Fighters have Rio in sights

Ross Stevenson and Connall Brown.
Ross Stevenson and Connall Brown.

Two fighters from north Northumberland are aiming for Rio after their sport was officially accepted to be part of the 2016 Olympic Games.

Eighteen-year-old Connell Brown and Ross Stevenson, 26, who both train with Alnwick-based Long Zanshi Chinese kickboxing club, took gold and silver respectively at the British Novice San Shou Championship held in Milton Keynes.

But the full-contact martial art – which consists of kicks, punches, throws and grappling – has just been accepted as an official Olympic sport and will have its debut at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.

And that means a British team will be drawn together to compete.

Connell won his gold medal in the 70kg division, while Ross took silver at 80kg.

Both athletes are now training for the San Shou Open British Championship, to be fought in London next March, under the tuition of seasoned local instructor Shaun Gaines.

No stranger to competition glory, Shaun himself was the British Council for Chinese Martial Arts (BCCMA) national sparring champion in 2003, 2004 and 2005. And he has also tried his hand at full-contact San Shou finishing fourth at the 2004 BCCMA UK championships and third at the BCCMA Northern championships.

Shaun said: “The dream of the club would be to get an athlete on the GB team.

“We’re extremely lucky that we have two excellent contenders at Long Zanshi. We’re only a small club but this is very promising.”

San Shou literally translates as ‘free hand’ from Mandarin Chinese. It was developed by the military as an offshoot to traditional Wushu, or classical kung fu, during the 1920s. At that time, bouts were fought barehanded and no rules existed. It was later adopted as a method by the People’s Liberation Army of China.

While the sporting version is still based on the principles of realistic fighting, for safety reasons some techniques from the self-defense form such as elbow strikes, chokes and joint locks are not allowed during tournaments.

Long Zhanshi runs classes from Monday to Friday for all levels and abilities at Willowburn Sports and Leisure Centre in Alnwick.