Thursday, February 25, 2010

Blind judo student earns his black belt

From The Folsom Telegraph in California:

Michael Davis (pictured) is blind but he can see that he’s a lucky man.

In November 2001 he was diagnosed with a brain tumor and following surgery, swelling damaged his optic nerves that led to his blindness in January of 2002. While doctors say the damage is permanent, Davis, 28, believes one day he will see again.

That positive attitude is what kept Davis going following the loss of his sight. He had been training in judo for seven years before he was diagnosed with a brain tumor and sight or no sight; he wanted to start up again the day he left the hospital. Eight months later, his doctors gave him the go ahead and now nearly nine years later, Davis has earned his black belt, which he will receive in a ceremony Feb. 27 at Folsom MMA on Natoma Street.

“I’m very excited,” Davis said. “This is a good achievement for me. Sacramento Judo has never had a blind person in the club for a long period of time and they’ve been very patient with me.”

Davis has been with Sacramento Judo for 15 years and trains up to three times a week, including at Folsom MMA on Saturdays. The full-time student at Sacramento State has a double major of Business Management and Entrepreneurship.

“I never thought losing my sight was a bad thing because I was still alive,” Davis said. “It could have been worse. I wanted to do something instead of just staying at home and doing nothing.”

Ironically, Davis’ blindness hasn’t affected his judo ability too much. Since judo is a martial arts discipline involving grappling and throws, Davis has been able to continue in the sport and do well.

“Judo is a lot about feel,” Davis said. “You feel your opponent’s weight and sometimes your eyes can lie to you so in that way it almost improves my ability instead of watching their feet. It took some time to get used to, though.”

Ron Lobley, owner of Folsom MMA, is very proud of Davis and impressed with him.

“I’ve been a black belt since 1998 and even I can come up with five reasons not to come in sometimes,” Lobley said. “Michael is a class act. He’s never complained once about his sudden loss of sight. He’s so resilient and never missed a beat. He’s shown perseverance and character. He’s set the tone for the club by leading by example and not quitting. We can all learn from him.”

One big positive that came from Davis’ loss of sight is that he probably wouldn’t have met his wife, Katie, who’s also blind. Davis has turned her on to judo and now the two have a goal to compete in the Summer Paralympics in 2012 in London.