Lowestoft club is bush (ido) whacked!

Mark BoggisTHE glum looks on these children's faces say it all!Heartless thieves have left a club that was established to get youngsters and adults back into active sport and fitness fearing for their future after thousands of pounds worth of equipment was stolen.Mark Boggis

THE glum looks on these children's faces say it all!

Heartless thieves have left a club that was established to get youngsters and adults back into active sport and fitness fearing for their future after thousands of pounds worth of equipment was stolen.

The Bushido Martial Arts and Community Fitness Centre in Oulton Broad was targeted over the weekend, as the office area of the club on the Harbour Road industrial estate was broken into with �3,500 stolen from a safe, around �80 was taken from a smashed-up till, club merchandise, a video camera and digital camera used to record the youngsters in competitions were also stolen along with a special training sword - estimated to be worth between �10,000 and �15,000 - during the overnight weekend raid.

And this week owner Lee Wall admitted he and the 115 club members were 'absolutely gutted' after cash that they'd raised through sponsorship and sales of merchandise disappeared.

Now the outlook is bleak for the club, which was opened under the banner of the East Anglian Fighting Arts Organisation and registered as a not for profit Community Interest Company a year ago.

'The centre was opened in March 2009 to the community, teaching various different styles of martial arts,' Mr Wall said. Last April we opened a fitness training room as we are open seven days a week offering classes in karate, kickboxing, boxing, jujitsu, MMA and Korean Martial Art.

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'Our organisation is registered with Suffolk County Council's disadvantage funding, that helps children and young adults receive grants to train at Bushido,' he added.

With classes running every night, youngsters aged from six upwards are regulars at the club. With various ages and students in attendance, whether it be in specific training classes or in the fitness room, Grand Master Wall's oldest student is a woman in her fifties - who has been with the club for more than seven years - and she will be taking her 1st dan black belt grading this Mother's Day (Sunday).

'Getting children and young adults back into sport or fitness regime is crucial to their well being,' Mr Wall said. Obesity in children is dangerous, which can lead to health problems when they are older if not addressed early in life - so I set this centre up as I want our children to have a chance to reach adulthood and have all the necessary values to eat healthy, stay fit and enjoy life.'

But the callous robbery has now meant that there is now a real possibility that the club could close, without the cash that had been set aside for bills.

'When I came in on Saturday morning it was absolute turmoil - thieves had broken in through the office window and prised open the safe, with around �3,500 we'd collected through sponsorship, members paying up front and selling stock to pay for bills all gone, the till was smashed up and around �80 in change was stolen before being later found by police minus the cash,' he said.

'It was completely unbelievable as I have put so much into getting this facility up-and-running - around �35,000 of my own money - now this lifeline for kids and the 115 members who use the centre has been destroyed.

'With the money now gone, we will be lucky to survive to the end of the year and when I told the kids all of them were really gutted - it makes you think what is the point?'

With training sessions continuing this week, Mr Wall was trying to put a brave face on things as police investigations continued. 'This week has been the worst week of my life, but in the long term these kids will be losing out,' he said.

With police seeking witnesses, the break-in happened between 10pm on Friday, March 5 and 10am on Saturday 6 March.

'Investigations are still ongoing into the incident and CCTV in the area is now being looked at,' a police spokesman told The Journal. 'We would ask anyone with information to call PC David Stranks at Lowestoft police on 01986 835300.'

If you want to help out these youngsters, call the club's owner, Lee Wall, on 01502 501198.

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