A SIX-month martial arts course has just begun in Prestwich that will make karate accessible for children with Down Syndrome and learning disabilities.

Greater Sport, a charity which aims to help people through physical activities and exercise, has subsidised the classes, at Prestwich Lions Club on Tuesday afternoons, from 3pm until 4pm.

Brett Nelson, chief instructor with 15 years experience and a 3rd Dan black belt in Tang Soo Do, a Korean variant of karate, said the lessons are important to make martial arts accessible for disadvantaged children.

The classes are open to people of all ages, with the youngest being 10-11 and some of the oldest students being 22, It is intended as a stepping stone into mainstream sessions.

Brett said: “Over the pandemic, we have seen changes in children’s character. They are now more wary and introspective after such a long period of isolation that has set them back a long way, particularly in terms of mental health.

“We take a traditional approach with a modern twist, encouraging values of discipline, courage, and perseverance which run through all aspects of life and can improve mindset.”

Several children have already begun taking lessons and are said to be making big strides in their self-confidence, and fitness.

Brett hopes the lessons can eventually become self-funded and then continue for at least 12 months, improving the lives and health of children.

Carol Plummer, an assistant instructor who has been practicing for three-and-a half-years, added: “Children with disabilities are often underestimated due to a lack of opportunity, rather than their ability.

I’m really passionate about wanting to provide those opportunities and make them feel as included in the community as possible.”

The instructors each have backgrounds in disability services and educational psychology.