Nicholas Hoekstra Abstract, July 2017 Conference

Teaching and Learning Inclusive Martial Arts: Perspectives from a Blind Martial Artist.


Many martial arts are steeped in long standing traditions, both within the individual dojo, club or gym and within the art as a whole. This is part of what makes martial arts so successful. The ability to travel across the world and join a judo, aikido or karate class without speaking the local language is comforting. The practitioner will understand the warm-ups, frequently know the proper way to sit or stand and will have an idea of the class’s format. Despite these benefits, long standing traditions within martial arts can also lead to exclusion. Silent demonstration of techniques, for example, puts persons with visual impairments at a huge disadvantage while rigid conformity to specific kata can prevent people with physical impairments from participating. Similarly, teaching a child with ADHD requires a creative approach to discipline within the class. In a world where ever more people with disabilities are realizing their dreams of participating in sports, instructors need to change their teaching methods or risk excluding a valuable group of martial artists. In this presentation, we will discuss strategies for making the dojo, club or gym more inclusive. At the heart of this effort is insuring that the martial art retains its value for the student. Inclusion does not simply mean allowing a person with disabilities onto the mat, but rather working within that person’s abilities to participate to the maximum possible extent. We will use personal experiences of a person with a disability who has been both a student and an instructor. In addition, we will discuss how inclusive education strategies can be applied to martial arts.




Nicholas Hoekstra received his black belt in Judo from the International Budo University in Katsuura, Japan, under the instruction of Katsuhiko Kashiwazaki Sensei and his black belt in Aikido from David Mata Sensei of the Kyosekan dojo, Birankai of North America. He also holds a blue belt in Brazilian Jiujitsu which he is actively training. Nick received a master’s degree in Education Policy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where his studies frocused on the inclusion of students with disabilities through the use of Universal Design for Learning. He served as the education adviser to the Minister of Knowledge and Human Talent of Ecuador from 2015-2016. Currently, Nick works with the World Intellectual Property Organization as the capacity building lead for the Accessible Books Consortium.