I’m a fitness coach based in New York City – my specialties are strength training, boxing, and Muay Thai. A yoga instructor introduced me to my first two visually impaired students.
Teaching blind students to box, at least for my own personal teaching style, isn’t too different. In some respects, it can be easier teaching someone who is a clean slate and doesn’t have as many preconceived notions.
My teaching method involves a lot of verbal cues. I often teach groups of 12 or more, many of whom are first-time boxers. If I physically demonstrate every move, it wrecks my joints by the end of the day; therefore I need to rely on ways to cue that don’t involve visuals.
I have my visually impaired students use their lead hand to identify a target, then engage. Also, I used Tae Kwon Do-style kicking targets often called “clappers.” I clap them together to cue by sound when it’s time to strike.
In the boxing training I taught some self-defense, including Muay Thai clinch work. We also do a technique referred to as a “technical get up,” essentially how to break fall, recover into a fighting stance and assume a defensive posture.
In this brief video, I’m using the TKD “clappers” with two blind trainees.
I only recently discovered Blind New World and I am glad to see that I was already doing a lot of the suggestions mentioned. For example, I typically describe the room we’re in, the number of people present and – once we’ve gone to the back studio – if someone enters the room, I acknowledge their presence and who they are. Also, during the first training session, I led the two gentleman to the different exits in the building, which might sound odd to someone who has never worked on ships or who hasn’t served in the military – but the goal was to give them some point of reference for escape if necessary in case of emergency.
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Mark Sayer is a New York City-based fitness coach. His specialties include strength training, boxing, and Muay Thai. He loves working with people that the mainstream fitness industry does not try to reach out to, including the visually impaired and paraplegics. To learn more, visit www.sayerfit.com or follow Mark on Facebook and Instagram.