How this visually impaired Kerala youth earned karate black belt

Unnikrishnan
Unnikrishnan (R) now gives Karate training to many youngsters in his hometown.
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B Unnikrishnan, a youth hailing from Kollam, Kerala, is a big fan of Bruce Lee. Though he has only 30 per cent vision he has watched almost all the films of the legendary martial artist. He has always longed to be a martial artist himslef. When Unnikrishnan received good support from his father Babu, the blessings of his late mother from heaven and excellent training from coach Sakeer Hussain, he proved is mettle by becoming the first visually handicapped person in Kerala to earn a black belt in karate. His life is an example of successfully chasing a dream with the inner eye.

Unnikrishnan - Rukmini part 2

Unnikrishnan is now aged 23. He faced visual handicap since birth and lived a life of darkness. His mother Rukmini also had poor eyesight. Unnikrishnan was taken to various doctors for the treatment of his hereditary disease. Everyone they approached said that he had a genetic disease. The family decided not to pursue the matter further and bring up their son like any other child.

The parents, particularly Unnikrishnan’s mother, wanted him to be smart and self-sufficient. It was his mother who forced him to learn swimming even though the boy was afraid of water. Rukmini had excelled in sports events while a young girl and her traits of courage and determination were inherited by Unnikrishnan.

Rukmini taught several lessons of life to her son and they were very close. All people who knew both of them used to call Unnikrishnan ‘Rukmini part 2’. Soon the young boy became so confident that he even swam across the nearby backwaters as part of a challenge made with his friends. He was scolded severely by his mother for this. However, tears well up in Unnikrishnan’s eyes when he recalls the incident. Rukmini succumbed to cancer last year.

While a young boy Unnikrishnan had 100% visual deficiency and studied at School for the Blind in Varkala. The classes were based on Braille. Later, in High School, his vision improved slightly and Unnikrishnan was admitted to a regular school. Now the young man can see objects up to an arm’s length. However, the vision is not very clear. Even then Unnikrishnan secured a degree in History from D B College in Sasthamkotta.

Karate, a passion

It was while studying in class 10 that Unnikrishnan heard about Bruce Lee. At that time his vision had started improving. He watched many Bruce Lee movies and liked them all. He also began dreaming about doing what Bruce Lee performed on screen. The films inspired Unnikrishnan so much that he began practicing the actions of Bruce Lee.

“I received much support from my mother during those days. She gave me regular instructions during workouts,” the young man recalls.

His father also encouraged him, realizing Unnikrishnan’s dream of learning karate. Babu also approached many karate trainers to teach his son. However, the people he met initially expressed their inability to coach a visually handicapped person.

Sakeer Hussain, an angel

Along with his parents, Unnikrishnan considers another person as his guardian angel. He is the karate trainer Sakeer Hussain. “My trainer understands me, can read my mind and trusts me,” says Unnikrishnan.

Sakeer taught the youngster karate ignoring the visual handicap and displaying no false sympathy. The coach had decided that his trainee should undergo physical pain like any other student. Unnikrishnan agreed fully and obeyed such conditions.

Finally, the black belt

Unnikrishnan travels from his house at Mainagappally in Kollam to Karunagappally to learn karate. As he has eyesight of 30% he can reach the classes on his own. “Unnikrishnan became my favourite student after he was prepared to arrive for practice at any hour,” says Sakeer.

Now, when he is very busy, Sakeer entrusts Unnikrishnan with the task of coaching other youngsters. This has given Unnikrishnan much confidence and inspiration. It has provided him new energy too. At present, around 25 people learn karate from Unnikrishnan at Sakeer’s institution.

The brave youngster has opened another karate training centre at Mainagappally along with a friend. Several people learn karate here also. In addition, Unnikrishnan teaches karate moves to his young female relatives every evening.

No wonder, Unnikrishnan can be considered as a textbook example of how to overcome disabilities and succeed in life. All those who supported the young man in achieving his dream also need to be appreciated.

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