GAINING a martial arts black belt is one of the toughest things to achieve in sport.

But to do so suffering from learning difficulties and epilepsy takes some doing.

But that is just what John Maxwell has done with plenty of support and encouragement, not to mention his own dedication and hard work.

And all those years of training have finally paid off – and no-one is more proud than his mum Margaret.

John has been attending training sessions twice a week at the club based at Livesey Children’s and All Age Centre in Blackburn under the watchful eye of instructors Dave Garth and Paul Fleck.

Mum Margaret said: “We’re all incredible proud of John and we are extremely grateful to Dave and everyone at Phoenix for showing such patience with him and being very helpful.

“The martial arts has given John a focus and puts him in a routine which he really enjoys.

“He would go along to more sessions if he could.”

John’s condition means he can not take any blows to the head but Dave and his team have devised a programme that has seen him flourish – to such an extent that he is now a black belt holder and qualified to help with coaching.

“John is a smashing lad and is very dedicated,” said chief instructor Garth.

“He always turns up for training and works very hard so he deserves everything he gets.

“The black belt means he is now also a qualified coach and he will be more than welcome to help us coach some of the classes.”