Millions of people, young and old, across the globe take part in the ancient Japanese martial art of Judo. Earlier this month, the international sport, which literally means -the gentle way', saw more than 200 contestants from 25 countries flock to the biggest judo competition in Australia.
Judo is a skill based sport that doesn't focus on strength, size, age or physical ability. Judo promotes respect for yourself and others, as well as boosting mental and physical health.
With hundreds of children who are blind or vision impaired in Victoria, they need to be given the same opportunity to be just as active as sighted kids. Judo is considered one of the best sports for people who are blind or vision impaired.
A recent partnership between Noblesoul Academy (NA) and Blind Sports Victoria (BSV) has seen young blind Melbournians being given the chance to try their hand at the martial art.
A successful 8-week trial program held at St Ambrose Community Centre, Brunswick has just finished. Aimed at 6-15 year olds, the unique judo program saw a group of children who are blind or vision impaired learn the basic skills of judo. This included throws, holds and break-falls, as well as Judo etiquette, such as how to bow and how to tie a belt.
Ryosuke Miwa who ran the program is thrilled with the success of the trial. 'We are delighted with the way the program has gone and look forward to expanding the program in to other areas across Melbourne next year," added Mr Miwa.
With 23 years of judo under his belt, Mr Miwa found this group to be one of the most challenging and rewarding. He says: 'It was great for me to learn different ways to communicate with the children. Best of all, it was all made worthwhile seeing them come out of their comfort zones and to see genuine happiness as they realised what they had achieved during each session."
NA and BSV hope to run a longer program next year starting with one on one session with the kids. It is hoped that this will then move into group session. In order for this program to go ahead, Mr Miwa is looking for children who are blind or vision impaired to have a go as well as sighted volunteers who can assist with the session.
'We will be hosting training at multiple locations to accommodate everyone's needs. One of the location would be at my new dojo in Fitzroy," added Mr Miwa.
Blind Sports Victoria Inc. (BSV) was established in 1977 is a statewide body providing support services to over one thousand blind and vision impaired people. Their range of sport and recreational activities including, Gymnastics, Indoor bias bowls, Swimming, Golf, Tennis, Track and field, , Ten pin bowling, Snow skiing, Swish, Cricket, Tandem bike riding, Lawn bowls, Square dancing and Walking programs. For more information about Blind Sports Victoria please visit www.blindsports.org.au or https://www.facebook.com/pages/Blind-Sports-Victoria/105160376173509
Question: What is Blind Sports Victoria Inc?
Kate Gniel: Blind Sports Victoria Inc. (BSV) was established in 1997 as Victorian Blind Sports Association and is the parent sporting association currently representing a wide range of sport and recreational activities, including tennis, football (soccer), gymnastics, swimming (both junior and adult programs), ballet, judo, walking programs (both one-on-one and in groups), golf, indoor bias bowls, tenpin bowling, lawn bowls, swish, square dancing, snow skiing, goalball, power lifting and cricket.
Before 1977, there was no umbrella organization for blind sport in Victoria or at a national level. The inclusion of blind competitors in the 1976 Disabled Olympics highlighted the lack of a National and State structure, as there was no one to organize the team.
BSV's main objective is to avoid this happening in the future. BSV strives to increase sporting and recreational participation of people who are vision impaired. Above all, BSV want to increase community awareness of the capabilities of blind and vision impaired sports people.
BSV is a statewide body providing support services to over one thousand blind and vision impaired people. Male and female participants of all ages are involved in both competitive and coaching programs as well as recreational activities.
Question: Why is Judo so popular for the vision impaired?
Kate Gniel: Judo isn't a popular sport for people who are blind or vision impaired yet as it is only in its infancy. BSV have been proactive in establishing new programs with major support from VicHealth, Department of Sport & Recreation, community grants and philanthropic organisations.
A recent partnership between Noblesoul Academy (NA) and Blind Sports Victoria (BSV) has seen young blind Melbournians being given the chance to try their hand at martial arts.
This program has been supported by Judo Victoria and the City of Moreland.
Question: Can you talk us through how successful the 8-week trial of Judo was?
Kate Gniel: A successful 8-week trial program held at St Ambrose Community Centre, Brunswick has just finished. Aimed at 6-15 year olds, the unique judo program saw a small group of children who are blind or vision impaired learn the basic skills of judo. This included throws, holds and break-falls, as well as Judo etiquette, such as how to bow and how to tie a belt.
Ryosuke Miwa who ran the program is thrilled with the success of the trial. He is delighted with the way the program has gone and looks forward to expanding the program in to other areas across Melbourne next year.
With 23 years of judo under his belt, Mr Miwa found this group to be one of the most challenging and yet rewarding. The program was hugely successful, particularly for one 6 year old boy, Micah, who has embraced the challenge of learning the techniques of Judo.
Ryosuke Miwa from Noblesoul Academy has not had any experience with working with kids or adults who are blind or vision impaired before. He learned quickly that he shouldn't underestimate the capabilities of the participants. He believes that building up a shared -language' is essential to the success of the program. This is something that takes time and patience.
Question: What other sports does Blind Sports Victoria Inc offer?
Kate Gniel: Over the years BSV has formed important partnerships with members of the community who together have assisted BSV achieve their goal. Successful partnerships have allowed them to offer the following programs to people who are blind or vision impaired:
A pilot program of tandem cycling with CycleSport Victoria conducted at the City of Darebin and Casey velodromes
A number of aquatic programs conducted at Re-Creation Gymnasium in Hampton with the support of Sports Education Development Australia (SEDA)
Junior swimming program at Wesley College with the support of Point Lonsdale Bowling Club
Walking with Willpower supported by a number of local Councils including City of Boroondara, City of Bayside, City of Melton and Westwaters Entertainment Complex. This program continues to grow and expand into most of the metropolitan areas. This year we have put particular emphasis on expanding the program into the western suburbs
Walk in the Park program - the two key supporters this program are Parks Victoria and Australia Post
Vision impaired tennis program supported by Tennis Seniors Victoria and Tennis Victoria and is conducted at the Melbourne Park Tennis Centre.
A blind soccer program for children and adults in partnership with Social Goal and Melbourne City which has seen exhibition games held during half time at an A League game. This program is supported by Medibank, Westpac, Australian Sports Foundation, City of Darebin and Football Federation Victoria. Together, BSV and Social Goal, have set up junior and adult blind and vision impaired football (soccer) programs which are proving hugely successful. These football programs are the first of their kind in Australia.
Our gymnastics program is conducted with Essendon Keilor Gymnastics Academy and a recent partnership between Insight Education for the Blind and Vision Impaired (Berwick), Blinds Sports Victoria (BSV) and Funtastic Gymnastics (Berwick), has seen young Melbournians who are blind or vision impaired being given the chance to try their hand at gymnastics. This program has been supported by the Commonwealth Bank.
Question: How are these sports modified for the vision impaired?
Kate Gniel: Due to the work of BSV, the community is starting to understand that many sports can be adapted to suit the needs of people who are blind or vision impaired.
In particular, sighted people are getting more involved in ensuring that there are increased sporting and recreational activities for people who are blind or vision impaired.
BSV has conducted awareness training sessions with the Department of Sport and Recreation in how to conduct more accessible events.
In the last 10 years, there has been a significant cultural change in our community. In the past, many organisations were working -for' disability organizations/groups/individuals. Today, instead of working -for', they are working -with'.
Across Victoria and beyond, it is quite obvious that there is more happening in blind sports than ever before. This is a direct result of the energy, commitment and vision of the team at BSV.
Question: How can Australians support Blind Sports Victoria Inc?
Kate Gniel: Australians can support Blind Sports Victoria by becoming involved and continuing to support new and current sporting activities. By becoming a volunteer or supporting BSV financially, this will enable us to continue to develop and maintain programs.
For more information about Blind Sports Victoria please visit www.blindsports.org.au or https://www.facebook.com/pages/Blind-Sports-Victoria/105160376173509
Question: What's next for Blind Sports Victoria Inc?
Kate Gniel: Sport, for many Australians, has been described as a national religion. As the population becomes increasingly more health conscious, sport and recreation activities are becoming more important for Australians. This is certainly the case for people who are blind or vision impaired.
Being blind or suffering from vision loss can be isolating for some. Sport and recreational opportunities offer a choice to those affected by vision loss.
Not only are there health benefits, sport and recreation provides many with social benefits including a way to meet new people.
Our mission is to develop, create and support new and existing active sport and recreational activities. The activities include:-
Blind football (soccer)
Swimming program – both junior and adult
Walking programs – one-on-one and group programs
Ballet – supported by Elance
Our overall philosophy is that everyone has the right to participate in any sporting and recreational activity of their choosing.
Interview by Brooke Hunter