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Self-defense workshop focuses on the visually impaired

When Dan Chomycia was a bouncer in Washington state a decade ago, a physical encounter with a drunk patron that left him temporarily blind.

Chomycia was attempting to remove the man from the business when he was struck in the face.

He was, literally, blindsided.

“It was time for the patron to leave because he was threatening the life of another patron,” he said. “When it was time for me to grab him and put him outside the door, his right hand struck me in the eye and both eyes clamped shut. I had to finish the altercation without being able to see. Luckily, I didn’t have far to go, but I was able to get him on the other side of the door.”

Chomycia, who has 20 years of martial arts training and experience, said it was that altercation that inspired him to create a self-defense class for the blind.

His company is BlindSelfDefense.com.

As he began researching the subject, he contacted an organization called World Access for the Blind and soon learned about the methods used to help the blind.

“These are the people who do the echolocation and navigate with tongue clicks and they use their canes also,” he said. “I studied with them and they taught me sound localization, which is basically being able to find an object based upon the sound that comes out of it.”

After learning the basics of the science, Chomycia thought he could apply it for purposes of self-defense.

“I thought, what if I could teach a blind person to perform a strike, using sound localization, from a no-contact range. That means they don’t have their hands on them and the only thing they have to go on is the sound of their voice.”

To achieve his goal, Chomycia tried a couple of different methods, such as embedding an electronic sound-making device inside what’s known as focus mitts.

Focus mitts are used by sparring partners for boxers in training.

Though the embedded device did not work as desired, Chomycia and his blindfolded partner stumbled onto something more effective.

“My partner told me he could hear the zipper clicking on the focus mitts,” he said. “I made him do it again and I started shaking the zipper and he was hitting it almost every single time. That’s the part where I figured out electronic sounds don’t work because you would need more of an organic type of sound which are sounds that are more natural.”

After brainstorming that method, Chomycia took it one step further.

“I was also told that baby rattles are easy to localize,” he said. “I embedded some rattling materials inside the focus mitt and we were pretty much off to the races at that point. We shake them and as soon as we can hear it and figure out where it is, we can hit the mitts right away with confidence and power. It’s pretty awesome.”

A study by the U.S. Department of Justice cites people with disabilities, especially the blind, commonly fall victim to crime each year.

Chomycia believes his creation can help to prevent an assault on the visually impaired.

“This can be effective, I truly believe that,” he said. “In the beginning of any fight or altercation, there is the first strike and usually the first strike is done by the bad guy to gain the advantage. If you can tell that a fight is imminent, or in other words, the bad guy says or does something that makes you fear for your life, there’s no reason for you to wait if you know the fight is imminent and you’re sure it’s going to happen.”

On Tuesday at the Pahrump Senior Center, Chomycia demonstrated how the blind can defend themselves during an assault.

He’ll hold two classes at the site on Feb.18th and 25th from 1-to-3 p.m. until he opens a regular gym later this year.

“We have been working on this for about 6 months, so it’s very new,” he said. “Being the spirited individuals that we are, we have tested it out in real-world circumstances. We would go up to each other, where one person would have the blindfold on and the other guy would have head gear on and we would walk up to each other and say some words where we could line up the strike and it worked.”

Additionally, Chomycia said those who have limited mobility can also learn the self-defense technique.

“Other people might be in wheelchairs so that will change things a little bit where they may not be able to reach the offender’s head,” he said. “We teach ways to create a map of the body, where if you figure out where the head is, you kind of understand in general where the rest of the body is. If you have the right trajectory, you should be able to form some kind of a strike.”

Chomycia plans to open a gym in town, but he want to familiarize people with a series of workshops.

“The Pahrump Senior Center has graciously allowed us to run classes out of their facility, so this initial workshop is designed to engage people first and to get people signed up for classes so we can get people trained and get things ready to go. Probably in a month or two, the gym will be ready and we will move over to the gym.”

All participants are required to sign a waiver if they want to take part in the free workshop.

To sign up, or for additional information call 775 727-5008 Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Contact reporter Selwyn Harris at sharris@pvtimes.com

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