Program offers judo to visually impaired children

April 20, 2010 8:16:36 AM PDT
Did you know that judo is the number one individually practiced sport in the world?It is also a popular sport among athletes who are blind and visually impaired.

At Otis elementary school on Chicago's West Side, blind and visually impaired students from ages 8 to 15 participate in a weekly Paralympics judo class.

"These kids are great kids, and judo is a great sport for them because they can actually participate in this sport wholeheartedly," said Douglas Tono, head instructor and president of Tono Judo Academy.

"Most people don't know what judo is. So, they think breaking boards and kicking and punching, but it's not. It's grappling; it's holding on. People who actually practice judo, they know having your vision isn't a benefit. Sometimes, it can be detriment. So, these kids, they probably don't know it, but not being able to see is sometimes a benefit, and you can actually be a better judo player," Tono said.

Teachers like Gloria Moyer are part of this program.

" I am learning along with the children, but they are doing the same things that anyone else is doing who is practicing judo. The only difference is when you are explaining something, you might have to be a little more hands-on to explain to a child who cannot see your movement, or be a little more verbal in explaining," Moyer said.

World Sport Chicago, a not-for-profit sport organization for people with disabilities, funded the entire program.

"We began in October; this is our second semester of having judo. These children have learned so much. They have improved their physical activity. It has improved their body sense, their body awareness. It's been absolutely fantastic, thanks to world sports and Sensei Doug," said Moyer.

Fifteen-year-old student Miguel says judo is fun.

"Because we can flip people and pin them," he said.

Judo is 12-year-old Sara Luna's favorite sport.

"I think it's really fun, and I think it's great that visually impaired people can do it, too" she told ABC7 Chicago.

"There's some [of[ these kids [that] are very athletic, and you know, we're just starting our program. I' m hoping, one day, some of these kids will be in the Paralympics," Tono said.

Paralympics judo is part of the Summer Games. For more information on World Sports Chicago, visit www.worldsportchicago.org.


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