Seeing With Swords

PHOTO Some students at the Perkins School for the Blind participate in fencing.

Of all the things you'd think you couldn't do with a disability, fencing would have to be near the top of the list.

But this group of kids is proving that it can, in fact, be done.

Cory Kadlik is 19-years-old and blind since birth. He started fencing at the Perkins School for the Blind in Massachusetts just five weeks ago.

You might think it would be nerve-wracking...fighting with swords when you can't see. But Kadlik says he wasn't even nervous.

"It's similar to the statement 'innocent until proven guilty,'" says Kadlik about this lifestyle. "I can do anything until proven otherwise."

VIDEO: Two schools compete in the first-ever blind fencing tournament.
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The First Ever Blind Fencing Tournament

This week, Cory's school competed against another local school for the blind in what's billed as the first ever blind fencing tournament, organized by instructor Cesar Morales.

"The first thing that I want from the students is to understand that it's possible for them to do anything," he says. "That's one of the things we say in the first class is you have to forget 'I can't,' 'It's too hard,' 'Impossible,' 'Too difficult.'"

Tyler Terrasi, 20 years old and also blind since birth, won second place.

"We can do anything," he says, "We're just like everyone else, really."

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Blind fencing isn't all that different from regular fencing, except you start by taking a measurement with your swords to see how far away your opponent is.

Beyond that, you rely on your hearing and sense of feel.

"I can feel vibrations in my feet," says Kadlik. "I know where the person is."

Fencing helps the blind navigate the sighted world.

As Kadlik demonstrated, learning to face your opponent straight can help you walk straight through, say, a crosswalk.

"If I can't see what's around me to stay straight," says Kadlik, "That's what this is teaching."

While Cory didn't win the fencing tournament, he earned a medal, and the ever-increasing admiration of his mom, Gail Kadlik, who's watched her son fish, ride horses and even rock-climb.

"He's going to get hurt," she says. "He's a kid before he's blind. He's going to get hurt. Just like any other kid."

"I'm blind," says Kadlik, "This is me, you know. I just live my dreams."

Fencing has become a counter-intuitive way to teach these blind kids to see that there are no limits.

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