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Blind, Autistic, and Epileptic Young Man from Fayetteville, NY Enters First Karate Competition

Matthew Killian, a blind 23-year-old with autism spectrum disorder and epilepsy, from Fayetteville, New York, has entered his first karate competition in Rochester, NY. He will compete against participants from across Western New York in the kata section of the 2023 Niagara Karate Championship to be held on April 30th.

Matt, a student at Lawrence World Class Karate (LWC Karate) dojo in Fayetteville, NY, is using his Karate to break down personal barriers and overcome challenges that most people would find daunting. He became blind at the age of 19 due to a rare disease called Leber Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON) and has been an epileptic since the age of three. He was diagnosed with autism when he was 10 years old.

“Although I had always been interested in karate, I started learning it when I became blind to help me overcome my feeling of helplessness,” said Matthew Killian. “Karate helps me on a physical level, and it boosts my confidence. It is showing me how much I can achieve. While I currently have worked very hard for my green belt, I am focusing on earning and wearing a black belt. Karate is a big part of my life.”

Matt has been training on a one-on-one basis for the 14 months with Hanshi (Master) Rande Lawrence, head instructor at LWC Karate dojo. His lessons focus on learning karate katas (choreographed set pattern of movements) and Kubudo (weapon systems). Matt’s lack of vision means that he cannot easily emulate the various sequences of attacking and defensive hand and leg movements. He also has challenges with his balance and spatial requirements, all crucial aspects of karate.

“Teaching Matthew karate has been an incredibly humbling experience,” said Hanshi Lawrence. “For any student to learn karate they need to be able to see the moves being taught. I had to develop a new way to teach an art that is hundreds of years old and help a young man achieve his hopes and dreams. Not only did I have to teach Matthew a variety of complex moves, but I also had to help him discover new ways to balance and become more situationally aware, both of which are fundamental survival skills in karate.”

Lawrence World Class Karate dojo is the only karate school in Central New York specializing in traditional Japanese Shotokan and Okinawan Goju-ryu Karate Systems. A number of adults and children with an array of physical and mental challenges and disabilities are students at the school. Recently one of the dojos’ students, who has Down Syndrome, earned his 5th-degree black belt, which is believed to be a first in the USA.

The 2023 Niagara Karate Championship will take place on Sunday, April 30th 2023, at 12pm and will be held at the RIT Inn & Conference Center, 5257 West Henrietta Road, Henrietta, NY. Here is a link to the day’s activities:



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