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Karate lessons help Headcorn's Ishar Sandhu go from shy teenager to world medallist in just eight months

By Craig Tucker

An autistic teenager who took karate lessons to build his confidence has won a world bronze medal just eight months later.

Ishar Sandhu has amazed everyone with his progress since taking up the sport at Takimura Karate Federation in his home village of Headcorn.

The 15-year-old is a different boy from the shy young lad who started out under the tutelage of Archie Grassom.

From left, Archie Grassom, Ishar Sandhu, Barry Rose and Ishar's dad, Bal Picture: Andy Payton
From left, Archie Grassom, Ishar Sandhu, Barry Rose and Ishar's dad, Bal Picture: Andy Payton

His new-found confidence helped him land bronze at the WUKF World Championships in Dundee last month.

He followed up with silver at the National Championships in Bury over the weekend and has been invited to compete at the European Championships in Malta in October.

Proud dad Bal can hardly believe the transformation in his son since taking the advice of customer Barry Rose in his village shop to sign Ishar up.

He said: “I’m absolutely astounded at what Ishar’s achieved and the way he’s blossomed. I couldn’t have imagined it in 100 years.

“We’ve been through so much with his autism.

“He’s taken to karate like a duck to water and we’ve met such fantastic people, people who restore your faith in human nature.

“It put it down to Archie and the way he’s taught him. He’s a truly magnificent man and we’re blessed to find him.

“Ishar wouldn’t normally talk to strangers but for some reason he has an affinity with Archie.

“As a family, we’d never left Ishar with anyone in his life.

“We’d be petrified at the thought of him going for a walk but he really took to Archie. He’s come on leaps and bounds in such a short space of time.

“I couldn’t recommend karate highly enough for children with autism. It does such wonders for confidence.”

Sandhu competes in adapted karate, for disabled players, with his medals coming in kata.

Like Bal, sensei Grassom is thrilled with the teenager’s development.

He said: “It’s an amazing thing for him to win a World Championship bronze medal in the space of eight months.

“For me, it’s not the medals that are the exciting bit. It’s watching his cultural and spiritual development as a person and you can see the change in the boy.

“Most autistic people don’t look people in the eye, they don’t like noise and don’t like being in public areas.

“But Ishar’s broken through all those barriers and it’s a huge achievement.”

Grassom has been invited on to the governing body commission to develop adapted karate.

Inspired by Ishar’s success, he’s also looking into running a disability class at Headcorn Village Hall, starting in September.

For more information, call him on 07921 024253.

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