A BLIND martial artist who learned fighting skills to fend off attackers is having to adapt to losing his hearing.

David Black trained in the arts of aikido and jiu-jitsu and helps teach sensory-impaired people to protect themselves at the Scottish Centre for Personal Safety (ScotCPS) in Ardrossan.

He lost his sight in his early teens due to macular degeneration and a rare genetic disorder, Retinitis pigmentosa (RP).

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He said: “I’ve been doing martial arts for years.

“Specifically blind friendly ones such as jiu-jitsu or judo, with plenty of contact.”

On one occasion, David was able to use his training against a thug threatening to throw him into a canal by using his own strength against him and sending the assailant into the water.

His skill has lead family and friends to compare him to the blind Marvel superhero Daredevil, who is a lawyer by day and a masked-vigilante by night.

When, during a separate incident, a cruel yob tripped David up 'to see how blind he was', his judo training allowed him to roll and get back up.

“Judo teaches you how to land safely and take hits," he said.

“But not every blind friendly martial art is useful and I was attacked a few times and the judo didn’t work.”

David met Alan Bell, founder of ScotCPS, and began learning Krav Maga, a military self-defence and fighting system developed for the Israel Defense Forces.

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David said: “It can be terrifying, you’ve no idea what to expect.

“The first time I went to Aikido, I was hearing screaming and shouting. It was a sensory overload.

“But ScotCPS is not macho, it’s a nice, friendly environment.”

David describes Krav Maga as focussing on how to feel what the other person is doing, how they are moving and learning to listen for warning signs.

But, as David’s hearing has deteriorated, he has had to adapt.

“I woke up in the spring and couldn’t hear the birds.

“I used to be able to tell if someone was a threat by listening to the tone of their voice.”

He said that the instructors at ScotCPS are always developing and hopes his change in circumstances will improve how he teaches other dual-sensory impaired people.

He said: “I learn a lot more from the feel of the move now, how somebody is grabbing.

“It’s a daily thing for people with sensory impairments. People touching you to ask if you need help.

“You need to be able to feel the intent, feel instantly if it’s a threat or not.”

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This is Deafblind Awareness Week (June 22-28), where charities and groups aim to make things easier for people who have sight and hearing loss, both in the home and when they’re out and about.

ScotCPS has been awarded £4,980 by the National Lottery to deliver their ‘Personal Safety for Sensory Impaired People’ course to people with sight loss, visual impairments and multiple sensory impairments in Ardrossan, Saltcoats and Stevenson.

Alan Bell, founder of ScotCPS, said: "It can be quite daunting for most people, one of the clients we had in last year they said prior to coming on the course their life was like living in a cupboard with the door shut.

"Living with fears of being attacked, of someone being in their home. It's a major thing for sensory impaired people.

"We're aiming to allay these fears. Teaching how to hear sounds or read body language."

Alan reiterated David's focus on learning how to feel the intent behind an action. He also emphasised the important of using your voice as a first line of defence.

He said: "And if all that fails, to defend yourself against possible attack."

Ultimately, ScotCPS's courses aim to empower people to live more active lives and give sensory-impaired people the confidence they need.

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