Young Ashington karate instructor won't let blindness stop him doing what he loves

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A young karate instructor from Ashington who has gone blind after being diagnosed with a hereditary disease is learning to adapt and continues to teach at clubs in Blyth and Cramlington, with help from his sister.

Dylan Gibson, 26, noticed blurriness in one eye last year and went to the optician to get it checked. He was then referred to hospital and then a consultant, and after tests was diagnosed with LHON – Leber Hereditary Optic Neuropathy.

He said: “It must have been passed down to me, but I’m the only one in the family who has gone blind. I can’t see shapes, colour or movement.”

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Dylan and his sister Gemma teach at the Blyth and Cramlington Dojos five nights a week.

Dylan Gibson still teaches karate despite going blind.Dylan Gibson still teaches karate despite going blind.
Dylan Gibson still teaches karate despite going blind.

They took over the Blyth Dojo in October 2020 and have built it up from six students into a thriving club. Following their success in Blyth, they were asked by the Karate Union of Great Britain to take over the Cramlington Dojo, which had been closed because of dwindling numbers. That reopened in November 2021 and the clubs have been amalgamated under the name Kokoro.

Before Dylan went blind he and his sister would split training into two classes, but now Dylan, who works full time as a sixth form tutor and is a 4th Dan and Sensei, gives the verbal instruction and Gemma, a 3rd Dan, makes the corrections.

Dylan said: “Gemma is my eyes. It’s a big change from how we used to do things, but we’ve made it work.”

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He continues to train but can struggle with his orientation. He said: “In Blyth we use mats and I use the perimeter of the mats to work out where I’m facing. In other locations I try and find some sort of marker. I’ve improved a lot, and with practice it will get better.

“At the regional and national courses we attend the instructors have all helped me adapt my training.

“Going blind was a complete shock but straight away I knew I wanted my life to continue as normally as possible. I didn’t want to stop doing what I enjoy.”

To get in touch with the Blyth or Cramlington clubs, email: [email protected]