Fighting for a better future

Martial Arts world champion Keith Priestley wants to start a martial arts gym in Wyke. (d15021211)
Martial Arts world champion Keith Priestley wants to start a martial arts gym in Wyke. (d15021211)
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A TWO-TIME martial arts world champion is aiming to turn around the lives of youngsters in Wyke and Low Moor.

Keith Priestley, 60, wants to secure £3,500 to buy crash mats for his new community gym, which he hopes will provide an outlet for troubled youngsters.

The idea took root after Keith saw that a newly refurbished play area at Wyke rec was vandalised within days of its reopening last year. The former world champion and three-times European champion was dismayed by what had happened.

“There is nothing for young people to do any more – no youth clubs because they have closed down,” he said.

“A few days after the park opened, children had trashed it. People are bending over backwards to do stuff for kids, then thousands of pounds worth of equipment was wrecked in just one day.”

Keith, of Worthinghead Road, spoke to friends and fellow fighters around the world about what other countries did to keep youngsters off the streets.

He secured the former Dennis Williams hairdressers’ building, in Abb Scott Lane, and work is now under way to fix the roof. However, it cannot open until it has the crash mats.

Using his own money, Keith decided to show that the discipline he learned as a fighter can improve the fortunes of kids on his doorstep.

In July, Keith is taking a group of young fighters to compete in the World Championships in Japan.

“When I won my first world title, doors opened for me that I never knew existed,” he said.

“If I can get 10 young people off drink and drugs, maybe that is 10 less people causing crime or robbing houses. That is my goal.”

He is also planning on incorporating thai chi sessions for older people, to help bridge the generation gap.

Keith added: “I want to get children working alongside older people to do something positive.”

Follow me on Twitter @Spen_G_Ben; email me at ben.morgan@ywng.co.uk.