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Blind people can learn and perform martial arts

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This was originally published on Quora on January 14 as Laura Hale’s answer to Can blind and/or deaf people still learn or perform martial arts?.


The above video is an advertisement for the 2015 IBSA European Judo Championships.  That part where they hold the person’s collar side?  That’s to orient the judoka in relation to where the other judoka is.

Blind people can and do participate in the martial arts as the judo example shows.  Not only can they do judo, they can excel at the sport.  They represent their country at the elite level, and often have access to the same facilities, training and funding as their fully sighted and fully hearing counterparts.  Judo is a great sport for people with vision impairments and hearing impairments.  This is because there are specific accommodations for having both that you do not necessarily find in other sports for people with vision impairments.  The skill level, even without vision, of some of these judoka is so good that they compete in competitions against sighted competitors. Myles Porter is one such judoka, who has also competed at the 2008 Paralympics and the 2012 Paralympics where he proudly represented the United States.

Howard Wilson in the middle. Image credit: Howard Wilson’s Facebook.
One judoka I think is worth knowing about is Howard Wilson.  I’ve written about him at American judoka Howard Wilson represents US at IBSA World Games in Seoul , so I am going to quote that to tell you more about him:
Wilson used to serve in the Marine Corps. He became partially visual impaired, while working for the Iraqi Campaign. His judo skills are based on military training as well as wrestling background that he had played at high school. He won a silver medal at the 2014 USA National Championships in Reno, Nevada. This remarkable achievement led him to represent his country at the 2014 IBSA Judo World Championships. “This has been a goal of mine for quite a while. As a Marine, it gives me great pride to have another opportunity to represent the United States, this time in a different capacity,” he said. Earlier 2015, he competed in the 2015 World Cup in . He is heading to Seoul for the IBSA World Games with the hope of qualifying for the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Judo is a popular sport for people with vision impairments if you haven’t already figured it out.  It also isn’t just men.
Monisha Sundaramoorthy. Image credit:2014 Asian Para Games Organizating Committee.
Monisha Sundaramoorthy is an Indian judoka. She has been ranked as high as 10th in the world in the women’s -52 kg event.  She could be higher but Indian politics and sports make it hard at times for Indians to make it on the highest level, especially in disability sports that are not cricket.  She won a bronze for her country at the 2014 Para Asian Games.
Go book your tickets now for the Rio 2016 Summer Paralympics and watch these awesome competitors live and in person.

Judo isn’t the only martial art available to people with vision impairments at the elite level. Para-Taekwondo is another martial art for people who cannot see.

You can see a demonstration of the sport above. World Taekwondo Federation has made a huge effort to increase participation of people with disabilities in the sport.  Vision impairment is one class of competitors that they have been working on encouraging.  When the sport makes its début at the 2020 Summer Paralympics in Tokyo , you can see them in action at the highest level in the world.  Seriously awesome.

Deafness? Not an issue.

There are a number of martial art disciplines supported by the Deaflympics include judo, Taekwondo and karate.
Taekwondo appeared on the 2009 and 2013 Deaflympics program.  Several countries had competitors in 2013 including Argentina, Chinese Taipei, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Indonesia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Korea, Latvia, Mexico, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Russian Federation, Turkey, Ukraine, United States, Uzbekistan, and Venezuela.  Judo was also on the program for 2009 and 2013.  Ditto Karate.
The Deaflympics may be viewed as less prestigious than the Paralympic Games but attitudes in some countries are rapidly changing. In Spain, they have access to all the same facilities, training and scholarships.  In Kazakhstan , a Deaflympic medal gets you a pension for life.
Like vision impaired people, deaf people can and do definitely participate in martial arts.  They do it at the highest level. They proudly represent their countries.
Games | Deaflympics 2017  will take place in Samsun, Turkey .   If you love martial arts, the best deaf competitors in three disciplines will be there.  You should be too.
Laura Hale
About Laura Hale (2569 Articles)
Laura Hale is a sport journalist, specializing in Paralympic and disability sport news. Prior to helping found ParaSport-News, she spent two and a half years working as a journalist on Wikinews, a citizen journalism site. As a journalist, she has covered the 2012 Summer Paralympics in London, the 2013 IPC Alpine Skiing World Championships in La Molina, the 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi, and a number of other sporting events. She has additional experience with Paralympic sport having worked as a Wikipedian in Residence for the Australian and Spanish Paralympic Committees. She has a PhD in Communications from the University of Canberra.

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