The lives of two young brothers have been transformed by martial arts after being taken under the wing of a Thai boxing trainer.
Billy, nine, and Stephen Collinge, ten, were awarded the superstar award from the Sandee School of boxing after excelling in Muay Thai and overcoming very different challenges.
When the siblings first started training Billy, was so shy, anxious and terrified of heights that he was unable to make it up the stairs into the Great Kings Thai boxing gym.
Coach and owner of the gym Tony Forde said: “The first time I met Billy was when his mum arrived at the gym and asked me to come to the stairs and have a word.
“I duly went out to the stairs to find Billy lying curled up on the stairs crying and refusing to move because he had an overwhelming fear of heights.
“Billy has grown within our group as a committed member of the Great Kings gym, whether committed to the banter or the hard training he hasn’t let anybody tell him he can’t enjoy the sport that gives him the confidence that brings him up the stairs each week.”
Stephen on the other hand has been described by the coach as a ‘completely different kettle of fish’.
Unlike his brother, who was originally quiet and poorly coordinated, Stephen was agile and adept at fighting.
However, Stephen had a real problem with discipline and he met his coach in potentially awkward circumstances.
Tony said: “The first time I got to meet Stephen was after a fight with my stepson.
“From that very first moment, I noticed he was far from a bad lad. He is a diamond of a lad when you get to know him, but his lack of self-discipline impacted on his behaviour at home and at school in a big way.
“Stephen’s story is also a wonderful one. Stephen has accepted the discipline that comes with training at Great Kings and has thrived. His behaviour at home is a complete turnaround to when he started and at school things couldn’t get any better.”
The two boys are progressing exceptionally in the martial art which is known as ‘the art of eight limbs’ due to the combined use of fists, elbows, knees, shins and feet.
Billy has now participated at five inter clubs and Stephen was in the finals this year at a UKMF Regional Championship, Celtic Regional Championship and WKA British Open Championship, winning two out of three.
Tony said: “Both boys’ stories demonstrate what Muay Thai gives to youngsters aside from the ability to fight.”