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Blindness no obstacle to learning karate

Iranian tutor teaches youngsters how to overcome their handicap

Gulf News

Dubai: Saeediyan Ali Abkar Salman is blind. He doesn’t mind it though. A constant was smile spread across the face of this karateka from Iran as he went about his tasks during the course of the 2nd Dubai International Karate Championships that concluded at the Al Ahli Club last week.

Nobody would have known Salman is blind. There was nothing unusual about him — it was only after the pleasant-looking Babak Rad Kermani, who was seated next to his student, informed me that I became aware of it. Born blind, Salman is one of the few hand-picked students who train under Kermani at his make-do gymnasium in Tehran.

In fact, Kermani personally funds his trainees and at one time had a group of more than 30 blind students who wanted to master the art. However, over a period of time and considering the rising costs of paying for such a huge group from his own pocket, Kermani was forced to cut down the number of trainees to a mere five.

This is where the story got interesting as Kermani went on to narrate his passion for karate. The coach started practising the martial art when he was just eight years old. After those initial years of hard work, Kermani was good enough to make it to the Iranian national team. Everything seemed to be headed in the right direction for the young and enthusiastic boy.

Times in Iran then were not exactly as comfortable as they are at present. But young Kermani gave it his all and continued his dedicated pursuit of karate, mostly practising in the dark due to the constant power outages caused by the country’s war with neighbouring Iraq.

And then one day something snapped within the young man and it struck him that perhaps his calling lay in teaching the blind. And so it was, Kermani blindfolded himself for a full year in an attempt to get a feel of what it means to be blind. He did everything with a blindfold on — it was only after this stern test that he decided to impart the art to blind students.

Today, Kermani may not have the bragging rights of winning medals at international level at competitions across the world. But he can be proud of the way he has earned respect from fellow officials, students and coaches. Each and every one speaks about him with a certain awe.

But the 38-year-old coach is unfazed. “I just want to give something back to the sport that has taught me so much,” he said. Meeting him was a truly humbling experience indeed.