Ipswich: Inspirational Down’s Syndrome kickboxer wins first title

IPSWICH: A kickboxer who suffers from Down’s Syndrome is celebrating after winning his first belt at Ipswich Kickboxing Academy – after just four months of training.

Gavin Harvey, 29, of Thackeray Road, has impressed his instructors and sparring partners with his hard work ethic and positive attitude.

He won his first belt recently – passing his Red Belt 10th kyu, performing in front of the whole class.

Gavin said: “I was very proud of myself for getting my first belt. It was nerve-wracking having to do it in front of everyone but I’m very glad I got my first belt.

“My family and friends were very pleased for me. I get on with everyone at the club really well and they were really pleased for me.

“I think kickboxing is a great sport. I love it. It makes me very happy.”

Gavin, who is married to Katie, who also has Down’s Syndrome, has been training at Ipswich Kickboxing Academy for just four months, from Monday to Thursday every week.

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Chief instructor Gary Staff believes kickboxing has given Gavin a whole new outlook in life. “He tells us we’re now part of his family,” he said.

“He was introduced to us through his carer, had a trial, liked us and it’s gone from strength to strength. He’s never looked back.

“He’s actually gone from being quite reserved to a much more confident person now. I think it’s brought more out of him. It’s helped him big time. He’s a changed person.

“He classes us as members of his family. It’s been brilliant getting to know him – he’s a great guy.”

Gary believes Gavin wanted to join the Ipswich Kickboxing Academy because he wanted to be part of a group – although Gary treats him just like anyone, telling him to do push-ups if he steps out of line.

“I treat him just like one of the guys. I don’t give him any special treatment because I believe in treating everyone the same.

“If he steps out of line he has to do press-ups just like everyone else.”

Gary, who has represented Great Britain in European kickboxing championships in a distinguished 25-year career, admits he has learnt a lot from teaching Gavin.

“It’s been a learning curve for me,” he added. “I’ve never taught someone who has Down’s Syndrome but I’m very passionate about what I do and have loved teaching him.”

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