View Full Version : Training a Blind Aikidoka?

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03-13-2003, 08:05 PM
I was wondering if anyone here has had this experience before and wouldn't mind satisfying my curiousity on the matter. While I was training under my first sensei, about 2-3 years ago, I had been working for a blind entrepreneur for some time and through this experience. During this time, I was exposed to a lot of the issues in regards to adapting "sighted" tasks and giving intuitive and descriptive direction to someone who was unable to see and thus was not able to learn from a visually-demonstrative presentation of information.

At the time, when I asked my first sensei how he would theoretically teach someone who was blind, he responded with a gruff and insensitive, "How could I?" And implied that it simply could not be done; an answer which I was not satisfied with, and needless to say (for many reasons aside from this) I am no longer training with him.

I recently read a new article at the Aikido FAQ page which was written from the perspective of a visually-impaired aikidoka, but was wondering if any instructors out there would be able to indulge my curiousity and answer this challenge with some of their own intuitive teaching techniques or theories on how they do (or would) teach in this situation.

Thanks in advance!

Paul Klembeck
03-13-2003, 10:16 PM
There was a blind aikidoka who I met the last time I attended the Santa Cruz summer retreat, about 4 years ago. I don't remember what dojo he was from, but Linda Holiday (North Bay Aikido) may be able to tell you.

I can say that he did have reasonable skills for his experience level. It was necessary for his ukes to explain some things they saw in the teachers, but he seemed to pick them up. The other difference was that ukes had to be careful to communicate where it was safe to throw.

Paul Klembeck

03-14-2003, 04:20 AM
We have a blind aikidoka in our dojo. He started to practice ukemi alot on his own with the aid of a senior. After that he could train without problem. He tells me that it is better for him to adapt and find solutions of problems (which he will do anyway) than for an instructor to try to figure it out. He will tell you as a partner what he needs you to do.

Be consistent how you train with him/her (a good advice in general for that matter). He will e.g. use the lines created by the mats to orient himself.

The uke more then the instructor will be the instructor in the beginning. Therefore it's best for him/her to train with sempais or senior students in the beginning, so that he can internalize correct movements.

Work it out as it comes. Don't worry so much, comparetively the hard work will always be on the blind person, not on you.

kung fu hamster
03-14-2003, 09:31 AM
This is really kind of an inspiring topic. I was talking to a shodan before about what I was getting out of aikido and I said that so far I seem to be finding out my limitations. He sternly told me that I was missing the point, aikido is about transcending/overcoming my 'limitations'. We do exercises sometimes where we stand in the middle of a circle of people and have to intuit where an attack is coming from (if I remember correctly, ukes attack one at a time in ryokatadori, with a pause inbetween attacks). I think the nage just turns toward the attacker and takes a stance, but I suppose they could go further and deal with the attack in some way. This helps build that 360 degree awareness. I'm sure other exercises exist or can be developed to help blind people effectively improve their aikido, I am fairly new at aikido myself and admit I haven't seen everything under the sun. But since awareness and paying attention is said to be 99% of a martial art, any practice geared toward this end is bound to be helpful in everyday life as well as on the mat.


kung fu hamster
03-14-2003, 09:54 AM
Ooops, forgot, I think we did deal with 360 attacks with our eyes closed, by 'sweeping' uke away (hands up as if blocking) in the manner of ude furi undo. I can't remember but I think this was a pre-randori exercise.

Roger C. Marks
03-14-2003, 11:51 AM
I have had experience of teaching visually impaired people Judo and I have to say that I found this easier than teaching people with hearing impairment, probably because I verbalise to much. Judo is that little bit different to Aikido in that there is a lot of contact and even in competition it is possible to run integrated sighted/non-sighted events with slight modification to the rules. I accept that Atemiwaza can be a tad problematical for the non-sighted but Judo students do not, except in a few kata, use Atemi. Has any Aikido student come across a blind sensei? I have witnessed this in a Judo context and I found this inspirational and it altered my perception of what an individual can and should be allowed to achieve. A person with a disability is not a disabled person.

03-14-2003, 01:14 PM
I have not seen a blind aikido instructor. However, when I first started aikido back in 1973/4 I trained in a Ki Society dojo in California with Masao Shoji sensei. He had a female brown belt (Pam) at that time.

03-14-2003, 10:58 PM
Thanks to everyone so far who've shared their experiences! I certainly do agree with Roger that
A person with a disability is not a disabled person.
A lot of the students mentioned by posters remind me a lot of my blind former boss who has also always had an excellent memory for detail, and is always well aware of things spatially. He loves to tell stories about when he was younger, how he used to be able to quite accurately determine the distance between him and something else (such as a wall) from how his voice and other noises around him sounded as they were deflected off the object.

In addition, he (through much hardship and experience, I might add, as he has been blind from birth and is now 55 years of age) is quite fearless and has no qualms about defending himself if need be. A favourite story of his is from back when he was in his twenties and still had a white cane. (These days, he has a guide dog, but that yellow lab is such a suck, she'd maybe lick you to death.) :D

In any case, it happened that one night while walking down the street, two men actually tried to mug him...unsuccessfully. He led them down a ways into a dark alley to even the score slightly, and when one of them tried to grab at him, he simply wouldn't let his assailant go and proceeded to continually hit him and kick him until he had the guy right down on the ground. Well, at this point, the second assailant must have realized that they had picked on the wrong blind man, and took off.

How's that for an inspirational story? ;)

Lan Powers
03-17-2003, 10:04 PM
Cool story!!

Made me grin till I felt stupid. :)


03-17-2003, 11:04 PM
He led them down a ways into a dark alley
How did a blind guy know that the alley was dark?

03-18-2003, 03:01 PM
How did a blind guy know that the alley was dark?
Because at the time, it was late at night. :D (I thought I mentioned that...)