they didn't
Aquanetta sent Ben to mainstream schools, where
professionals on staff gave him individual
attention and taught him to overlook taunts from
classmates who waved their hands in his face or
snatched food off his tray. "The hardest thing for
me to accept is rejection," says Ben, who starts
ninth grade in the fall. "I can tell when someone
rejects me in some way." At home his mother let
him play with no restrictions. "If he fell, she
would just say, 'Oh, he fell,' and he'd get up and
try again," says his kindergarten teacher Ann
Akiyama. "I've seen him run full speed into the
edge of a big brick column and get back up. He was
Ben learned how to read Braille and walk with a
cane, but when he was 3, he also began teaching
himself echolocation, something he picked up by
tossing objects and making clicking sounds to find
them. His sense of hearing, teachers noticed, was
exceptional. "One time a CD fell off his desk and
I was reaching for it when he said, 'Nah, I got
it,'" says Kalli Carvalho, his language arts
instructor. "He went right to it. Didn't feel
around. He just knew where it was because he heard
where it hit." Haase took walks with Ben to help
him practice locating objects. "I said, 'Okay, my
car is the third car parked down the street. Tell
me when we get there,' " she says. "As we pass the
first vehicle, he says, 'There's the first car.
Actually, a truck.' And it was a pickup. He could
tell the difference."
Ben was 6 when he
decided he wasn't going to use a cane – he calls
it a stick – to get around. "You go to school and
you're the only one with a stick, what's the first
thing some kid's going to do? Break it in two," he
says. "And then where are you? You're helpless."
At times he was even able to come to the aid of
people with normal sight. "I remember taking him
to the park with my son, sister and my nieces, and
it got dark," says Akiyama. "But Ben had figured
out the park's layout, and he led the way out. He
was in his element."
Still, Ben's zone of
maximum comfort remains his family's three-bedroom
stucco home – where he lives with his mom and
brother Isaiah, 11 – and the quiet streets around
it. Some professionals who work with Ben worry
that his near-complete reliance on echolocation
could hurt him when he finds himself in unfamiliar
settings. Haase wishes he would use a cane to help
him gauge, for instance, the depth of a hole. But
Ben is sticking to his guns. "He's a rebellious
traveler," says Kish, who despite teaching
echolocation around the world still occasionally
uses a cane. "Ben puts himself at risk."
Others believe Ben's remarkable abilities will
make it easier for him to face new challenges and
conquer new surroundings. "The world is not going
to change for these kids; they need to adapt to
it," says Ben's eye doctor James Ruben, a Kaiser
Permanente ophthalmologist. "His mother understood
that plenty of sighted people have miserable lives
and plenty of unsighted people have happy lives."
Last month Ben widened his horizons even further.
"The thing I'm most scared of is water," he says.
"But if I had eyes, it's what I'd most like to
see." So on June 25 he took a trip to San Diego's
SeaWorld Adventure Park to swim with dolphins and
hear how they use echolocation. Waist-deep in a
saltwater pool, he immersed one ear as Sandy, a
bottle-nosed dolphin, swam toward him. "Man," he
said, "she clicks fast!" Ben spent 45 minutes
playing with Sandy, touching her teeth and
stroking her dorsal fin. Bob McMains, supervisor
of SeaWorld's dolphin program, says that in his 23
years there, few people have listened so intently
to the sounds the dolphins make. "He's got a gift
with dolphins; he's truly unique," says McMains.
"I told him, once he's 18 he's got a job here
McMains can get in line. Ben's world may be dark,
but the most amazing surprises are just a click
away. He might become a math teacher or a pro
skateboarder – or, as his mother believes, just
about anything. And wouldn't that make for a truly
amazing Ben Underwood story? "I tell people I'm
not blind," he says. "I just can't see."
• By Alex Tresniowski. Ron Arias in Sacramento
Blind Camp Verde Teen
to Earn Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do
Verde Independent, Arizona USA
Saturday, May 20, 2006
Courtesy photo: Blake Tucker practices his Tae Kwon Do. He will be
testing in front of renowned 10th-degree black best Grand Master Jhoon
When a 16-year old Camp Verde 10th-grader, his brother and mom walked
in to join a class at Tae Kwon Do Unlimited a few years ago, many would
never have thought they could get to where they are today on the cusp
of earning tae kwon do black belts.
That doesn't sound so hard to believe, except when you introduce
yourself to the tall muscular guy in cool sunglasses, you realize he can't
see -- not a thing.
Blake Tucker has been blind since birth. His blindness certainly hasn't
stopped him from accomplishing many tough goals in his life. He even
owns a car, which is a Tucker family tradition upon turning 16-years-old.
On Saturday, May 27, at the Radisson Poco Diablo in Sedona, Blake, his
mother, brother and 12 others get to put their years of hard work to
the test at TKD Unlimited of Cottonwood's Black Belt Exam. At noon the
candidates will be asked to demonstrate for the audience, their forms,
kicks, combinations, sparring and self-defense techniques, as well as
speak publicly on the subject of "What Jhoon Rhee Tae Kwon Do Has Done for
The three-hour exam is the final step in an intensive training program.
They were also required to complete a two-day pre-test exam a few weeks
ago, and throughout the last 6-months, a rigorous schedule of teaching
two days per week, running a 6-mile mountain course two days a week and
attending regular tae kwon do classes three times per week.
"It certainly wasn't easy over the last months for me and my boys, but
I couldn't be prouder of my sons and everyone who's made it this far,"
said Kathy Tucker, Blake's mom.
Presiding over the testing is world-renowned martial artist and
speaker, 10-degree Grand Master Jhoon Rhee, who is known best as the "Father
of American Tae Kwon Do."
Grand Master Jhoon Rhee is traveling here from Washington, D.C., where
he is the highest ranking member and founder of Jhoon Rhee
International, a system of modern tae kwon do of which TKD Unlimited is a part and
in which "honesty, respect, and friendship" are the main tenets.
Jhoon Rhee has taught martial arts to senators, congressman, and has
trained with Muhammed Ali and Bruce Lee to name only a few. Well known
for his contributions to American educational programs, he is the creator
of the National Teacher Appreciation Day that was signed into law by
President Ronald Reagan.
Other students testing for black belt include TKD Unlimited Instructors
Caleb Labarda (age 21), going for third degree, and Karen Conover (age
35) and Charlie Labarda (age 49) going for second degree. In addition,
student members at TKD Unlimited going for second degree are brothers,
Craig (age 14) and Daniel Prendiville (age 16), and Sabrina Ortiz (age
13). A record nine other student members of the school are testing for
first-degree black belt.
They include: Blake Tucker (age 16), Chad Tucker (age 12), Kathy Tucker
(age 41), Chuck Conover (Age 41), Noel Lindhurst (Age 26), Nate Hetrick
(Age 18), Ember Rusco (Age 18), Kim Ward (Age 16), and Ricky Hernandez
"This is a great group, the biggest and most diverse we've ever had at
a black belt test. Having Grand Master Rhee test us is such an honor,
and we will never forget this opportunity in our lives. Anyone
interested in supporting us or hearing Grand Master Jhoon Rhee speak should come
and join us. It's going to be amazing," says Charlie Labarda, owner and
instructor at TKD Unlimited.
Anyone can call 649-1530 for more information on purchasing tickets for
The black belt candidates at TKD Unlimited would like to thank the
following businesses and individuals who have so generously donated funds
to help bring Grand Master Rhee to Arizona: Aero Bear Aviation, Jerome
Jewelry Market, Coldwell Banker Mabery Real Estate, Arts Painting and
Yavapai Broadcasting, Dr. Robert Gagliano and Family, and A.D. Hill
Landscape Materials, among many, many others.
How blind girl beat bullies to
i c Wales, UK
Sunday, March 26, 2006
By Leah Oatway, Wales on Sunday
WHEN cruel bullies attacked Maxine Ingram in a
school corridor because
she was blind, she had two choices - fight or
Luckily for Wales, she chose to hit back.
And 12 years on, the 26-year-old is preparing
for her second Paralympic
trials as the only British female judo player at
her level - sighted or
Maxine, from Trimsaran, in West Wales, was born
completely blind after
being starved of oxygen at birth. But after
spending her first few
school years at a blind institute, she was
placed in mainstream education
at the age of seven in a bid to toughen her up.
"My mother wanted me integrated in an
able-bodied school. She believed
spending so long in a specially-equipped blind
school would only make
entering a sighted community more difficult,"
Her mum Val also encouraged Maxine's elder
brother and two sisters to
'rough and tumble' with her to encourage her to
"It definitely did the job too, trust me,
because children can be very
nasty!" she laughed.
While Maxine had a good circle of school
friends, she soon became the
target of bullies.
"A lot of the kids were quite mean. They'd call
me 'one-eye bandit' and
things like that. It didn't affect me too badly
until they beat me up.
"I obviously didn't see the first punch so they
knocked me quite hard
and it took me by surprise. But once I felt the
initial hit I was able
to strike back. And I did," she said.
Soon after, Maxine took up judo. "No-one wanted
to mess with me after
that," she said.
"I'd tried most sports but because I'm totally
blind I'd have to have a
"All I needed for judo was a sighted training
partner and a coach. It's
just you, your referee and your opponent."
Maxine's impact on the mat was pretty instant.
After being scouted by the British judo coach,
the following month she
was training with the national squad. Two months
later she was
"My disability allows me to catch sighted and
opponents off guard. My grip is incredibly
strong, which they don't like, and
also my spatial awareness is good," she said.
In 2004, Maxine won gold medals in the European
European Blind Judo Championships and became
Five months before her first Paralympics in
Athens she severely damaged
her leg. But against all odds she fought back to
"I often thought about throwing it in during
those five months but the
entire family rallied around me," she revealed.
"They'll never know
just how much I appreciate that."
Maxine's 33-year-old sister Shaan moved to
Cardiff to see her through
rehab leading up to the games, while dad Zachary
Denzil drive her all over the country to train
"Not only is it tiring and time-consuming for
them but it's also
expensive. And they never grumble," she said.
Maxine trains twice a day, every day - getting
up at 6am.
And everywhere she goes, so does her guide dog
and best friend, Ronnie.
"As a working dog he's 100 per cent but as a
domestic dog he's a
nightmare!" she laughed. "He likes to bark, go
to sleep and annoy my mother's
"And he's very vain - he likes to have a look in
the mirror at the gym
while I'm training!"
Medals, awards and eight-year-old Ronnie aside,
single Maxine admits
there are some downsides.
"Judo can make relationships more difficult. A
lot of men don't want to
see their girlfriend with their legs wrapped
around people and in
various positions on a mat - or just being
"And because I'm blind they can't text me
anything they'd not want
someone else to read - the same goes for
"I've had some pretty understanding boyfriends
in the past though, you
just have to tell them at the start exactly how
it's going to be."
As for her future, Maxine would like to see judo
added to the
Commonwealth Games. And of course she still
wants that Olympic gold medal.
"I think attitudes are changing. I remember when
a blind person was
expected to sort of admit defeat, sit down and
say and do nothing. The
Paralympics coverage on TV is nowhere near where
it should be, despite how
well the British team are doing. But things are
improving slowly, very
Billings Montana USA
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Blind Man Gets Black Belt in
By Emily Nantz, KULR-TV
BILLINGS - When you hear the phrase "martial
art" typically you think
of strikes, kicks and throws but imagine doing
all of this in complete
This is how Robert Deese, a black belt in Judo,
sees martial arts. "I
see by feel, hearing you know and stuff like
Completely blind since 1990 Robert hasn't let
that stop him from
wanting to and learning Judo. "They have to go
into it...if they are teaching
me a new throw they have to be a little more
descriptive with me."
Judo is something that was interesting to Robert
even as a kid. But it
wasn't until 8 years ago that he started Judo.
"Really was liking it
from the first time I started falling on the
But it hasn't come without its share of
frustrations, as he shares
about a throw instructors taught him. "I just
had to keep doing it...they
would make minor corrections and then I just
kept doing it and it's
still not perfect."
Robert says even with a black belt he's still
learning but he's also
teaching those around him. His instructor Dave
Allen says, "Robert does
have some advantages because he's trained
himself different than the
rest of us have so he knows if we're looking
down at his feet he knows
exactly what we're doing."
Allen says Robert is an inspiration to the
others at the Martial Arts
Academy of Billings where he trains. For
Robert's kids, his son Robert
Deese Junior says he's proud of his Dad. He
says, "that he's finally
made it to black belt know it's a big
accomplishment being blind and doing
what he does so I'm pretty proud of him."
Robert says he may be an inspiration but how he
learns really isn't
that much different from others. "Whether you're
sighted or not if you
don't land right it's gonna hurt."
If you want to see what Robert can do you'll get
that opportunity this
weekend. He'll be at the 40th annual Northwest
Tae Kwon Do Association
Invitational Championship. The tournament will
be held at the Fortin
Center at Rocky Mountain College. It starts at
Visit our home page www.kulr8.com
The Art of Seeing Without Sight
- 29 January 2005
- From New Scientist
- Alison Motluk
IT IS an odd sight. A
middle-aged man, fully reclined, drawing pictures
of hammers and mugs and animal figurines on a
special clipboard, which is balanced precariously
on a pillow atop his ample stomach.
A half-dozen people
buzz around him. One adjusts a towel under his
neck to make him more comfortable, another wields
a stopwatch and chants instructions to start doing
this or stop doing that, and yet another
translates everything into Turkish. A small group
convenes in a corner to assess the proceedings. A
few of us just stand around watching, and trying
not to get in the way. The elaborate ritual is a
practice run for an upcoming brain scan and the
researchers want to get everything just right.
Meanwhile, the man at the centre of all this
attention, a blind painter, cracks jokes that keep
The painter is Esref
Armagan. And he is here in Boston to see if a peek
inside his brain can explain how a man who has
never seen can paint pictures that the sighted
easily recognise - and even admire. He paints
houses and mountains and lakes and faces and
butterflies, but he's never seen any of these
things. He depicts colour, shadow and perspective,
but it is not clear how he could have witnessed
these things either. How does he do it?
Because if Armagan can
represent images in the same way a sighted person
can, it raises big questions not only about how
our brains construct mental images, but also about
the role those images play in seeing. Do we build
up mental images using just our eyes or do other
senses contribute too? How much can congenitally
blind people really understand about space and the
layout of objects within it? How much "seeing"
does a blind person actually do?
Armagan was born 51
years ago in one of Istanbul's poorer
neighbourhoods. One of his eyes failed to develop
beyond a rudimentary bud, the other is stunted and
scarred. It is impossible to know if he had some
vision as an infant, but he certainly never saw
normally and his brain detects no light now. Few
of the children in his neighbourhood were formally
educated, and like them, he spent his early years
playing in the streets. But Armagan's blindness
isolated him, and to pass the time, he turned to
drawing. At first he just scratched in the dirt.
But by age 6 he was using pencil and paper. At 18
he started painting with his fingers, first on
paper, then on canvas with oils. At age 42 he
discovered fast-drying acrylics.
paints houses and mountains and lakes and
faces and butterflies, but he's never seen any
of these things”
His paintings are
disarmingly realistic. And his skills are
formidable. "I have tested blind people for
decades," says John Kennedy, a psychologist at the
University of Toronto, "and I have never seen a
performance like his." Kennedy's first opportunity
to meet and test Armagan in person was during a
visit to New York last May, for a forum organised
by a group called Art Education for the Blind.
Armagan, who is something of a celebrity in
Turkey, has become used to touring with his
canvases to the Czech Republic, China, Italy and
the Netherlands. What made this visit different
was the interest shown by scientists - both
Kennedy and a team from Boston.
Kennedy put Armagan
through a battery of tests. For instance, he
presented him with solid objects that he could
feel - a cube, a cone and a ball all in a row
(dubbed the "three mountains task") - and asked
him to draw them. He then asked him to draw them
as though he was perched elsewhere at the table,
across from himself, then to his right and left
and hovering overhead. Kennedy asked him to draw
two rows of glasses, stretching off into the
distance. Representing this kind of perspective is
tough even for a sighted person. And when he asked
him to draw a cube, and then to rotate it to the
left, and then further to the left, Armagan drew a
scene with all three cubes. Astonishingly, he drew
it in three-point perspective - showing a perfect
grasp of how horizontal and vertical lines
converge at imaginary points in the distance. "My
breath was taken away," Kennedy says.
Kennedy has spent much
of his career exploring art from the perspective
of blind people. He has shown that people who are
congenitally blind understand outline drawings
when they feel them just as seeing people do. They
understand and can draw in three dimensions. In
fact, blind children develop the ability to draw,
he has found, much as sighted children do - but
all too few blind children ever get the
opportunity to explore this ability. Even
knowledge about perspective, he has come to
believe, is acquired in similar ways for both.
"Where a sighted person looks out, a blind person
reaches out, and they will discover the same
things," says Kennedy. "The geometry of direction
is common to vision and touch."
Lines and one-liners
It is the night before
the Boston team's first brain scan. Armagan is
sitting at a long table at an inn, entertaining
everyone with one-liners, trying to explain how he
does his artwork. Alvaro Pascual-Leone, the
Harvard neurologist who invited him here, and Amir
Amedi, his colleague, are challenging him with
more and more complex tasks. Draw a road leading
away, says Pascual-Leone, with poles on either
side and with a source of light underneath.
Armagan smiles confidently.
He uses a special
rubberised tablet, called a "Sewell raised line
drawing kit". This device allows him to draw lines
that rise off his paper as tiny puckers, so that
he can detect them with his fingertips. And so he
draws the road and the poles: one hand holding the
pencil, the other tracing along behind, like
surrogate eyes, "observing" the image as it is
being laid down. A minute or so later, the picture
is done. Pascual-Leone and Amedi shake their heads
So, we ask, how do you
know how long these poles should be as they
recede? I was taught, he says. Not by any formal
teacher, but by casual comments by friends and
acquaintances. How do you know about shadows? He
learned that too. He confides that for a long time
he figured that if an object was red, its shadow
would be red too. "But I was told it wasn't," he
says. But how do you know about red? He knows that
there's an important visual quality to seen
objects called "colour" and that it varies from
object to object. He's memorised what has what
colour and even which ones clash.
Scanning the mind's eye
Next day, and the time
has come for Armagan to get into the scanner. The
Harvard scientists are collaborating with scanning
experts at Boston University. In addition to
taking a structural snapshot of Armagan's brain
and establishing if it can perceive any light
(they confirmed it cannot), this morning's
experiment will have him doing some odd sequences
of tasks. He'll have a set number of seconds to
feel an object, imagine it and draw it. But he has
also been asked to scribble, pretend to feel an
object and recall a list of objects that he
learned days earlier.
Pascual-Leone and Amedi
want to see what Armagan's brain can tell them
about neural plasticity. Both scientists have
evidence that in the absence of vision, the
"visual" cortex - the part of the brain that makes
sense of the information coming from our eyes -
does not lie idle. Pascual-Leone has found that
proficient Braille readers recruit this area for
touch. Amedi, along with Ehud Zohary at the Hebrew
University in Jerusalem, found that the area is
also activated in verbal memory tasks.
When Amedi analysed the
results, however, he found that Armagan's visual
cortex lit up during the drawing task, but hardly
at all for the verbal recall. Amedi was startled
by this. "To get such extraordinary plasticity for
[drawing] and zero for verbal memory and language
- it was such a strong result," he says. He
suspects that, to a certain extent, how the unused
visual areas are deployed depends on who you are
and what you need from your brain.
Even more intriguing
was the way in which drawing activated Armagan's
visual cortex. It is now well established that
when sighted people try to imagine things - faces,
scenes, colours, items they've just looked at -
they engage the same parts of their visual cortex
that they use to see, only to a much lesser
degree. Creating these mental images is a lot like
seeing, only less powerful. When Armagan imagined
items he had touched, parts of his visual cortex,
too, were mildly activated. But when he drew, his
visual cortex lit up as though he was seeing. In
fact, says Pascual-Leone, a naive viewer of his
scan might assume Armagan really could see.
That result cracks open
another big nut: what is "seeing" exactly? Even
without the ability to detect light, Armagan is
coming incredibly close to it, admits
Pascual-Leone. We can't know what is actually
being generated in his brain. "But whatever that
thing in his mind is, he is able to transfer it to
paper so that I unequivocally know it's the same
object he just felt," says Pascual-Leone.
normally think of seeing as the taking in of
objective reality through our eyes. But is it?”
In his own life, too,
Armagan seems to have a remarkable grasp of space.
He seldom gets lost, says his manager Joan
Eroncel. He has an uncanny sense of a room's
dimensions. He once drew the layout of an
apartment he had only visited briefly, she says,
and remembered it perfectly nine years later.
We normally think of
seeing as the taking in of objective reality
through our eyes. But is it? How much of what we
think of as seeing really comes from without, and
how much from within? The visual cortex may have a
much more important role than we realise in
creating expectations for what we are about to
see, says Pascual-Leone. "Seeing is only possible
when you know what you're going to see," he says.
Perhaps in Armagan the expectation part is
operational, but there is simply no data coming in
suggests that a person can't have a "mind's eye"
without ever having had vision. But Pascual-Leone
thinks Armagan must have one. The researcher has
long argued that you could arrive at the same
mental picture via different senses. In fact he
thinks we all do this all the time, integrating
all the sensations of an object into our mental
picture of it. "When we see a cup," he says,
"we're also feeling with our mind's hand. Seeing
is as much touching as it is seeing." But because
vision is so overwhelming, we are unaware of that,
he says. But in Armagan, significantly, that is
not the case.
I sit across from the
source of all this mystery and I ask him about the
birds he loves to paint. They are brightly
coloured and exotic and I wonder aloud how he
knows how to depict them. He tells me about how he
used to own a parakeet shop. "They come to your
hand," he says. "You can easily touch them." He
pauses and smiles and says: "I love being
surrounded by beauty."
The first of its kind offered by the
state, the session may be repeated for men
The police officer's
advice to a class of blind and sight-impaired
women was well-intentioned. But it wasn't very
"The best way to avoid
an attack," Alan Hatakenaka of the state
Department of Human Services remembers the officer
telling the group, "is to always be on the lookout
for suspicious people."
If you're blind, that's
pretty hard to do.
So Hatakenaka, the
orientation and mobility specialist at the state
branch aimed at helping blind people become
independent, decided to put together a martial
arts self-defense class for blind and
It's the first of its
kind offered by the state, and about 20 women
showed up for the four-hour class in Nuuanu Valley
yesterday, learning how to get free of a choke
hold, smash an attacker's face against a wall and
fend off an assault while standing, sitting or
It was so popular,
Hatakenaka said, that there's talk of offering the
class regularly, and to men.
"You don't need sight,"
said martial arts instructor Steve McLaughlin, who
regularly teaches self-defense classes for women.
"You're not learning self-defense. You're learning
participants, who ranged in age from their teens
to late 60s, practiced on mats in the basement of
the Daijingu Temple. Each was assigned a martial
arts student, who guided them through moves. Four
guide dogs sat to the side of the room, looking on
with curious glances and tilted heads.
About halfway through
the class, Landa Phelam giggled triumphantly after
sitting on her student-instructor's feet and
grabbing his ankles, making him fall backward with
a loud thump.
The 66-year-old, who
sees only blurred shapes and colors, said the
class not only gave her the skills to ward off an
attacker, but boosted her self-confidence and
"I go all over the
island," Phelam said after taking a sip of water
during a break. "I used to feel vulnerable."
Hatakenaka said the
self-defense class proves that blindness doesn't
have to be a barrier. "Although they may be blind,
they can still succeed," he said. "They can still
lead a normal life."
Charmain Birchard is
blind in one eye and has poor sight in the other.
During a break
yesterday, she sat with a friend to chat and snack
on chips. When the instructor called for the
students to return to the mat, the 36-year-old
jumped up enthusiastically and hurried to her
"It's rather a
different viewpoint of martial arts than what you
see in the movies," she said, laughing.
LOSS OF VISION LEADS
TO HEIGHTENED SENSES IN JUDO
says judo and jujitsu have helped him
DAN ELDRIDGE /
Rendon never expected he’d become a judo
enthusiast or an active member in a yoga class. He
never envisioned jujitsu being a part of his daily
routine, nor did he see swimming as an important
exercise. Then again, he never thought he would
lose his sight or temporarily lose his ability to
Rendon, 31, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis
in 2002. The disease left him legally blind.
“At first, I was just wallowing in it,” he said of
the troubling diagnosis.
Before MS, Rendon led a seemingly normal lifestyle
working as a bartender in the Lower Haight.
With Chinese character tattoos and a pack of
cigarettes, Rendon more closely resembles a Haight
Street hooligan than an avid judo or jujitsu
Discovering he had MS compelled him to change his
outlook on what is not just a hobby, but a new
“stress point.” He developed a newfound
appreciation for something he once considered
“I hated the idea of martial arts,” Rendon said.
“I thought it was silly. I thought it was crap.”
“It might have been beneficial before [the
diagnosis], but I was too thick-headed,” he added.
“I was too busy drinking and smoking.”
Prior to being diagnosed, an array of health
issues had Rendon wondering what lay in his
future. The only thing he knew was that he had
lost control of his legs and hands and felt
numbness and twitching.
“It’s hard to stay positive when you don’t know
what’s going on with your body,” he said.
After regaining the ability to walk, which he said
was the most challenging aspect of MS, he decided
to enroll in judo, jujitsu and yoga classes for
physical stimulation to help him cope with the
disease and loss of vision.
“You’ve got to stay active,” he said. “Otherwise
you turn into a slug.”
Judo and jujitsu rely more on feel unlike other
martial arts that are more visually oriented.
Because of this, Rendon can compensate for his
visual impairment with a heightened sense of feel.
Judo instructor Mitchell Palacio said Rendon’s
disability is actually the exact opposite of a
“He’s got an advantage because sight can be a
misnomer in judo,” Palacio said.
Rendon also said judo is unlike other sports and
that trust is an important factor.
“It’s not just all macho …” he said. “You have to
be able to trust the person who’s choking you, so
you can choke them.”
Rendon has been able to blend in without being
singled out for his disability — something he
feared would happen.
At City College, roughly 174 students have a
visual impairment, and about 938 suffer from other
health-related disabilities, including MS.
Palacio said most students didn’t even realize
Rendon was legally blind.
“He doesn’t encourage me anymore than anyone else
in the class,” Rendon said of Palacio. “He’s been
Although Rendon dealt with an extraordinary
setback three years ago, he now has a casual,
almost humorous outlook that was absent before
judo, yoga and swimming became a part of his
“It could always be worse,” he said. “I could not
be able to walk … so it’s not so bad.”
Blind Oceanside girl gets a kick
out of karate
student Chloe 'Sissy' Woodring, 5,
soars into the air held up by
instructors Tien Le and Jorge Lopez
during her Karate lesson Wednesday
at Shrin Ryu Karate in Oceanside.
Woronowicz/For the North County
Order a copy of this
Visit our Photo
---- Inside the Shorin Ryu Karate dojo in
Oceanside, Chloe Deremiah, 5, balanced on a
trampoline, kicked on command, expertly blocked
punches, and deftly handled her stick-like
On the other side of the studio, Chloe's mother,
Tina Woodring, sat holding her daughter's cane,
beaming with pride.
by far totally exceeded (my expectations)," said
instructor, Sensei Tina Le, agreed.
"Her focus is amazing," said Le.
Chloe, who earned her yellow belt in karate
earlier this month, was born with septo-optic
dysplasia, a birth defect that results in an
optic nerve that is too small in diameter for
light to get back to the brain.
In Chloe's case, she has been blind since birth,
something that does not seem to have stopped her
from enjoying life.
"She can do anything, basically," said Woodirng.
"I don't want her to have any limitations."
Woodring got the idea to sign Chloe up for
karate lessons when she saw a flier for karate
classes at the community center on Camp
"I wanted her to learn to defend herself," she
Woodring called around to several karate dojos
about enrolling Chloe in classes, but most dojos
said they couldn't teach Chloe or that it would
cost extra to train her.
"I think a lot of places don't want to be
bothered with a child like that," said Le.
Woodring took Chloe to one of the classes at
Camp Pendleton that was taught by Le and her
fellow Sensei Jorge Lopez, but the other
children were a distraction. Still, it was
obvious Chloe was enjoying herself, so Le
suggested that Woodring enroll Chloe in private,
one-on-one lessons at her Oceanside dojo.
In July, Chloe began her twice weekly lessons.
The first few lessons were difficult: Chloe had
a hard time staying focused and talked
throughout her lesson. Still, Le saw Chloe's
"I could see what she was capable of doing,"
Le said she was unsure at first how hands-on she
should be with Chloe.
"The first time I was guiding her around," said
Le. "Then her mom said, 'Just let her go.' I
learned fast that she can maneuver herself."
The first challenge, said Lopez, was gaining
Chloe's trust. Since Chloe took to Le right
away, she began training her. Now, both Lopez
and Le work with Chloe.
Woodring said she is amazed at how quickly Chloe
has taken to her instructors.
"It takes a lot for my daughter to trust
someone," she said. "She's taken to these two.
They're willing to go above and beyond to work
with her. They have a gift."
Le and Lopez work by teaching Chloe to rely and
react to her senses. When she hears or feels an
object, she will block it or push it away.
Le said Chloe has totally transformed in the two
months she has been working with her.
"There has been a noticeable change," said Le.
"She walks with more confidence. Her
coordination is much better. She is able to
focus. She's more mature now."
"Her attitude has changed," she said. "Her
behavior has changed. She listens better now.
Now she's more confident (and) she's not afraid
to try new things. Everyone's amazed."
Woodring recently retired from the Navy after
eight years of service and was considering
moving back East, but decided to stay in the
area so Chloe can continue her lessons with Le
"She's taken to this place," said Woodring. "I
can't move her."
Le said she and Lopez are hoping to start a
class just for students with disabilities.
Woodring said she would like to see that happen.
"I wish they would get more kids with
disabilities," she said. "These Senseis are
Woodring said she is grateful that they have
treated Chloe just like any other student.
"It gives her a half hour to be normal," she
said. "Just because someone has a disability
doesn't mean they can't do it."
Friday, January 14, 2005
Blindness no impairment to
By Ben Douglas
LIKE all karate students, Colin Dowling found
his promotion to brown belt difficult.
The pressure is immense, and to succeed requires
years of physical preparation, dedicated
training and mental fortitude.
To attain a brown belt is a fine achievement for
anyone, but for Colin it is even more
extraordinary, for Colin is totally blind.
"I gave it all I could," says Colin, who has
been training at Seido Karate in Five Dock for
the last three and a half years. "It was very
hard work," he says.
Seido is a traditional form of karate that means
'the sincere way.' It is a formal style that
remains close to the original Japanese Karate
Colin was the first student in Seido Karate Five
Dock's program for the visually impaired, and
trains three times per week with both visually
impaired and mainstream groups.
"They don't change much of the training for the
visually impaired," he says.
"The classes are kept as close as possible to
the normal groups."
During training, Colin's instructor Miklos
Farago, a black belt, shows Colin the various
movements and spars with him.
Colin has his own techniques for overcoming any
"I keep chucking out the jab, so I can keep
track of the distance between myself and my
partner," he says. "And then when I know where
he is, I can throw out a rip, or a hook, or try
a spinning kick."
Colin says karate is a based on development and
"Karate is a work in progress," he says. He
plans to continue building his own skills, with
the hope of one day becoming Australia's first
blind black belt.
"I'm in this for good, for the long journey," he
Turkish Daily News
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
impaired man learns aikido
ANKARA - Serkan
Samancýlar, 23, is visually impaired and
works at the
Ýzmir Public Library. Four years ago, after
thieves stole his mobile
phone, he started to learn aikido so he could
Aikido trainer Ömer Bükülmez
said Samancýlar has managed to learn all
the techniques despite his visual impairment and
was shocked by his
Samancýlar said, "Thieves can hurt
even defenseless people nowadays,
so I'm learning this sport to defend myself,"
adding that being
visually impaired did not have a negative effect
on his training. "The basis
of this sport is emotion, love and feeling.
Disabled people have all
three. People who thought I couldn't learn aikido
now say 'Wow!' when they
watch me training."
Samancýlar said aikido played a very
important role in his life and
not only made him strong but also enriched his
soul and a gave him a new
energy for life.
Bükülmez said Samancýlar
was his first visually impaired student and
was no different from any other. He said
Samancýlar was even more
successful than some other trainees. "Although he
can't see, he learned the
aikido moves with his strong sense of hearing. He
can immobilize any
attacker merely by hearing the voices. But more
important is that aikido
improved his way of thinking because it's not only
a sport but also a
philosophy and a lifestyle," he said.
Bükülmez also said he was
thinking of giving aikido lessons to the
visually impaired at his other training centers
and added, "I learned
many things from Serkan, and I want to say that if
somebody covered my
eyes I wouldn't be able to fight as well as he
Samancýlar has been working at the
library for five years and is
rewriting books in Braille for the blind.
Samancýlar is also a student at
Anadolu University's social sciences department
open education faculty.
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