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Blind Zen

Stories About Blind Martial Artists

Articles & Stories About the Blind and Martial Arts

Do you have a story about martial arts and the visually impaired?
Feel free to write me and I will be happy to post your stories and articles that can help inspire everyone interested in martial arts.

Latest Articles:

Redondo Beach Jui-Jitsu instructors say blind students pick up things
faster than sighted peers

Ian Rose Wants to Fight the World

Blind Fighter Teaches Mixed Martial Arts

Disability Doesn't Halt Judo Progress

The Boy Who Sees With Sound

List of articles

Blind Camp Verde Teen to Earn Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do

How Blind Girl Beat Bullies to Black Belt

Blind Man gets Black Belt in Judo

The Art of Seeing Without Sight

Blind women praise self-defense class

Loss of Vision  Leads to Heightened Senses in Judo

Blind Oceanside girl gets a kick out of karate

Blindness no impairment to Karate Student

Visually impaired man learns aikido

Redondo Beach Jui-Jitsu instructors say blind students pick up things
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 do.

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 Carson resident.

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 ground.

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
teach them."

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 rafting.

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."

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Ian 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 USA.

The Great Britain judo star was competing in the Northglenn Judo
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 warm-up event.

"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 achieving things.

"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 involved with.

"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

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Blind fighter teaches mixed martial arts
WKYT. Kentucky
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, only legally.

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
women-only program.

"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 teach effectively."

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, Keaton teaches
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
at Energy.

"It's pushing fitness, its the best of both worlds," he said.

It also teaches students more than how to kick and grapple.

"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 29.

Information from: The News-Enterprise,

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Disability Doesn't Halt Judo Progress

At a judo class on Sioux City's north side, Darcie Boyok looks just like everyone else.

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 standing position.

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 difference.

Listening you hear a classmate on the other side of the room calling, "This way, Darcie. This way, Darcie."

The classmate is calling to Boyok because Boyok is blind.

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 hard work!"

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 could be."

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 student.

"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 teach him.

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 regular class.

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 sight."

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 her vision.

"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, too.

"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 balloon.

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 no fear."

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The Boy Who Sees with Sound
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 wants to."

Ben 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 overdo it."

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 fearless."

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 anytime."

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

See the Video,26334,1212568_1,00.html

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Blind Camp Verde Teen to Earn Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do

Verde Independent, Arizona USA
Saturday, May 20, 2006
photo of blind student practicing martial arts
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 
(Age 14). 

"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 event.

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 black belt

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 flight.

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," said Maxine.

Her mum Val also encouraged Maxine's elder brother and two sisters to
'rough and tumble' with her to encourage her to fight back.

"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 visually impaired
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 and International
European Blind Judo Championships and became British Champion.

Five months before her first Paralympics in Athens she severely damaged
her leg. But against all odds she fought back to finish fifth.

"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 and brother-in-law
Denzil drive her all over the country to train and compete.

"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
German Shepherd!

"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 thrown about.

"And because I'm blind they can't text me anything they'd not want
someone else to read - the same goes for e-mails.

"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

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KULR-TV, Billings Montana USA
Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Blind Man Gets Black Belt in Judo

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 that."

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 mat."

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 10am.

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The Art of Seeing Without Sight

29 January 2005
From New Scientist Print Edition.
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 everyone tittering.

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.

He 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 in wonder.

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.

We 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 visually.

Conventional wisdom 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."

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Blind women praise self-defense class

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 useful.

"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 sight-impaired women.

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 lying down.

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 assault prevention."

The program 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 self-esteem.

"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 spot.

"It's rather a different viewpoint of martial arts than what you see in the movies," she said, laughing.

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Rendon says judo and jujitsu have helped him regain balance.


George 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 walk.

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 participant.

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 poppycock.

“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 handicap.

“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 pretty even-handed.”

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 routine.

“It could always be worse,” he said. “I could not be able to walk … so it’s not so bad.”


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Blind Oceanside girl gets a kick out of karate


Photo of blind student Chloe

    Blind 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.
    J. Kat Woronowicz/For the North County Times
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OCEANSIDE ---- 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 weapons.

On the other side of the studio, Chloe's mother, Tina Woodring, sat holding her daughter's cane, beaming with pride.

"She's by far totally exceeded (my expectations)," said Woodring.

Chloe's 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 Pendleton.

"I wanted her to learn to defend herself," she said.

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 potential.

"I could see what she was capable of doing," said Le.

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."

Woodring agreed.

"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 and Lopez.

"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 awesome."

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."

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Village Voice, Australia
Friday, January 14, 2005

Blindness no impairment to Karate Student

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 traditions.

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 disadvantage.

"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 learning.

"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 says.

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Turkish Daily News
Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Visually 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 protect himself.

  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 does."

  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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