This week must be the time of trying new things because not only have I travelled on the Scottish sleeper for the first time on my own I also went to my first kick boxing and karate classes last night.

After a conversation with Lucy Hodges, the Commodore of Blind Sailing UK about her love for martial arts, she introduced me to Shin Gi Tai Martial Arts Academy in Basingstoke.

I never thought I’d be able to even try kick boxing or karate let alone begin to learn the basic moves and enjoy the learning process.

I went along with Pip my support worker to the academy and knowing me as she does, she was a reassurance when I gave her that look of what am I doing here?  Those feelings that everyone gets, can I do this, am I going to look like an absolute idiot trying this and will I slow the rest of the class down soon vanished.  Both coaches Mandi and Linzy instantly welcomed me into the kick boxing class and their inclusive approach was perfect for me.

Mandi and I began by having a chat about my abilities, how they’d be learning as well as myself about how best to teach me and what I can and cannot see.

The first activity the class did involved learning how to punch properly.  This is something I need to practice.  When we worked in pairs, I worked with one of the coaches, with inclusive thinking, detailed instructions and demonstrations (placing my hands on her arm and moving my arms in to the position of how I needed to hold them) I started to understand the basics.    We then moved on to using the punch pads, she moved my arm to the position of the pad only once or twice and I started punching with a surprising level of accuracy.  I thought, if Mandi is an accomplished martial arts coach and she is a wheelchair user then why can’t I try this for myself, I just can’t see what I’m meant to be doing.

Before I knew it we’d moved on to using the kick bags – what, no way?  Linzy showed us what to do and then we paired up.  She started by getting me to stand on one leg to make sure I had good balance.  I tried kicking the bag and ended up having to move back a little further for me to put more power in to it.  I found the kicking element harder.  This is because I’m stood at a distance and can’t pick up a shadow of the bag compared to using the punch pads or when we began trying karate, I could see some movement of the coach’s hand in front of my face at a very close range.

The kick boxing session ended with a game of sock tag.  If we took part, we had to lie side by side with your head next to an opponent’s feet.  You’ve got it; the aim of the game is to remove the other persons socks without cheating.  Of course, my opponent had to be Pip and I was victorious! J

If I look back at my attempts at doing sport as a child and look at how much I’ve progressed in the last few years with sailing I am just a different person.  I know everyone grows up but I am much better at balance, coordination and feel that my self confidence has improved although I still have a long way to go with this.  I’m going to use martial arts as part of my training routine for sailing and know that this alongside the time I spend training in the gym and at home will help me eventually reach my goal of representing Blind Sailing GB in a world championship.

I know that the kickboxing class ended with a bit of silliness but both sessions were structured in such a way that you built on your self-confidence, had fun and learnt at the same time.  I never thought I’d be able to try something like these two activities but after just one trial session I’ve signed up to the kick boxing classes and haven’t said no to karate just yet.  All I needed was encouragement and to find an inclusive club who are prepared to learn with me.  For this, I am thankful for the recommendation from Lucy, the smile from Pip when I nearly left the session before I’d tried it and the patience from two expert trainers.

W: https://basingstokekarate.com/

F: @shingitaimartialartsacademy

T: @shintaima

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