A BARRHEAD sports club is celebrating a milestone after two teenagers became its first ever home-grown talents to be promoted to the highest belt colour in Taekwondo.

Lauren Kee, 14, and 17-year-old Ross Chatham overcame a gruelling process which included a grading day at I-kick Martial Arts to secure their first-degree black belts.

The gym, just off Cogan Street, was founded by Ross Penman in 2014 and the pair have been at the club since joining as white belt beginners more than eight years ago. 

A third member, 20-year-old Jack Walker, who was already a black belt when he started training at I-kick at the age of 14, was also awarded his second-degree black belt.

Expert instructor Ross told the Barrhead News: “We have had other black belts in the club but they have come from outwith, so Lauren and Ross are our first home-grown ones.

“We have trained more than 1,000 students and to only have two of them get to that level, it just shows you the determination, the focus and the effort required.

“Those two have been able to stick it out and reap the benefits. We are really proud of them.

“It is a massive achievement for Jack as well and what’s particularly cool is that both Ross and Jack now have part-time jobs here while they are studying.

“They have been able to come in as students, go full circle and are now teaching.”

The martial arts students’ success is even more impressive considering the disruption caused by Covid and the series of tests they had to go through to move up the ranks.

Initially, this involved a theoretical pre-grading assessment based on their knowledge of martial arts history and Korean terms used in the sport, as well as an essay justifying their readiness to make the step up.

After making it to the grading day, the trio tackled a five-kilometre run at Cowan Park to demonstrate their fitness.

Finally, they showed off their practical skills, including self-defence techniques, and more technical aspects such as board breaking.

“Over the last year, the world has been far from normal and, as a club, we have had to adapt,” Ross added. “We have online classes which are still running now we are back in person. I think it’s helped the likes of Lauren, Jack and Ross take things to the next level.

“They have taken elements of the martial arts training which teaches them not to give up and to overcome adversity and they have found opportunity in the madness.”

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