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Judo, Disabilities & Overcoming

Judo, Disabilities and Overcoming

"A facet of judo not often publicized is that, unlike other combative sports, it can be practised by a large number of those who are disabled."

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When I read the below I was reminded of my own experience of competing against Judoka that was of unique abilities. By that, I fought one judoka several times who had a partial arm only on the right side, a Judoka that had a wooden leg and a partially sited player. All were worthy opponents who, quite rightly so, knew how to take full advantage of their speciality.

In the case of the young man with a wooden leg (this was when wood was the dominant prosthetic), he was very shrewd in making sure that he always offered the wooded leg forward, making sweeping, my favourite technique, very daunting.

In the case of the player with half a right arm, it is very confusing to instinctively grab for an arm that is not there.


In the case of the partially blind Judoka, let's just say they are very good at playing on your sympathies to their own advantage. In one instance I was beginning to think that he had replaced his sight with telepathy because he may not have been able to see me but predicted almost every move I made. I was to learn that was more me than him, however.

The following is a snippet from an old judo book and I thought that I would like to share it with you.

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"A facet of judo not often publicized is that unlike other combative sports, it can be practiced by a large number of those who are disabled.

It is seen as a valuable method of restoring self-confidence, very often following some kind of accident in which the victim has been left partly incapacitated.

For example, I have, on occasion, seen... blind and partially-sighted judo men engage in Randori practice sessions at the Kodokan. They are guided to the mat by their instructors and sometimes take part not only in the general practice sessions but also in competitions.

Quite a number of Japanese disabled people have achieved black belt rankings, some after defeating not only fellow disabled but also able-bodied opponents.

I recall, many years ago there was a Japanese student who was a member of his university judo team. He was also advancing in his studies. Unfortunately, he was involved in an accident and as a result lost an arm. Following this misfortune, he suffered bouts of depression and gave up all interest not only in judo but also in his academic studies.

After several months, his mother had become increasingly worried and, unbeknown to her son, sought advice from the university judo club instructor. Their discussion resulted in the instructor suggesting that they should both try to encourage her son to return to judo club training sessions.

The judo instructor, sometime later, called on the student unannounced and mentioned to him during the course of the conversation that he should consider returning to the judo club to continue with his training.

At first the young man was reluctant to do so, but after a few weeks had passed, he turned up at the club one day. He resumed general judo practice and also took private judo lessons in order to seek ways of overcoming his disability and moreover, later re-commenced his studies.

Perhaps the most surprising sequel to this affair, however, was that some three years later, largely thanks to his taking private judo lessons in total secrecy, he had developed techniques that enabled him to defeat his able-bodied opponents and won a student judo competition."

Judo Memoirs of Jigoro Kano
Brian N. Watson

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