Down's Syndrome man gains black belt

WHEN Andrew Brooks was born with Down's Syndrome in the 1970s his parents were told not to expect much of him and were even given advice to “put him away” in seclusion.

WHEN Andrew Brooks was born with Down's Syndrome in the 1970s his parents were told not to expect much of him and were even given advice to “put him away” in seclusion.

Despite the bleak prognosis and severe learning difficulties, Andrew has proved his doubters wrong in magnificent style.

Today he is celebrating something many would have thought impossible - he has gained one of the top ranks in karate, a black belt.

With a steely determination 31-year-old Andrew, of Penfold Road, Felixstowe, has spent the last 11 years dedicating himself to the ancient martial art.

Thanks to the gentle encouragement of his parents, the patient guidance of his instructors and sheer desire to succeed, Andrew, who cannot read or write, is now a role model for other martial artists.

His mother Cathy Brooks told The Evening Star he is an inspiration to all for his “give-it-a-go” attitude and steadfast resolve.

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She said: “When he got his black belt I burst into tears. I am so proud.

“It is absolutely wonderful because he has worked so hard for it.”

As well as karate Andrew also plays football, bowls, snooker and has taken up ballroom dancing.

He is also studying at college to learn how to read and write.

Mrs Brooks said: “When he was born I was told to put him away.

“Children with Down's Syndrome did not get much of a chance back then.

“He liked school but couldn't read or write.

“Despite that he always wants to give things a go. He doesn't just want to be sat in front of the TV.

“People with Down's Syndrome are always put down but this just goes to prove they can do it.”

Andrew's coach, Sean Hollobone, who runs Foxhall Karate Club, said he is immensely proud of the achievement.

He said: “Andrew is very easy to teach.

“Although he can't communicate very well he takes everything in that you tell him.

“He's very determined and I am really happy for him.”

People with disabilities interested in getting involved with sport can visit www.idsf.org.uk or www.teamipswich.com.

n> Do you know someone who has battled adversity to achieve great things? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

Karate's origins:

The martial arts leading to modern Karate are believed by historians to have originated centuries ago in China.

In the 6th Century AD a Buddhist monk, Bodhidharma, travelled from the Indian subcontinent to the Temple of Shaolin in China and discovered devout monks observing spiritual Zen practices but who were physically feeble and weak.

Bodhidharma set about improving their fitness as a part of their religious observance, since physical well-being is a core part of Zen philosophy.

Over the centuries the arts practised by the Shaolin monks spread, not just in China but beyond the country's borders, eventually reaching Okinawa, one of the Ryukyu chain of islands (now a part of Japan).

The native Okinawan people developed the Okinawa-te martial art, a forerunner of modern-day Karate, in order to protect themselves and their families against bandits and raiders.

Source: www.shotokankarate.org.uk

Fast facts: Down's Syndrome

n> Down's is a genetic disorder caused by the presence of all or part of a 21st chromosome

n> It is named after John Langdon Down, the British doctor who described it in 1866

n> Often Down's Syndrome is associated with some impairment of cognitive ability and physical growth as well as facial appearance

n> Individuals with Down's Syndrome can have a lower than average cognitive ability, often ranging from mild to moderate learning difficulties

n> The incidence of Down's Syndrome is estimated at 1 per 800 to 1 per 1,000 births