Women and Girls in Sport Week 2017

Gemma Lumsdaine, My Journey

Gemma Lumsdaine is a 19 year old athlete who plays Wheelchair Basketball and Wheelchair Rugby. As a member of the U23 Scotland squad Gemma has won gold at the Celtic Cup 2016 and Co-Captained Scotland U19s at both the School Games and National Junior Championships. Gemma coaches wheelchair basketball for Dundee Dragons Wheelchair Sports Club and is Scotland U19 Assistant Coach.

This is Gemma's Story.......

This week is Scottish Women and Girls in Sport Week and because of this I have been thinking about my journey into sport.

I was born 12 weeks prematurely and as a result I have a condition called Cerebral Palsy which affects all my limbs and means I have to use a wheelchair to get around. Initially I didn’t let this hold me back and I lived life to the full! I had lots of friends and was a confident, positive and sociable young girl. To be honest at this point in time, up until about the age of 10 I didn’t even think about what a disability was.

Then I started to realise that I couldn’t do what everyone else around me could and I started to feel “different”. This realisation began to have a negative effect on my life, I started to feel very isolated and alone, gradually I withdrew from the world around me. By the end of primary school I was very unhappy because I couldn’t accept who I was.

Although I had always been involved with sports from a young age, the big change came when I starting playing wheelchair rugby league at Dundee Dragons Wheelchair Sports Club which had just been formed in my local area. This was the first time I had been exposed to wheelchair sport. When I first started playing at the club I was utterly hopeless, I couldn’t catch or pass a ball but I had the motivation to improve and something to work towards. Looking back at that stage in my life the sport itself wasn’t the most important part for me, the biggest thing was the social aspect of the club; being part of a team, feeling accepted and finding a sense of belonging after feeling lost for so long. For the first time I found people I aspired to be like and this was transformational. From there my mental and physical health started to improve. I started playing wheelchair basketball, which I loved! I got selected to play for Scotland in both wheelchair rugby league and wheelchair basketball and started to get involved in coaching. I made friends, had a social life and starting looking forward to my future.

Now my life is sport. I am studying sports at university, I am Scotland U19 Assistant Coach and still play wheelchair basketball at national level. I have also started playing wheelchair rugby, also known as murder ball. This full contact sport is awesome and I love how fast and furious it is! As well as playing and coaching sports I also sit on various panels and boards including the newly formed Women and Girls Advisory Board. Being on these panels and boards allows me to help shape and improve sport for young disabled people and females across Scotland.

Sometimes being a young, female disabled athlete can be challenging and it is tough being in sports which are male dominated. But despite this my aim is to ensure I hold my own and give as good as I get. In my opinion every person is an individual and should be treated equally no matter what their gender or disability, we should all be valued for what we are and what we can do and hopefully one day this will be the case.

Sport has changed my life and if, like me, you think sport might give you a sense of belonging, just go for it, get in touch with your local club or go to a lunchtime sports session you never know where sport will take you!

If you want to keep track of my journey feel free to follow me on twitter @gemmalumsdaine

Naziyah Noor Mahmood, My story about Martial Arts

Naziyah Noor Mahmood is a Martial Artist, Rocket Scientist, a Poet, a Writer, a Cosplayer, an Actor and a Model. She has an honors degree in Physics with Astrophysics and a Postgraduate in Space Mission Analysis. At 6 years old her dad enrolled her and her siblings in Martial Arts classes (Ninjutsu) to learn self defence. As she got older she realised her love for and the importance of Martial Arts in her life. This is Naziyah's story.........

It was never solely about learning how to throw a 6’5’’ man across a room, and nor was it ever about being able to fend off knife-wielding, crazed lunatics on my way home from school, but these were definitely a bonus.

My journey in the martial arts began as a very young child and was spurred on by my father, a former army man. He believed strongly that we -my two older siblings and I- should have a basic knowledge of self-defence, especially me and my sister.

My passion in the arts grew and became a way of life for me as time went on, and although there were large gaps when I was unable to train for one reason or another, they stayed with me in a way I’d never expected.

You see, I’m partially blind, and it was through my journey in the martial arts that I was able to attain a keen sense of awareness. This is what allows me to get by. Day to day, I’m a walking, talking klutz! Yet, the only time I find myself completely on point is when I’m training. This training translates over into everyday life too, though.

As a traditionalist, I have found that these are far more than just physical combat systems of self-defence or sport. A martial art is a ‘way’ of life – an art - it is a form of self-expression and, more importantly, it is a means of achieving maturity and growth on the mental, psychological, emotional and spiritual levels, not just the physical. Through my training and research, I found myself feeling closer to my sense of humanity and worldly compassion because, as ironic as it sounds, the arts teach you not to fight. They teach you methods and ways in which you can keep yourself somewhat safe without having to use physical means, and to only use your physical skill if there is no other choice.

Many people take on a martial system for a variety of reasons; physical exercise, self-defence, confidence building etc, however there is a much deeper level of self-involvement that can truly transform a person! We live in a world in which we just don’t know who is coming around that corner at night, and as such I strongly believe that every woman should have at least a basic knowledge of self-defence. No, we shouldn’t have to resort to defending ourselves, but our world is far from ideal as it currently stands. I’d rather know that my loved ones, friends, students and fellow sisters have some form of knowledge that could potentially save their lives, than it being otherwise.

Having trained in and practised over nine different martial arts, I decided to specialise in weapon arts, and currently my main art is a Korean sword art called Haidong Gumdo.
This has been my main style for over a decade now. It focuses on the use of the sword against multiple opponents as opposed to one on one as many sword arts do. Though this may be my main art, I adore and have trained in several other sword and weapon arts too, and it has often taught me that regardless of the style, the sword spans across almost all cultures. You learn so much more about different cultures and styles, and this is a form of personal growth.

What may seem to some to be like an artistic dance in which the sword becomes part of ones being, to others can sometimes seem a little redundant. “We don’t live in an era in which swords are used for warfare, so what’s the point?” This question is often presented to me, and I can understand why some may think this way. However, just as eye-capturing images nowadays can be purely made and designed digitally on a computer, that doesn’t mean that the traditional paint brush has become any less valued. Just as we can utilize a Microsoft Office Word package to write a letter in intricate fonts, this does not take away from the beauty and skill of a calligrapher’s pen. So, just as these artists express themselves through the strokes and lines of their respective tools, the sword has also become one such medium. Furthermore, from a personal safety perspective, the motions of a sword art can often also be applied ‘empty hand’ in order to adapt to one’s situation.

All in all, on a personal level, the martial arts have been crucial in my own personal development and growth in so many ways, and I have a lot to thank them for. There are martial arts of many different kinds, suited to all different physical skill levels and more, and I would highly recommend to any women to seek out a class that could work for her. The teaching method in a class definitely does make a huge difference to how we perceive the art, and it can sometimes be a struggle to find a class in which you feel you can connect with the teacher, but do not give up! It took me a long while to find such a place myself, but when I did, it became one of the most beneficial things I’d ever done.

A woman with a sword, skill and sense can be much more fearsome and unnerving to the small minded than anything out there – and that’s a good thing.