PEOPLE of different ethnic backgrounds are being brought together through martial arts.
The JKK Tae Kwon Do Club, which meets at the Salaam Centre, in Hartlepool, has Polish, Pakistani, Indian and Bangladeshi members.
The club, which has been running at the Murray Street-based venue for 13 weeks, is run by Ken Kirby, John and Aaron Farnsworth and Amanda Slater.
Ken says the club is making a real difference in bringing different cultures together.
Ken, a 57-year-old fourth dan, from the town’s Relton Way, said: “In the club we have got an equal balance of Polish, Pakistani, Indian and Bangladeshi and some of the kids are outstanding.
“The Government can’t get people to talk to each other but we’ve cracked it.
“We wanted more people in our club and looking at the community there was too much of ‘us and them’ and everybody in their own circles.
“We had to break up everyone’s little circles and bring everybody together. When you come here, it doesn’t matter about colour or religion. We work as a team.”
Ken said the group started off for young people, but a lot of parents have got involved.
Members were recently graded and 15 achieved their yellow belt.
Ken, who along with John, Aaron and Amanda also runs KJA Street Defence classes, said: “It was a good grade and all the kids passed.
“One Polish man and his daughter are amazing. Once we have got the kids up and running we are going to start looking at competitions.”
Ken said there had not been a language barrier, but he added: “You do feel quite meek because they can speak English and you can’t speak their language.
“Everybody’s really good.”
Ken, whose JKK side has just returned from a seminar in Doncaster which featured top martial arts fighter Superfoot Bill Wallace, added: “We are as proud as punch of what we’ve done, we have done something that a lot of people haven’t done.
“It’s unreal. We go to competitions and you tend to see Asians stick together, Europeans stick together and other people stick together.
“But in our club there equal amounts of everybody, it’s a big happy family.” The session at the Salaam Centre is held every Sunday from 1pm-3pm and is open to everyone.
A separate tae kwon do session is held on Wednesdays from 7pm-8.30pm at the club’s base in George Street.
The club also runs a street defence class on Mondays from 7pm-8.30pm at The Peoples Centre, in Raby Road, and a stamina class at 7pm on Fridays at its George Street venue.