Legally blind Ingram masters challenging sport

Dunedin taekwondo exponent Joss Ingram celebrates her new achievement of fourth dan black belt at...
Dunedin taekwondo exponent Joss Ingram celebrates her new achievement of fourth dan black belt at Logan Park. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
Legally blind: taekwondo master — it sounds like a movie title.

For Joss Ingram it is the reality of 12 years of hard work.

The 50-year-old obtained her fourth dan black belt in Wellington on Saturday.

In the process she became New Zealand’s first legally blind taekwondo master.

It was a surreal feeling for the Dunedin woman, who sparred with opponents, broke boards and performed various patterns for over two exhausting hours to pass her test.

That physical side Ingram found most challenging, her limited vision merely an afterthought.

"I don’t think about it any more," Ingram said.

"I’ve had 20 years adjusting to the vision loss.

"It’s just an everyday life thing for me now, but the taekwondo family have been very wonderful in how they’ve treated me no different to a fully-sighted person."

It is 19 years since Ingram noticed her vision had all of sudden gone blurry while working as a receptionist.

Over the next two months it rapidly deteriorated, to the point her vision is now like having scrunched-up plastic wrap over her eyes.

She eventually became one of the first New Zealanders diagnosed with Leber hereditary optic neuropathy, a rare form of blindness affecting the nerves at the back of the eyes.

It made for a drastic life change, particularly given her youngest child Jak was just a year old.

However, she got used to finding ways to get things done.

She continues to work, at present as a car groomer, having lost her job through Covid-19, although she is considering studying next year.

In 2008 she began taekwondo after taking her children — Hanna and Max, as well as Jak — along to lessons at the Green Island club.

Ingram said the club’s support had been great, while national body trio Joan Fountain, Sophia Haynes and Michelle Sim were highly influential in her success, too.

While unable to see detail, she can see shapes coming towards her.

It helps that the sport is close combat and her approach is a simple one.

"As soon as they’re within
a certain range you know you’ve got to do something," she said.

The sport provided an outlet for her and she now trains seven times a week.

Her children have also had success in the sport. Hanna is a second dan black belt, Max is a blue belt red tab and Jak returned to be presented with his black belt on Saturday with Joss, having achieved his junior black belt as a teenager.

While most recently with the Warrington club, Ingram is in the process of starting her own club in Concord — Dunedin Simjang Taekwondo.

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