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Sailors and marines show Teesside youngsters how combat sports can keep them out of trouble

25 January 2024
Royal Marines and sailors gave youngsters on Teesside an insight into how combat sports can channel aggression and steer them away from crime and gang culture.

The session at Stockton’s Contender Gym could now be expanded county-wide after organisers were delighted with the response from the inaugural event, which was observed by local councillors, including Mayor Jim Beall, and local MP Matt Vickers.

“The theme for the event was for the careers service to partner with the department of the Corps colonels and local authorities to help fight against knife crime, drugs, and gang culture,” said Warrant Officer 2 Dennis Harrison RN.

As area recruiting manager, he’s been looking at different ways and locations where he can raise the profile of the Senior Service, such as ‘combat sport academies’ like the gym in Stockton.

“Contender Gym is working hard to instil values to children from diverse backgrounds and to provide an alternative to gang culture, drugs, and crime,” Dennis said.

“We’ve been looking to do the same and have found that these values of courage, self-discipline and respect for others are very much in line with the Royal Navy and Royal Marine ethos.

“There is a requirement to increase our current visibility and identify untapped resources for engagement, including venues outside the traditional outreach model.

Contender Gym is working hard to instil values to children from diverse backgrounds and to provide an alternative to gang culture, drugs, and crime.

Warrant Officer 2 Dennis Harrison RN

“Combat sport academies, across the North of England have large memberships that include young people from a diverse spectrum. The students possess a level of fitness and values in line with our ethos. This initiative would allow for close engagement, away from the education setting.”

Eight serving and reservist personnel rocked up at the gym to offer wide-ranging coaching and guidance from general physical drill to pad work for boxers and Muay Thai (aka Thai boxing), skills shared not just with Stockton’s young people but also the local police.

The RN/RM team shared their drills, training, fitness advice over 90-minute sessions to children from 11 through to those in their late teens.

Among those taking on the marines in the ring was Keaton McLaren, a member of the gym who has Charcot Marie Tooth disease, a rare, progressive condition also known as Hereditary Motor and Sensory Neuropathy. Despite being extremely poorly, Keaton made a special effort for the chance to work with the Royal Navy and Royal Marines.

Those who completed the sessions left with photos of their experience, a certificate and useful details about a career in the Royal Navy/Royal Marines one day.

The Cleveland Unit for Violence Reduction (CURV) is now looking at similar events across the region to offer children an alternative to knife crime/gang culture and also to promote the values instilled by martial arts – values such as courage, self-discipline and respect for others.
Pictures: Greg Corcoran and Robert Middleton

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