Fighting fit: how I use my sight loss to train harder

Post date: 
Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Claire Lawrence is regional campaigns officer for RNIB in the East Midlands. She's also an accomplished contemporary artist, fitness and MMA fighting enthusiast. She was registered partially sighted when she was 16 and then registered blind at 18.

Through the work that she does and her individual passions and hobbies, Claire is constantly working to improve accessibility for blind and partially sighted people, and show that having sight loss doesn't mean that you can't achieve your goals.

"This is a film of me during one of my combat training sessions. I am registered blind and learning Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). My trainer Dan Powell is also severely sight impaired; he's a personal trainer, Judo instructor and cage fighter. This film was a few weeks ago, so I'm much stronger now. We focus on accuracy and muscle memory. Dan wears a bright top so there is a clear contrast between himself and the pads/gloves. Along with general fitness training we have progressed to knees, elbows, throws and actual sparring. All exercise is adaptable to any disability. Dan is a fantastic trainer and has enabled me to do something I've always wanted to do. "

How I train - 4 training tips for boxing when blind or partially sighted

 

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  1. image shows claire lawrence training with a punch bagWhen Dan and I work together he always wears a top that contrasts with the pads, this gives me a better chance of hitting them rather than him!

  2. The different types of punches are numbered, 1,2,3,4 etc and usually I react correctly to the number that Dan says.

  3. Hitting the pads has become muscle memory, sometimes I need to throw a light jab to work out the correct distance, but from that I can form all the different punches.

  4. I never believed that I would be able to move around a room and throw punches as my eyes tend to be very slow on tracking things, so moving objects seemed like an impossibility. This is not the case. Dan has perfected by posture and arm positioning so that I don't really have to think too much about what I'm doing. 

  5. On a standard boxing/MMA training session I will throw over 1000 punches. We are currently working on throws, kicks, elbows and knees. Combat training has increased my confidence greatly.

janice wheeler poses with her pink boxing glovesHow boxing helped partially-sighted artist Janice Wheeler overcome her anxiety

Coincidentally, Janice Wheeler is also an artist who discovered boxing after her sight deteriorated, in the final year of her art degree. Macular degeneration meant that the central line of her sight was lost, causing her to feel that she was no longer able to pursue a career as an artist, and leading to issues with depression and anxiety.
 
She'd never even considered taking up boxing, but after a friend put her in touch with the Fight Back Mental Health organisation in Weymouth, she decided to give it a chance. She was surprised by the coach's positive attitude to her sight loss, and has gone from strength to strength - literally! 
 
This year, she was interviewed by BBC radio for their In Touch podcast, where she talks more about her journey and hopes for the future. 

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