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Practicing Aikido as a Blind

Aikido blind

Seeing is believing as many would believe but for Delano Brown, believing is not seeing. On an early Sunday afternoon in Montreal Canada in 2016, I met Delano Brown. At the time, Delao was 6th kyu and I watched surprisingly as he was being escorted to the bench after moving so fluidly on the mat. He was a gentle being and introduced himself kindly as being blind.

Connection is essential to Aikido, yet it’s not often talked about.  It’s difficult to define, and even harder to teach. Term “connection” in Aikido is often used interchangeably with “unity”. Both of them relate to Japanese words “Aiki” and “Musubi”.  They describe the quality of being in one’s body and interaction between partners that allows them to move together as one. Each time Delano connected with a partner, he shared a smile. Of the many aikido practitioners on the mat, he seemed to have the most enjoyment. No special weapons needed, only armed with his feelings.

Delano lost his eyesight in the 1990s. It was a gradual process that stemmed from a pencil injury when he was four. Since then, he had his left eye due to cataracts and then became completely blind. But before then, he saw Aikido on YouTube and was fascinated with the gentle yet powerful martial arts.

After searching for the right dojo, he came across Sensei Kali Hewitt-Blackie’s dojo, Region Park Aikikai. She was patient and provided him guidance. Since aikido involves feeling and blending with your partner, it was the perfect martial arts for Delano. Finding the right teacher makes all the difference. 

Kali Sensei, is affiliated with the United States Aikido Federation and holds the rank of Yondan (4th degree black belt), promoted by the technical committee of the USAF. Her aikido is inspired primarily by Harvey Konigsberg Shihan and Yumi Nakamura Shihan. Kali has trained diligently for over 25 years and has taught at Aikido Tendokai and Naka Ima in Toronto.  She is a lover of the art of aikido and believes in the transformative power of the practice to enrich our lives and make us more peaceful and loving.

I continued to be astounded at how we complain daily about our aches and pains while here was a willing practitioner who did not let his blindneess handicap him from learning. Too often, we take for granted what we have and it is refreshing to see someone do his very best despite his blindness. 

So as you read this article, I encourage all of us to stay present and recognize that we should remain grateful and humble at all times. Learn to connect with your partner and learn to feel. You don’t need your sight to believe. Trust your feelings.

Contributor: Charn Pennewaert

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