A MAN who fell in love with Ju-Jitsu after his very first lesson has taught hundreds of athletes and future champions since launching his club in Leigh 26 years ago.

Always passionate about sports and fitness, Alan Francis joined a Ju-Jitsu club at Howe Bridge Sports Centre in 1981 after his football team disbanded, and he hasn't looked back since.

Falling in love with the discipline, fitness, and self-defence side of the sport, Alan launched Leigh Ju Jitsu club on Back Findlay Street in 1998, and has given up countless evenings to deliver these skills to young athletes, adults, and future martial arts champions like Tom Aspinall.

After balancing the club alongside his full-time work for decades, Alan has recently been awarded a 6th Dan Black Belt, which recognises his sporting skills, teaching experience, leadership ability, and length of participation at the highest level.

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Leigh Journal: Alan launched the Leigh club 26 years agoAlan launched the Leigh club 26 years ago (Image: Leigh Ju-Jitsu)
Speaking about the club, Alan said: "It is very rewarding because we have always prided ourselves on being a non-for-profit community club that is open for everyone. As long as we continue to cover our costs, then I'm happy.

"We've had Tom Aspinall start his career as well as other champions which is great. But I also love to see the kids that come who might be a bit shy or have been getting bullied, and you see them grow in confidence and come out their shell.

"We teach practical techniques for everyone to stay fit and defend themselves, and I always say the skills are there to be used only when you need them. This has happened to a few of our students so I'm glad I've given the skills to cope with that."

Leigh Journal: People from all ages and abilities come to train at the Back Findlay Street studioPeople from all ages and abilities come to train at the Back Findlay Street studio (Image: Leigh Ju-Jitsu)
With Alan giving up his evenings and weekends to teach people of all ages and abilities over the past 26 years, hundreds responded to a recent social media post to congratulate his 6th Dan promotion; which highlights the respect he and the club have in the community.

Martial arts has become a lot more popular since he first got involved, but the 63-year-old said that the club will continue to teach the practical skills and discipline of the sport for as long as possible.

Leigh Ju Jitsu offers classes on Wednesdays and Fridays for kids, on Tuesdays and Thursdays for adults, as well as competitions at the weekends, and private sessions.

Leigh Journal: Alan was recently recognised with a 6th Dan Black BeltAlan was recently recognised with a 6th Dan Black Belt (Image: Leigh Ju-Jitsu)