Mark came to my school about two years ago wanting to study self-defense. He was twenty-four and finishing his physical therapy degree. He was also legally blind.
Since birth, Mark has only seen shadows and glimpses of movement, yet his disability has never slowed him down. Staying fit is important so he lifts weights daily. Mark is a highly motivated individual who sets goals for himself. He’s a strong guy with a strong mind. If he ever was attacked, he’d be a big problem for somebody.
His sense of humor always keeps the class in good spirits.
One time he came to class after an eye doctor’s appointment and announced to everyone, “Yep, still blind!”
Training Mark isn’t as difficult as one may think. He has an incredible sense of where he is and what he needs to do. Many times when training blind people, they rely on touch or for me to get close behind them and help them move. Ironically, Mark is able to visualize the patterns and techniques with little help.
We joke it’s all a lie. He has to be faking he’s blind because he’s too good at Tae Kwon-Do. One time he asked me if he could dismiss the class, which involves reading the attendance cards. I was taken off guard and took him seriously. I asked, “Are you serious?” He just laughed at me and said, “Of course not, I’m blind!” That’s Mark. His good nature really connects with the other students.
Mark does face challenges. Sparring is difficult when you can’t tell who or what is coming at you. He sets up in a general or preventative defense, which, compared to someone who can see their attacker might defend differently. Yet, Mark’s other senses are sharper than most peoples. His ability to react to movement and sounds are much tighter than a person with sight.
He’s currently a red belt and an instructor in training at our school. As he continues his path to black belt, he’ll be the first to tell you how Tae Kwon-Do has given him greater self-esteem and the confidence to do anything he sets his mind to.
This post is part of a series highlighting the many wonderful students that practice Tae Kwon-Do at Master Gorino’s Tae Kwon-Do School in Amherst, NY.