WATCHING judo coach Wendy Martin with the members of her judo club, it’s abundantly clear how much she enjoys their sessions.
And so do those taking part.
The adults, who all have learning disabilities, beam from ear-to-ear as they successfully perform throws or holds on each other – and laugh with delight when someone performs one on Wendy.
The weekly class, at Thornton Sports Centre, on Victoria Road East, has only been running for a few weeks, but in that short space of time has already grown to seven regular members.
When some of the judo players first started the lessons, they were unable to even perform moves such as a forward roll, but have now grown in confidence and skills and have progressed to throws and holds.
Wendy, who lives in Carleton, only started taking part in the sport seven years ago herself.
She enjoyed it so much, she kept coming back and progressed to a competitive black belt, as well as training as a UKCC level two judo coach.
The mum-of-two said: “I just love judo. My son has a visual impairment, and he had got in a bit of trouble, so he came down to judo at the sports centre, and after he had been going a few months, I decided to come and try it.
“I really enjoyed it, and have kept coming back ever since.
“As a woman, it’s made me much more confident.
“I had a desk job, but have since given that up, and now work full-time with people with learning disabilities – so it’s a total change of lifestyle.
“Everybody who comes to these judo sessions really enjoys them. When they first started to come, they were really shy.
“That can be quite common among people with learning difficulties, they can be sometimes reluctant to do things, and feel shy, and not very confident.
“But as they have started to develop the skills, their confidence has grown.
“For example, when Cheryl first started coming, she couldn’t do a forward roll. Now she does them all the time! And she has progressed to doing judo rolls.
“She watched me when I was just warming up, and did some and then copied me.
“With encouragement and praise for their achievements, their confidence has really grown.
“It’s physically good, it helps improve fitness – but the main thing is, it’s about having fun.
“When the other coach and I are practising on players, there are others who take it upon themselves to practise with each other.
“These adults wouldn’t be able to do these classes anywhere else. As far as I am aware, there aren’t any other clubs like this in the North West.
“It is a brilliant way for the group to channel their energy in a positive way.
“It’s also about raising awareness of activities for people with learning difficulties – and the fact the sports centre is part of the community and is for everyone.”
Lee Sutton, who comes to the club, said: “I like doing the judo, it’s good fun.”
The group is currently looking to attract funding to help pay for kits and membership of the British Judo Association.
For more details, email Wendy on firstname.lastname@example.org or call (01253) 893972.