The words “Martial Arts” can conjure any number of images, depending on your personal experience. It may bring to mind two fighters squaring off against each other in a cage, ready to battle. You may think back to classic movie scenes of Bruce Lee or Chuck Norris, or cartoons featuring nunchuck-wielding turtles. Unless you have direct personal experience, you may question what value there is in learning a martial art. You may even wonder if it’s possible for someone with limited or no eyesight to practice martial arts at all.
I’ve been fascinated with martial arts for as long as I can remember. Before I lost my eyesight in my sophomore year of high school, I was told I couldn’t practice martial arts because of the risk of losing my eyesight. After I had no sight to lose, I began dabbling in a few different arts until I started training in earnest at the age of 25. I now teach martial arts as a profession.
So yes, it is possible for someone who has no eyesight to train in martial arts.
There are often few opportunities for blind or vision impaired people to compete on even terms with our sighted peers. Martial arts can be an opportunity for competition. Grappling based martial arts such as wrestling, Judo, and Jiu Jitsu, are the most logical options for competition due to the tactile nature of these arts. Totally blind competitors are sometimes more susceptible to foot sweeps, but this can be overcome with sensitivity training. One other avenue for competition is through kata, or forms. A kata is a series of movements demonstrated in a specific sequence, typically by a single individual. Scores are awarded by a panel of judges.
However, competition is just one aspect of martial arts training. One of the more significant benefits I have gained from practicing martial arts is my ability to walk in a straight line. Before I began practicing martial arts regularly, I would frequently weave back and forth on a sidewalk. Crossing streets was an especially scary prospect for me. It didn’t happen overnight, but I found myself able to walk with more confidence and consistency. I no longer walk by Braille, bouncing back and forth between parking meters and storefronts.
Guardian Kempo, the art I teach, is about creating or restoring peace.
Many people are concerned with risk of injury. Remember, there is risk with anything – but having said that, the art, school, and instructor you choose makes a lot of difference. If you’re training intensely for competition against another person, your chances of getting injured are probably a little higher. If you are training for personal development, slow deliberate practice is probably the safest with much less risk of injury. You do not have to walk the hard road to become a professional fighter just because you decide to practice martial arts.
Another aspect of practicing martial arts that is less obvious is action philosophy. Every art has a philosophy connected to it, even if that philosophy is not explicitly taught. For example, Jiu Jitsu teaches to strive for maximum efficiency with minimum effort. Muay Thai teaches practitioners to respond quickly and decisively. Guardian Kempo, the art I teach, is about creating or restoring peace. As you familiarize yourself with an art, you can determine how you can use the philosophy it embodies to become the person you want to be more effective.
Martial arts practice is beneficial for almost everyone, regardless of any disability or health concern you may have. If you determine what you want to gain by practicing martial arts, you can make a more informed decision.
If you are more interested in the meditative aspects, you might decide to explore Tai Chi or Chi Gung. If you are interested in competition against another opponent, you might choose Jiu Jitsu or Judo. If you want to explore multiple aspects of martial arts practice simultaneously, Jeet Kune Do might be a better option for you.
The possibilities are endless.
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