Monday, September 26, 2011

Speech at Applied Psychology Seminar; Nagano

On September 11th, I was invited to a seminar in Nagano, Japan, to speak about my reasons for studying the martial arts. Though the seminar covered various topics over the course of the weekend, Sunday was devoted to the topic of "disability sports". Since I am a foreigner with a disability who has altered the course of his life to pursue the practice of Budo, Kokushikan's Nakajima Sensei invited me to give a short talk. Below I have included my speech in both Japanese and English. My Japanese is by no means fluent, so there are some errors both with kanji and grammar.

フクストラ、ニコラスと申します 今日は、自分の武道、合気道や柔道などを









Good morning;

My name is Nicholas Hoekstra. Today, I’d like to speak about the reasons I am doing budo; Aikido and Judo. But first, let me introduce myself.

I am from Michigan in the United States. I’m 27 years old. Twenty years ago, at the age of seven, I began to have migraines and became seriously ill. Though doctors performed several tests, four months passed without the source of my migraines being discovered. Finally, a tumor was found behind my optic nerves. Three surgeries saved my life, but my optic nerves were already seriously damaged. From the time of the third surgery I was left completely blind.

My entire life changed in an instant. I had to learn ways of doing everything; from learning to read Braille to learning how to walk with a cane, I had to begin from zero. On top of this, medicines had left me very overweight and the time spent in the hospital had left my body very weak. My self confidence was gone. Both mental and physical health are closely connected, however, and when I entered high school I wanted to begin playing sports.

Originally, I wrestled during the four years of high school. However, when I entered University I became very busy with classes. I could not continue with a sport as demanding as wrestling. I wanted to continue doing something, though.
In my freshman year of University I tried Aikido for the first time. Since then, I have not stopped practicing budo. Three years ago, when I came to Japan, I also began practicing Judo.

There are many reasons to practice budo. For one, in my case, through the practice of budo I was able to rebuild my self esteem. When you do Aikido or Judo it does not matter whether or not you have a perceived disability. Every person has their strong points and their weak points. One is able to use their strength to fortify and improve upon their weaknesses. Although I am unable to see, I depend upon my other four senses. In the case of budo, the sense of touch is especially important. In Aikido, one guides their partner to take a fall. In the case of Judo, one feels the movements of their partner and attempts a throw.

Another reason for which I do budo is that, when I first started Aikido, the purpose of training was that everyone work together to improve their skills. Two people together work to perform a technique. In the case of Judo, of course someone wins and someone loses. However, in the Kitakyushu dojo where I first began training Judo, people helped each other to make better throws.

For these two reasons I practice budo: for the purpose of building my self confidence and the fact that people work together to develop better skills.

Thank you very much.

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