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Jab Not Stab! Radical bid to stop Ipswich knife crime by kickboxing coach

Gary Staff, pictured here in 2012, is hoping to organise the new Jab Not Stab training sessions in Ipswich. Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARY

Gary Staff, pictured here in 2012, is hoping to organise the new Jab Not Stab training sessions in Ipswich. Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARY

It's seconds out in the fight against knife crime in Ipswich - as a kickboxing coach comes up with a radical idea to deal a knock-out blow to gang culture.

Gary Staff of Ipswich Kickboxing Academy, pictured here in 2011, believes the sport can help to divert young people away from a life or crime. Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARYGary Staff of Ipswich Kickboxing Academy, pictured here in 2011, believes the sport can help to divert young people away from a life or crime. Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARY

Like many in Suffolk Gary Staff has been appalled to see the rise of knife crime, with offences involving blades going up 25% in the county in five years.

It has been described as a "growing problem" by Suffolk police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore - but Mr Staff believes he can help put the issue on the ropes.

As owner of Ipswich Kickboxing Academy in Westgate Street, he has seen many wayward children take up the sport and transform their lives as a result - because boxing teaches them vital discipline they seldom learn elsewhere.

So he plans to run free new sessions, appropriately called Jab Not Stab, targeted directly at those in gangs or at risk of falling into a life of crime in a bid to direct them on a new path in life.

Some might think teaching young people to punch each other is a slightly unorthodox tactic in the fight against knife crime - but Mr Staff, a former fighter himself, said: "Although some people frown, it's not like that.

"They learn discipline from the word go. They get all their aggression out and it starts them down a different road.

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"It keeps them off the street because they want to go training instead of going out.

"It's not about getting them to go out and fight. I'm not teaching people to go out and bully people."

Mr Staff, who would ban those who do fights outside of his club, is keen to get the support of Suffolk police before he arranges the first event but is hopeful officers will see the benefit in what he is trying to achieve.

"It does change people and put them down a different path," he said of the classes, which he hopes to organise on a Friday night.

"I teach lots of kids in my gym. I was a fighter and now I run a gym, I like to help others.

"Knife crime is big. It's all over the place and no-one is doing anything about it.

"These youngsters are silly really, because they don't know any better. They get led down the wrong path.

"It's just so stupid. There are other things out there in life for them to go and do. I'm sure they'll look back and regret it. Hopefully they don't end up in prison.

"Boxing does change people and puts them down a different path."

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