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Creative Career Path

Blind Faith2009.11.04

    Blind faith is trust that is bred in the bone. It has elements of audacity, and has the power to raise the bar for the rest of us.

    I know someone who practices it, who has no choice but to practice it, because he has been blind since early childhood.

    Born in 1984 in Aichi Prefecture, Shirai Takaaki lost his sight at the age of four, due to an illness accompanied by high fever. As a child he became interested in the violin, and loved playing out of doors. After graduating from High School at the Special Needs Education School for the Visually Impaired connected to Tsukuba University, he attended the Toho Gakuen College of Music, from which he graduated in 2006, specializing in Violin.

    I met Mr. Shirai through his Nanba Coach, Yano Tatsuhiko (see earlier article in this column on NANBA: the Art of Physical Finesse, Shirai is remarkable, because he has leveraged his Nanba training into world class performance in both music and sports.

    His violin appears on the soundtrack of the 2007 film, I Won’t Forget You (Anata wo Wasurenai), a true story about the 26-year old Korean student who died on January 21, 2001, while trying to save the life a man who had fallen on the tracks at Shin-Okubo Station in Tokyo. Shirai has performed with the Premium Concert in the Nippon Budokan, Tokyo University Hospital Concert, and has recorded several CDs, including a series for Kobe Luminaire. His schedule includes live performances 4 to 6 times a month.

    He is also a world class athlete, having won close to a dozen national championships in track and field competition for Para-Athletes, and also has placed high in world competitions. He ranked 7th-place in the triple jump event in the World Track and Field Championships for the Disabled held in the Netherlands in 2006, and 5th-place in the triple jump and 8th-place in the broad jump events for the International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) held in Brazil in 2007. He continues to compete internationally, and is aiming to compete in the Paralympics to be held in London in 2012.

    The triple jump requires speed, strength, balance, and rhythm. Three complete jumps, without being able to see the middle mark, and still being able to put your foot on the board. You can see the challenges of the triple jump by watching videos on YouTube, and imagine doing it with your eyes closed. And the whole world but you watching.

    An athlete who is sight impaired has to trust the trainer completely. In both music and sports, Shirai credits his Nanba trainer Yano Sensei, who taught him how to orient himself from inside and use all of his senses in peak performance.

    But Yano says that, “If there is anything that Shirai can do himself, I won’t lift a finger to help him. I won’t take that away from him.”

    One of the biggest challenges is learning to run in a straight line where the runner is in complete darkness. Imagine the challenge and the risk of running with your eyes closed! Without vision every body movement poses a challenge. Try standing on one leg with both eyes closed, and you will see how much you depend on vision for your basic sense of balance.

    Blind faith informed by physical finesse. Now that is a powerful combination!

    To feel the power of Mr. Shirai’s presence, listen to his violin on a piece called Kokoro no You (Light in the Heart), composed by Chinese American Wang Lee-Hom. You can hear a sample of it at

    His website is in Japanese, but contains information about his CDs and performing schedule, as well as his blog, to which he posts new content every few days. To find out more about Mr. Shirai, visit And what was it that is stopping you from realizing your potential?

    William Reed


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    Article Writer

    William Reed

    William Reed is a renowned author-speaker who coaches physical finesse and flexible focus for a creative career path. A certified Master Trainer in Guerrilla Marketing and 7th-dan in Aikido, he combines practical wisdom of East and West to help you learn personal branding at the Entrepreneurs Creative Edge.

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