I, Sensei Mike Dunn launched Liverpool Karate-Jutsu in December 2010. In March, that year I had been awarded my “Shodan”, Black Belt in Freestyle Karate-Justu. I had restarted in martial arts at the age of 43, having previously trained in karate for 3 years, 25 years earlier. I also studied for and took an Instructors exam, so that I could start my own karate club.
I could not have done this without the support of my fiancée Christine, my own Sensei (Neco Bulut) and Andrew Morrell of the Cobra Martial Arts Association (CMAA).
Liverpool Karate-Jutsu’s primary Dojo is based at St Michaels Church Hall in Aigburth, Liverpool and is a community karate club that has always attracted great kids, teenagers and adults. The karate club was already well established when Stephen joined the karate club in June 2012.
Stephen has Usher Syndrome and is deaf and blind. He immediately became one of the keenest and most enthusiastic students at the club and I started to develop specific, specialist training for him. Within a short period, Stephen’s confidence and self-esteem had improved and he wanted to share his success with his blind and visually impaired peers…
In September 2012, Karate for the Blind and Visually Impaired was launched. Karate for the Blind and Visually Impaired was to be held at Bradbury Fields, a specialist centre that is familiar to many with a visual impairment. Stephen thought that a lack of confidence could prevent potential students from venturing out in an evening to the karate club and that familiar surroundings would be a solution.
There were only four of us at the first class, with Stephen being the only visually impaired student. We trained in the garden because it was a lovely warm, sunny evening. We soon attracted others in 2012, firstly Naomi and not long after a father (Adrian) brought along his visually impaired child (Chris), followed later by Mark.
Since June 2012, I had already started to adapt the usual syllabus for Stephen, ironically by adding techniques. I don’t think most Instructors or coaches would have anticipated that. I personally had to learn new techniques to teach my new blind and visually impaired students. I also started to develop some self-defence techniques using the White Cane, used by both Naomi and Stephen. I quickly noticed the changes in the new blind and visually impaired students: an improvement in balance and agility, moving amongst others without the need for assistance, becoming more aware of how to defend themselves and increased confidence. Listening to them all, the changes were much deeper. They all had new friends too.
Communicating to the blind and visually impaired community that there is a karate club in Liverpool that they can join has been my biggest challenge to date. Teaching them has been by far much easier. Although Karate for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Liverpool is steadily growing, the speed of the growth is frustrating. It is frustrating because we know that there will be a blind and / or visually impaired child, teenager or adult looking for an exciting activity like martial arts, but they don’t know that a karate club exists that they can join. I am in regular contact with the various blind and visually impaired support organisations in Liverpool, but they appear to have established priorities and although this may seem like a negative comment, I am not convinced they are taking us seriously.
As Liverpool Karate-Jutsu is community karate club, equality and diversity are important ethics to us all. The martial arts classes include mixed sessions of disabled and non-disabled together. Although this may not be appropriate for other activities and sports, for martial arts I consider this an essential part of a disabled person’s training. Most of the fully sighted students do not even realise that they are helping to train/teach the blind and visually impaired.