More disabled people are taking control of their fortunes by developing greater physical agility and standing up for themselves when bullied or threatened. Even blind and visually impaired people are transcending their limitations by training in mixed martial arts, Jiu-Jitsu and other demanding physical activities. One blind Jiu-Jitsu competitor proves he’s anything but a pushover by becoming the highest-ranking contender among Australians who also happen to be legally blind.
Andre Powell currently holds a brown belt, the penultimate ranking before achieving black-belt status. The 28-year-old has been competing in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for seven years. Powell’s accomplishments include winning his weight division at the esteemed Gracie Worlds competition in 2013 and a brown belt title in 2015 at the Arnold Classic 2015 BJJ Championships in Melbourne.
Powell downplays his accomplishments in winning two major tournaments by affirming that anyone can achieve success with practice and discipline. Powell’s coach, third-degree black belt holder Anthony Lange, doesn’t completely agree with this assessment. Head coach Lange, who has more than 20 years of experience coaching BJJ competitors, feels that Powell’s achievements are unique and worthy of special recognition. However, Lange admits that he often trains sighted athletes by blindfolding them so that they learn how to control their movements more precisely and smoothly.
Brown-belt Powell, who was born with congenital glaucoma, has experienced more than 50 surgeries on both eyes. Legally blind, Powell has no vision in his left eye and only 6% vision in the right. Visual impairment has never limited Powell’s physical vitality—he practiced martial arts since early childhood and learned to ski at age 10.
Although Powell moves more slowly and deliberately, this approach is often more successful when others use rigid, jerky movements and aggressive motions that create lots of openings for patient, deliberate competitors. One thing’s certain—this bind Jiu-Jitsu competitor proves he’s anything but a pushover every time he takes the mat by serving as an inspirational role model for people with physical limitations.
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