CLINTON, Ark. – One Arkansas woman is defying the odds by qualifying for the national stage in martial arts for the women’s division and all without the use of her sight.
“One of the positives my father always said I had from birth was if someone told me I couldn’t do it – I was too stubborn to quit until I could find a way,” says Heidi Kottke, a martial art instructor and owner of Next Generation Martial Arts Studio in Clinton.
Kottke is known as the “Blind Ninja” throughout the town.
She says she received the nickname after one of her students created a poster for her with a figure blindfolded and the words spelled out, “The Blind Ninja Lives Here.”
Born with a degenerate eye defect, Kottke has been completely blind most her life.
“I later found out I was blind from birth after a doctor gave my mother a prescription drug banned from use with pregnant women,” she explains.
Kottke said despite people telling her she couldn’t take martial arts, she forged on.
“I tried several different places and none would even allow me to attempt the classes,” Kottke says. “And one day my next-door neighbor’s son said ‘Hey, my instructor said call him,’ and if you can teach him how to teach the blind, he would teach me the martial art.”
Now having earned a second-degree black belt in Taekwondo and a first-degree black belt in Judo, Kottke spends most her helping to empower the future.
“I have some kids who lack confidence and I want to show them it’s inside them,” explains Kottke.
Kottke teaches a more hands-on version of martial arts but says it allows students to pick up the positions better.
“It’s very touch and go,” says Kottke. “I can determine how the students are doing based on how they are positioned after.”
Kottke teaches both adolescents and adults. She hopes to teach her students that despite the adversities life might present to never give up.
“I enjoy watching my students learn and grow but mostly preserver,” she says. “It’s about giving them hope.”
Kottke is preparing for The UTA Grand Nationals that will be held July 25 – 27 in Shreveport, Lousiana.
For more information on how to get classes, click here.