Thursday, June 29, 2006

In a bind over training

The Star Online, 15 june 2006

SEVERAL visually impaired judo practitioners are unhappy with the Malaysian Association of the Blind (MAB) for disrupting their martial arts class.

According to Steven Looi, 24, who holds a brown-belt, the MAB has asked the Selangor Judo Association (SJA), which trains him and his counterparts, to cease all training sessions.

This is because the MAB had made arrangements to replace the SJA instructors, who had been conducting classes there for the last six years, with trainers from the Malaysian Judo Federation (MJF).

“I am used to my current instructors and am afraid that I will lag behind if someone else takes over.

Connel (left) showing Mohd Hashim Muhamad, 30, a judo tackle.
“I remember attending a training session conducted by other trainers last year and was not able to learn anything,” said Looi.

Volunteer trainer Tobin Connel, who helps train Looi, said the blind had to be familiar with their trainers in order to benefit from training sessions.

He added that training the blind in martial arts was a specialised field, which required close physical rapport between students and instructors.

“Looi, for instance, has been training with the same instructor for several years and so he knows what to listen for and is comfortable touching him (the instructor) during training,” said Connel, who is a teacher with the Alice Smith School.

He added that Looi would have to start from scratch if new instructors were brought in.

SJA president Mohan Ramakrishnan concurred and added that MBA’s move was unfair given that his organisation had taken the trouble and initiative to promote judo among the blind.

“They had not done anything to promote judo among the blind, but now that we have the classes going they want to take over,” said Mohan.

“Changing instructors may also deter some of the girls from attending the training sessions, as both MJA trainers are male,” added Mohan.

“SJA secretary Susan Cheah is the only certified female judo trainer around and the girls are comfortable with her.

“I am certain they would be uncomfortable with male instructors,” he said.

When contacted MAB sports and recreation executive Muhammad Fairuz Abdullah said SJA’s training tenure was terminated because the Malaysian Paralympic Council (MPC) wanted to intensify the training sessions.

“The MPC has taken two new coaches from the MJF to train the blind to participate in the Asia-Pacific Games in November,” he added.

Muhammad Fairuz said the decision to change the instructors was also made based on the lacklustre performance of the current batch of blind judo exponents.

“We hope to upgrade the performance of existing visually impaired trainees as well as to encourage more blind people to take up judo,” said Muhammad Fairuz.

He added that Looi and his counterparts could come to him if they had problems training with the new trainers.

“We will do whatever is necessary to ensure that the training programme goes on well as it is both the MAB and MPC’s responsibilities to oversee all sporting activities for the blind,” said Muhammad Fairuz.

He also added that MAB was unhappy that SJA had been using its (MAB’s) facilities to train SJA association members.

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