Shop RNIB Donate now

Teen with sight loss grapples with judo success

A Hamilton teenager is proving that judo can be for everyone, including those with sight loss.

Daniel Fides with Senior Coach Christopher Martin.

Daniel Fiddes (13) has been taking part in judo classes at Hamilton Judo Club since he was just seven years old. As a recent bronze medalist in the British Schools VI Championships, Daniel is keen to let others know about his chosen sport.

“We had a session at school where people who ran the judo club came in and held a demonstration, and I really enjoyed it so I started taking classes.” says Daniel, who has nystagmus, a sight loss condition which causes repetitive and involuntary movement of the eyes. He is one of over 5,000 children in Scotland with vision impairment.

“I really enjoyed learning all the different movements and how to do them. It feels really natural to me. It’s now my favourite sport!”

Sport and activities like judo can also be positive for young people’s mental and emotional wellbeing, as this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week [Monday 13 May] will highlight in the theme of ‘Movement’.

“Every session I finish, I go away happy,” says Daniel. “If I have a school subject I don’t like, I know I’ve got judo every Wednesday and that helps me get through it! Judo is the best sport there is. My brother went to the dark side and he does taekwondo. But judo is better, obviously. It’s really fun and it’s quite active and physical.”

Daniel’s sight loss doesn’t stop him from competing, “I don’t know what full vision is like, but I feel that I can have some useful sight with my condition. I have sports goggles which I use instead of glasses in my class- because once my glasses fell off and got sat on!”

“One of my favourite memories of judo is when I was supposed to demonstrate holding someone down, and the teacher said, ‘Daniel, please refrain from holding him too well- he might there until this Christmas!’ because there was no way he was getting out of my hold!”

Outside of judo, Daniel is a keen video gamer and likes to draw and create artwork. He has also attended family fun days with sight loss charity, RNIB Scotland, and enjoys playing dodgeball with his Scouts group.

John Kane, from Hamilton Judo Club Inclusion and Director of Scottish Disability Sport says, “Judo is an ideal sport for those with visual impairment because you learn the feel of the grips which help you keep control when fighting. Other fighters can learn from people like Daniel, because he has more spatial awareness on the mat. It’s a sport for anyone and we’d love to get more people involved with judo.”

And what of Daniel’s future and fan base?

“I won the bronze medal this year, and the silver medal the year before, so I hope to keep competing in judo, and to keep getting better. I don’t say I have a fan base; I just say I have friends.”

Listen into RNIB Connect Radio’s chat with Daniel: RNIB - See Sport Differently / Chatting Judo With 13-Year-Old Daniel Fiddes (