Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Martial Arts Help Blind Girl Keep Bullies at Bay

Not unlike many other kids around the globe, Maxine Ingram was a target for bullies in her school.  But unlike many her peers who were bullied, she was targeted for being blind.

One day in a school corridor she was singled out by a few bullies because she was blind. At this point she had two choices: to stay and fight the bullies or back down and take a rough beating.  Luckily, for Maxine, she was trained in martial arts, so she was able to fight back. But she wasn’t always trained to keep the bullies at bay.

Maxine Ingram, from Trimsaran, in West Wales, was born entirely blind after not having sufficient oxygen at birth. Following her few years at a blind institute, she was transferred into mainstream education at the age of seven.

"My mother wanted me integrated in an able-bodied school,” said Maxine. “She believed spending so long in a specially-equipped blind school would only make entering a sighted community more difficult.”

Her mother Val often encouraged Maxine's three siblings to 'rough and tumble' with her to give her more confidence to fight back.

"It definitely did the job too, trust me, because children can be very nasty!" Val said.

While Maxine did have a good circle of friends at school, she was soon to become the target of bullies.

"A lot of the kids were quite mean,” said Maxine. “They'd call me 'one-eye bandit' and things like that. It didn't affect me too badly until they beat me up. I obviously didn't see the first punch so they knocked me quite hard and it took me by surprise. But once I felt the initial hit I was able to strike back. And I did.”

Once Maxine had begun her martial arts training, "No-one wanted to mess with me after that," she said.

"I'd tried most sports but because I'm totally blind I'd have to have a guide. All I needed for martial arts was a sighted training partner and a coach. It's just you, your referee and your opponent. My disability allows me to catch sighted and visually impaired opponents off guard. My grip is incredibly strong, which they don't like, and also my spatial awareness is good.”

And now that 12 years have gone by, Maxine, 26, is preparing for her second Paralympic trials as the only British female judo player at her level sighted or blind.

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