A young Knowle West couple are launching a new karate and kickboxing club at Inns Court in January – because they want to “give something back to the community.”
Les Downs (18) and his girlfriend Lauren Parry (20) are both blackbelts and have won dozens of medals over the years, including a number of golds at the World Championships and British Open.
They are starting the Bristol Sport Karate and Kickboxing Club (BSKC) at Inns Court Community and Family Centre on 6 January – and will be running twice-weekly sessions for children and adults aged “from four to 99”.
Les first took up karate at the age of 11, and started competing a few months later, scooping gold in his first competition. He then took up kickboxing as well a year later.
He explains: “Back in 2013 I started to get lazy, I sat at the computer all day and didn’t do much physical activity…
“My parents thought it would be a good idea to take up a sport, I was small and skinny – so they thought it would be good for me to learn self defence…”
Lauren started kickboxing at 13 as “both her brothers had done it when they were younger” and took up karate in 2015, at the age of 16.
She met Les at the Bristol Dojo and they later moved to the Bristol Martial Arts Academy for their training. It was Les who encouraged her to compete – and she has also been extremely successful, winning many awards including Gold in the over 65kg Women’s Traditional Karate last year in the WKU World Championships.
“It’s definitely given me confidence,” she told The Knowledge.
The pair are eager to promote the benefits of the martial arts – from learning to defend yourself to discipline and self control – as well as improving mental and physical health and fitness levels.
Then there is the social benefit – and the chance to meet other enthusiasts and make new friends, in their case from all over the world. They say “it’s like having another family.”
Les says: “One of the main reasons we want to start the club is to give something back to the community… to make everyone happier and give a place for children to meet.
“To begin with we’re doing mixed age groups and we won’t be making them fight but teaching them the basics. Kickboxing and karate go well together because they are both stand up martial arts – so can feed into each other.”
Bristol Sport Karate and Kickboxing Club will be starting at Inns Court Community and Family Centre, 1 Marshall Walk on 6 January.
It will run Monday and Thursday evenings with three one hour sessions in karate, weapons and kickboxing from 6-9pm for adults and children aged four upwards.
For more information call 0792 390 7686.