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Blind Training by Mark Hatmaker

There are so many examples of blind training, or blindfold training that the paltry examples below don’t even scratch the surface.

·        Blindfolded Chi Sao [“Sticky Hands”] training among Wing Chun practitioners.

·        Blindfolded disassembly and re-assembly of the M-16 by armed forces cadre.

·        Blindfolded judoka and jiu-jitsu practice.

·        Emperor Joseph I, challenging the young Mozart to play the violin with one-finger, and to play the clavichord with a cloth lain on top of the keyboard. [BTW-The young prodigy did both unerringly.]

And perhaps most intriguingly, to me, at least…

·        There was a “war game” engaged in by many American Indian tribes to prepare the young for all contingencies. The Comanche called the practice Pui Wha’i. Essentially, Pui Wha’i involves two warriors one blindfolded, the other sighted. They are to complete a long-run and series of obstacles with the sighted warrior calling instructions, but he may never give physical assistance, just vocal prompting. Once the course is complete the roles are reversed. [Imagine running a Spartan Race or Tough Mudder in this manner? I’d looove to experience that.]

Now, with all of these examples in mind there is a question to be asked, perhaps two questions.

The First-Does blindfold training really add something valuable to our skill set or is it simply a parlor game, or something the skilled athlete may engage in from time to time when he or she is bored with the same-o same-o?

Oh, I think blindfold training is easily of high utility.

Consider the case of the blind disassembly and re-assembly of the M-16. Experiencing a gun jam or other such mechanical malfunction in dead of night conditions where use of light allows an enemy to zero in on your location, the ability to skillfully clear the jam is of utmost value.

Blind training for the Wing-Chun practitioner, the judoka, the jiu-jitsuan and other martial arts where cohesion or “feel” is a prime skill seems also steeped in wisdom. In these cases, blindfold training forces the athlete to cut off the primary sense and begin processing a game about touch, feel, and balance with senses that might better be used for these attributes.

At the very least, blindfold training in these martial arts may allow the athlete to play the sighted game with new insight, so to speak.

In the case of Pui Wha’i, the sense of confidence, the well of fortitude, the accumulation of personal grit that comes from having run miles blind, crawled over and under obstructions having no knowledge of what is before you, above you, below you. Having climbed steep walls sightless, navigated balance obstacles while carrying a load all the while sightless repays in spades skills that will serve well in low-light or no-light battlefield conditions, or preserving oneself if an eye injury is sustained.

The second question we should ask, is when should this sort of training be introduced?

That is, is this something for the advanced athlete to add only once fundamentals have been engrained or is there value to introducing such training early?

I wager the earlier the better, here’s why.

We are not as slick as we think we are in most aspects of life. To prove that let’s take a skill we have already mastered [most of us], the bad-ass skill I refer to is walking.

We do it every day, long walks, short walks, fast walks, slow walks. We’re probably pretty good at it.

OK, all of us walking hot-shots out there. Stand up, close your eyes and go for a walk. Right now.

If you played along, how’d that go?

Did you match your sighted pace?

Did you exude the same confidence about destination and obstacle navigation?

No, of course not.

But hold on, this proves nothing. In most of the provided examples individuals were blindfolded during tactile tasks [Pui Wha’i being the exception] and standard walking is not tactile.

I wager that if you did the same blind-walking while feeling along a wall or rail our performance improves a bit.

But there is still something to be learned about blindfold training from a walking experiment.

Grab a partner and head outside for the following experiment cribbed from navigation experts.

·        Pick an open area with no obstructions.

·        Have your partner pace about 50 yards away from you.

·        Stare at them hard, then close your eyes and walk straight to them.

·        Your partner is only there to make a sound if you begin walking into traffic or some such fun.

·        Once you think you’re one yard from your partner open your eyes.

·        It is important that your partner never make a sound during this exercise.

If you are like most folks who experience this standard navigation eye-opener, you veered off course and wound up waaay short or a bit long from your target.


There is also a tendency for the right-handed to veer rightward, and the left-handed to veer leftward.

No big deal, right?

Well, according to navigation experts, this veer is a very big deal. Small deviations in our direction when sightless reveal a tendency that will remain when sighted.

When we hear stories of folks lost in the wilderness who are eventually found [dead or alive] often they have been wandering in wide circles without being aware of it. The experts tell us this natural veer is the culprit. Until we are made aware of it via experiment and learn to correct for it we can fall prey to the veer error with eyes wide open.

Now, we must assume that if we are susceptible to error with a skill as foundational as walking, an error only revealed with blind-training then it stands to reason that blind training may pay huge dividends in revealing shortcomings in other physical domains.

I heartily urge all martial artists and street-combative adherents to add a bit of blind training to your agenda from week one. Even if you are engaged in primarily striking, blindfolded shadow-boxing, blind-shadow kicking, blind-shadow-striking of all stripes, can reveal some mighty interesting tendencies in the human animal.

Sometimes to better see our mistakes, to better light our path forward, we need to go dark.
[For 60+ Sensory Deprivation Drills see our FVD The Outer Limits & the ESP RAW Program


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