[fcb-l] FW: [acb-l] Mass. schools for blind gear up for fencing match
pedwards at mdc.edu
Mon Mar 29 18:11:17 GMT 2010
From: acb-l-bounces at acb.org [mailto:acb-l-bounces at acb.org] On Behalf Of Kim Lookingbill
Sent: Monday, March 29, 2010 4:55 AM
To: acb-l at acb.org
Subject: [acb-l] Mass. schools for blind gear up for fencing match
Mass. schools for blind gear up for fencing match
March 28, 2010 - 2:07pm
By MARK PRATT
Associated Press Writer
WATERTOWN, Mass. (AP) - Cory Kadlik has never let being blind stop him from
golfing, skating, learning martial arts or riding a dirt bike. He had his
doubts when it came to fencing.
"I never even knew this was possible," said Kadlik, 19, of Medway as epees
clanged, his teammates whooped in triumph, and coaches barked out
instructions in the gym of Perkins School for the Blind.
"I'm on Twitter, and I mentioned to my followers and friends that I was
going to be in a fencing tournament and I had ten replies saying 'Blind
people can fence? Really? No way!' Yeah, anything is possible."
Kadlik duels Monday in what's being billed as a first-of-its kind match
between students at schools for the blind _ Perkins and The Carroll Center
for the Blind in nearby Newton.
The match was the brainchild of Perkins fencing instructor Cesar Morales,
founder of the International Fencing Club in suburban Boston and also a
teacher at the Newton school. Morales said the students got bored fencing
against the same people week after week and needed outside challenges.
Fencing teaches the balance, agility, mobility, timing, listening and
navigational skills that the blind need to make their way in the
sight-oriented world, said Peggy Balmaseda, a physical education teacher at
Perkins for 25 years.
"This helps with orientation," said Kadlik, who lives on his own in an
apartment on the Perkins Watertown campus. "When you're walking along, and
you come to a crosswalk, you need to stay in a straight line to cross the
street, and learning to stay straight in fencing reinforces that feeling."
The Carroll Center has been teaching fencing to its students for exactly
those reasons since 1954, said vice president Arthur O'Neill. But to his
knowledge, this is the first time there has been a fencing match with
About a half-dozen students from each school will compete.
Any kind of physical activity benefits the blind and visually impaired, said
Mark Lucas, executive director of the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes
based in Colorado Springs, Colo.
The organization oversees competition for the blind in sports including
cycling, swimming, skiing, and judo, but Lucas said he's never heard of a
fencing tournament for the blind, perhaps because it takes so much hand-eye
"This sounds like a wonderful opportunity," he said.
Blind and visually impaired people who participate in sports tend to be more
competitive and higher achievers, Lucas said.
"The unemployment rate for the blind nationwide is something like 70
percent, but we surveyed our members and found that it's more like 30
percent for those involved with sports," he said.
For the Perkins fencers, fencing is just plain fun and proves that the blind
can do anything the sighted can.
"I'm not limited by the way I am," said Perkins student Sam Robson, 17, of
Westport, Conn., who also wrestles, swims and runs track. He said he's lived
his life facing skepticism about his abilities.
"Don't tell me I can't walk across the street by myself," he said. "I can do
that. Don't tell me I can't fence. I can do that. I think it's a big
statement that can show people we are not afraid."
Minh Farrow, 21, the only woman on the Perkins team, said she was inspired
to try fencing by her younger brother. "I just do it because it's fun," she
There are no special rules and no greater risk of injury for the blind
students, Morales said. They wear the same protective jackets and headgear
as sighted fencers. They start with their weapons touching, then fence on
command from the officials, just like a fencing bout for the sighted. There
are no verbal cues from coaches, and they use the same electronic scoring
devices that buzz and light up when a fencer touches the tip of their weapon
to their opponent's torso or head.
To keep the blind fencers oriented, Morales uses a rectangular carpet much
like the "strip" sighted fencers use.
Kadlik, blind since birth, uses his other senses to judge the movements and
distance to his opponent. He listens for their movements, feeling the
vibrations of their footsteps through the carpet.
"You can feel the guy step, you know which way he's stepping, and as long as
you follow his blade, you are in good shape," he said.
Even administrators at the school are getting into it. Perkins President
Steven Rothstein has a friendly lunch wager with his counterpart, Michael
Festa, at the Carroll Center.
"We take our competition very seriously here at Perkins."
On the Web: Perkins School, http://www.perkins.org/
Carroll Center, http://www.carroll.org/
U.S. Association of Blind Athletes, http://www.usaba.org
International Fencing Club, http://internationalfencingclub.com
seadolphink at comcast.net
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