Prior to losing the last of my sight to Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) in 2000, I began to use a blind person's cane, which I named "Charlie" (as in "Good-time Charlie"). Soon after completing orientation and mobility (O&M) training with the cane, I began to practice my new skills by going for walks with Charlie in my neighborhood.
One day, after turning a corner onto a quiet, unpeopled side street, I became aware of footsteps behind me. I halted, and so did the footsteps. When I began to walk again, alternately slowing and speeding up my pace, I decided the person behind me might be following with nefarious intentions. After all, a petite woman using a blind person's cane must look like an easy target for a mugger or worse.
Because my peripheral vision was severely limited, I turned my head so I could scan my surroundings and confirmed that there were no signs of people or traffic. So, when I reached an intersection, I stopped at the curb, raised Charlie to a horizontal position across my chest and, gripping each end of the cane with one hand, I pivoted to face the person behind me.
When I saw the young man slam to a stop, eyes skittering about as though to determine whether or not anyone was observing us, I spread my feet apart in a confrontational stance.
I knew my potential stalker could not be sure about my lack of sight because my eyes were hidden by a large sun hat and dark sunglasses. I increased my assertive posture and continued to stare right at him.
His expression turned uneasy, as though suddenly wary of whether or not I could see him. Abruptly, he shot across the street nearest him, and continued to run until he disappeared from view.
Whether or not he had actually been following me was not the important lesson I learned from this incident. No, the important lesson was that I was now vulnerable to aggressive behavior from others because the blind person's cane I needed to safely navigate terrain I could no longer see, communicated a "potential victim" alert.
Well, I was going to make sure that this signal would, in the future, prove false.
What I did as a result of this decision is included in a three-part article I wrote, "Achieve Self-Empowerment through Martial Arts." The first two parts have been posted on my web site; Part 3 will be posted in the future.
ADDENDUM: Some years later, after I was completely blind, and had earned my Tae Kwon Do Orange Belt, I experienced another incident relevant to this subject.
I was waiting for a taxi on the sidewalk in front of my condominium building when I heard a car roar up and slam to a stop next to the curb near where I was standing. Then, I heard the driver's door open and slam shut with the car's engine still running. I listened intently to evaluate what was happening. I heard a man's footsteps run around the car to the passenger's door, the hinges protesting when he yanked it open, but I heard no one get out. A brief silence: I had forgotten about the grass between the curb and the sidewalk.
Suddenly, a man's strong hand grabbed my left arm (Charlie was in my right hand). He was forcefully pulling me toward the car.
A natural reaction to this type of aggression would be to try and pull away, moving back in order to escape. But mine was the martial arts response of stepping in close to my opponent because proximity would at once enable me to judge his size and where his body parts were. This move also unbalanced my assailant since he was prepared for his victim to attempt to pull away, while I had moved forward.
If my right hand had not been holding Charlie, I would have punched the man in the throat with my fist. As it was, I rammed the head of my cane upward beneath his chin, simultaneously shouting "Kiav!" While the blow I delivered might not have been serious, its combination with the yell and his surprise at my counter-attack did the trick.
My would-be abductor released me and ran. I heard the passenger door slam shut, then that on the driver's side. A moment later, the idling car peeled rubber as the driver took off.
I was safe because I had known what to do to try to protect myself. Knowledge can be an effective weapon. And that is what my three-part article" Achieve Self-Empowerment through Martial Arts" is about.