Graham Wardle has returned to his home town with a mission – to make martial arts a family pursuit.
After becoming an all-round martial arts expert in Sheffield, Graham (35) is back in Clitheroe, striking out on his own with his first solo venture, called Valley Martial Arts.
This week he welcomed his first customers – including members of his own family – to the CrossFit gym, Primrose Road, where he is renting space until he finds his own premises.
As a youngster, Graham lived in Pimlico Road and attended Pendle Primary School, and as a teenager he had factory jobs at Ultraframe and Rectella before moving to Sheffield, where he worked in call centres on customer service. But he found the work wasn’t fulfilling.
He started training at Castle Martial Arts, a large organisation with three centres in Sheffield, and found a new direction in his life.
“I’d done martial arts for years, but this was different,” he says. “I was so blown away by the standard of training that I stuck with them.
“It wasn’t just the physical training, it was the improvement in self-confidence and self-esteem. I saw how sharp the adults and kids became.”
Graham studied for two years for his Certified Institute Training qualification and became a full-time trainer at the Sheffield gyms in 2009.
But he always had a quiet hankering to come back to Clitheroe and his family.
“It’s a beautiful area with such friendly people, and I’ve been made to feel very welcome since I’ve been back.”
Graham has set up Valley Martial Arts (www.valleymartialarts.co.uk) with business partner Peter Smith, originally from Padiham, who runs Adrenalin Zone Ltd at Blackpool.
With courses starting at £60 a month for two sessions a week, Graham teaches a variety of disciplines including boxing, karate, taekwondo, Muay-Thai, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Mixed Martial Arts.
For those who aren’t sure whether martial arts is for them, Graham is offering a free one-to-one session before they decide.
And he is keen to emphasise there’s more to it all than punching and kicking.
“Martial arts is a tremendous vehicle to teach students how to be mentally, emotionally and physically tough,” he says.
“I’ve always prided myself on being a nice guy, and I’m keen on teaching courtesy, honesty, respect, self-discipline and other life skills.
“That’s why I want families to be involved in martial arts. I like them to train together, and I always encourage parents to watch their children and see how they develop.”