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Swale Martial Arts Club moving from East Street to Sittingbourne High Street

By Ellis Stephenson

A sports centre which has seen generations pass through its doors has closed after training people for more than 40 years.

Swale Martial Arts Club has been housed in a former church in East Street, Sittingbourne, since 1978 when the Dojo was opened by John Clarke’s grandparents Margret and John.

Now 45-year-old John has announced the much-loved venue is being sold off, meaning the club will move to above Sittingbourne Snooker Club in the High Street.

The club is closing to transfer to its new base in Sittingbourne High Street
The club is closing to transfer to its new base in Sittingbourne High Street

Mr Clarke followed in the footsteps of his grandparents and then his father, Martin Clarke, who died last summer aged 68.

His children, 18-year-old Lewis and 16-year-old Harry Clarke, are pursuing the family tradition of training and competing in martial arts.

Lewis represented Team GB in the IBF multi-nations competition in Holland in 2017 when he was awarded gold medal for Sambo.

As well as training people in the art of Judo, classes are put on for Karate, jiu jitsu and combat wrestling.

Mr Clarke, who is a college construction teacher at Medway University Technical College, said: “The club is being sold so we have got to move.

“We’re moving to an area above the snooker club with a grand opening and launch day on Saturday, March 2.

The Clarke family from left, John, Lewis, Martin and Harry stand in front of a picture of the centre’s founder John
The Clarke family from left, John, Lewis, Martin and Harry stand in front of a picture of the centre’s founder John

“It’s my chance to put my own stamp on the club and it’s a lot bigger, we can get two massive mat areas and all the classes up there now.

"There will be enough room for two large mats, punch bags and an mixed martial arts cage.

“We’ve got to build new changing rooms, put in a shower, safety wall, new signs and paint the place.

"I’m trying to get funding for it through grants as well because we are all volunteers.

"We don’t have to reinforce the floors because they’re concrete.

“Thank you to everyone over the 41 years who’ve been a part of the club and made it so special.

"The history won’t be forgotten but it’s time to move on with the future.

"The history won't be forgotten but it’s time to move on with the future" - John Clarke

“The sports help by improving fitness, anger control and keeping people off the streets.

"They get the chance to travel around the country and around the world to represent their country and do all these things they’d never do in their life.

“We get a lot of kids with behaviour problems coming along.

"It’s the ethos of discipline we have and parents have come back and said it has changed their kids’ lives.”

Different generations of the family have been teaching Judo in Sittingbourne for about 60 years.

The club currently has people on its books from the age of five to 73-year-old.

Equipment is set to be moved over to the snooker club from 10am today.

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