As a lot of you know, I recently uploaded a short clip on Facebook and Instagram of me competing against an able-bodied person for my Dan grading (for those that haven't seen it, it's HERE). I thought I would give you a bit of background into my Judo journey and my intentions with it for the next year-or-so.
I started judo whilst training under at my school club when I was about 5 years old. After training at school for a few years, my coach invited me to join Pinewood Judo club, which I was a member for another few years until about the age of 9.
I was about 9 years old when I started to develop my chronic pain condition called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), which then developed over the years to mean that I was unable to use my right foot at all. I was unable to place pressure on my foot, wear shoes/socks or even wash it due to the immense pain. This meant that I was unable to train.
After having a few years off from Judo, I joined a different club in Hampshire, as well as a few smaller ones. It really became too much with my pain but I was determined to keep going. Despite this, I had to stop at about age 16 as I was starting to use my wheelchair full-time and training was really not good for my health or school-life.
It was about the age of 16 that I started researching for amputation as a solution to CRPS. Doctors were not keen on this idea as they feared that the pain would return via phantom limb pain. Due to this, they performed about 30 operations on my foot and nerves to try to remove the pain - all of which did nothing. I was at the end of my tether but I knew that amputation was the last resort so I kept persevering to get it done!
After 6 years of fighting with the NHS, I eventually found a surgeon that was willing to amputate. He agreed that I would need a year's counselling to ensure that I knew what I was getting myself in for. I had sat through the year of counselling and my surgery was due to happen on the 5th of July. On that date, my whole family and I traveled up to Blackpool to have my surgery and they literally cancelled it 10 minutes before the procedure was due. It turns out the anesthetist did not feel comfortable performing the operation, given its controversial nature. I was distraught. We agreed a plan to see more specialists and luckily, the operation was performed 10 weeks later - on the 28th September 2016.
I spent 2 months in hospital and was determined to get back on the Tatami (Judo mat). In January this year, I started training properly again and I'm loving it! I'm still due for another operation to resolve the problems that I have in my stump due to contracting an infection. I'm now training towards the British Special Needs Open in 2017 and hope to compete internationally in the upcoming years.
Judo within the Paralympics started in 1988 but only includes those with a visual impairment, within three classifications. Despite this, I would be able to take part in 'Special Needs Judo,' which incorporates both cognitive challenges and physical disabilities. This would include those with downs syndrome, ADHD, autism, hearing impairments, cerebral palsy and amputees.
For my future within Judo, I would like to see a fairer system that would allow me to compete against people of my own ability. I have spoken to the disability leads within the British Judo Association and they have suggested that I would be labelled as one of the most able-bodied 'Special Needs' athletes. I do question how someone with one leg is meant to 'fairly' compete against someone with ADHD but that's the system we have at the moment! All I would like ideally is a fair fight, where I am able to compete against someone with a similar impairment.
If you are an amputee that would like to compete, please get in touch! I'd love to see more amputees getting involved.