Martial arts instructor and former Royal Air Force operator Ben Constable, 37, started Forward Sports Taekwondo at Claremont Park Community Centre in Claremont Road to help young bullying victims and other vulnerable people build confidence and socialise.
He said: “There are five main cornerstones of Taekwondo – respect, honour, perseverance, integrity, and indomitable spirit, which can be transferred into people’s day-to-day lives and help them build confidence.
“It can take months and months of practice for someone to learn some of the techniques and when it finally clicks it really makes them smile and feel proud of themselves.
“Getting that sort of achievement really boosts their confidence.”
The sessions are held on Saturdays from 3 to 4.30pm.
Mr Constable was joined at the school’s grand opening on Saturday by St Annes girl Erica Wilkinson, 11, whose parents took her out of school after they said she was bullied for two years. Mr Constable took the decision to offer Erica free lessons after reading her story in The Gazette.
He said: “I was bullied myself at high school and I know there’s not much help out there.
“There’s a lot of stigma attached to being bullied and it’s often played off as character building or just kids being kids. It’s a growing problem in many schools.
“Taekwondo helped me overcome confidence issues as a result of bullying.
“Erica is a credit to her family. She came in a bit nervous but once we started teaching she soaked up information like a sponge. She’s even been doing extra homework in her spare time.”
Mr Constable said he now hopes to attract more disabled students to his lessons by branching out into ‘para Taekwondo’ – a form of fighting developed to give disabled athletes the chance to go toe-to-toe with able-bodied fighters. Mr Constable said: “I hope I can give something to the disabled community in Blackpool through para Taekwondo.
“Everybody thinks martial arts is about teaching violence but it’s the opposite: it’s about control. Many disabled people do feel frustrated because of the assumptions made about them and para Taekwondo can help with that.”
Kick Stars, for three to five-year-olds has also started.
Call 07429 168973 for details of any of the sessions.