FOR Casino teenager Zosia Seikot, training and competing in judo martial arts is about building confidence, strength and balance but most importantly, making friends.
Zosia was one of about 50 competitors who took part in the Special Needs Judo Friendship Games at Goonellabah Sports and Aquatic Centre on Saturday.
Zosia, the reigning Special Needs Judo national champion said she first took up the sport about six years ago after being inspired by movie characters Teenage Ninja Turtles.
"I really wanted to do something after school and I wanted to do martial arts," she said. "I went there and I really like it and that's how I got started.
"You can get all your anger out and you can socialise and meet new people, go places, travel a lot."
The Friendship Games is the only special needs judo competition in Australia.
First staged in 2008, the national competition is held bi-annually and has been shared between Elizabeth Special Needs Judo Club in South Australia and Lismore PCYC Judo Club.
The games cater for athletes with intellectual, physical or sensory disabilities.
Lismore PCYC judo head coach Alan Foley, who has represented Australia in the sport and is a disability support worker, said making friends and connections was a major focus of the event.
"Socialisation is the biggest one," he said. "On the judo side of it, balance, co-ordination, confidence, patience, sense of achievement."
Alison Rose has been practising judo for nine years and was among the competitors on Saturday.
"I get to meet new people and it's fun and I get to teach some new kids," she said.
Alison's sister Justine said the sport had physical benefits as well.
"She started judo because she had no balance, she kept falling over and she bruises very easily," she said.
"Now she knows how to fall so she won't bruise herself."