PCC Funding a Blessing for Fighter's Club

The Commissioners Partnership Fund was made available in May 2014 for charities, voluntary organisations and community groups in Gwent involved in activities that have a positive impact on their communities.

The projects funded contribute to delivering the Commissioner's priorities for Gwent which include reducing and preventing crime; taking more effective action to reduce anti-social behaviour and protecting people from serious harm. Each group was able to apply for funding up to the region of £10,000.

Among the successful projects celebrating their slice of funding from the Commissioners Partnership Fund today is the Tillery Combat Mixed Martial Arts Academy based in the heart of Blaina town, Blaenau Gwent. Using sport, fitness, discipline and self-defence, the Tillery Combat MMA Academy helps to divert the most disaffected and disengaged people in the community away from a life of crime and substance abuse.

Whether it's those looking to compete, learn self-defence or just keep fit, the club train people in several martial arts disciplines. Their award of £5,000 will be used to kit out the gym with new equipment and also to cover the travels costs to and from local competitions for those who can't afford it.

One person who can certainly vouch for how the club can help reduce crime and anti-social behaviour is 24 year old Jack Robert Marshman from Abertillery. Jack was thrown out of school at the age of 14 because of his behaviour and got into trouble with the Police on more than one occasion. Worried about his future and the path he was heading down, Jack's father urged him to start training at the gym and he hasn't looked back since.

After receiving considerable mentoring and training from Head Coach, Richard Shore, Jack joined the Britiah Army as a Paratrooper and has been on two tours to Afghanistan. He is also a celebrated professional cage fighter and last weekend, he defeated his latest opponent at the Cage Warriors Championship held in Newport. He now spends his time off from the army preparing for his professional fights and mentoring young people at the club to steer them away from a life of crime and substance abuse.

"I was a big trouble maker when I was 14 or 15 so my Dad asked Richard, the Head Coach here, to train me and I've never looked back," says Jack.

"I was kicked out of school about two years before I was supposed to finish. I was close to going to jail and I got locked up quite a few times. The club here has helped me loads. I'm living the dream at the moment.

I'm in the army but I get to train full time. I'm doing well at this sport and I've fought in different countries all over the world. It's made me a better person. The club has given me discipline and I don't think I would have survived in the army without that discipline and focus. I have a fair few fights a year so the army give me time off to come and train at the gym here. They know that I need to train at a proper professional gym at the level I'm fighting at. This funding will give us the new equipment we need to compete at the highest level.

I think this gym attracts a lot of people who have been through the same as what I've been through. If you're putting all your effort into training and dieting for fighting, you are bound to have a controlled lifestyle. You have to or you won't make it in the sport. Mixed Martial Arts helps you to channel and control your aggression which can only help in reducing crime in communities.

If it wasn't for this project, I don't think I would have had the discipline to stay in the army and I probably would have ended up in jail. A lot of people at the club have had a turbulent history and have been in trouble with the law. Some of them are now professional fighters and they are all channelling their aggression into meeting their goals in fighting."

The club was established in Blaenau Gwent seven years ago by Head Coach, Richard Shore. Delighted with the funding, Richard said: "We work closely with the youth offending service and we have quite a few members who used to get in trouble in the past but have now turned their lives around thanks to the club.

Lots of them, like Jack, are now regarded as role models here. The gym is in serious need of upgrading and it was getting to the point where it wasn't suitable for the levels of competition we enter. The statistics prove that this club has helped to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour in the community and this money has been a blessing. We're getting young people off the streets here and giving them something else to do instead of drinking on the corners. It's great that this cash seized from criminals is being used to deter other young people from becoming criminals themselves."