Black belt success for 11-year-old friends from Shropshire - with video and pictures
They might be just 11-years-old but these dedicated best friends are already accomplished mixed martial artists.
Ferre Williams from Tong and Keira Guha from Telford have fought their way to the coveted black belt.
Both girls have been a part of the Lee Matthews British Military Martial Arts School since they were four-years-old and train up to four times a week with Toby Thompson.
The sky is now the limit for the girls, according to their trainer.
Toby said: “The two girls have been with me for seven years now and we have been developing their skills ready for this. We do push the boundaries and try to teach respect, discipline and confidence.
“They are my first students to get their black belts in mixed martial arts (MMA) so I’m immensely proud of them because it’s a huge achievement. I know I would have loved to be a black belt at that age.”
MMA is an extreme combat sport, made popular by UFC Lightweight Champion Connor McGregor, which combines kickboxing, judo and karate.
Ferre, who attends classes in Albrighton, and Keria, who trains in Shifnal, passed the test at a gruelling grading in Tweedale last weekend.
They became friends after crossing paths at grading and taking extra weekend classes in preparation for the big day.
“They are total opposite though,” Toby said. “Keira is very small for her age and Ferre is very tall – you would never believe they were the same age.
“They both train two or three times a week and we’ve been working towards this for the last two years. It’s not easy because if it was, everyone would have a black belt. It’s physically and mentally draining so it’s pretty amazing what they have accomplished at such a young age.
“The grading for a black belt is gruelling. I have a class of boys who backed out of doing it but now they’ve seen Ferre and Keira get it, I think it’ll push them on.”
Dean Williams, Ferre’s father, also paid tribue to his daughter’s hard-work and dedication.
“As parents we are incredibly proud of them,” he said. “Passing black belt before reaching high school is a massive achievement and shows how dedication and perseverance really pays off. It teaches Ferre to be out of her comfort zone and she’s worked incredibly hard to get this far.
“It’s also really tough for us as parents though as well. My wife had to leave the room in tears at one point, but against all odds she came through it.”
The pair will now work their way through the dan grades, following in the footsteps of their trainer, who is a fourth dan black belt.
Toby, who recently achieved bronze and silver in the World Championships in mixed martial arts added: “They have both shown an interest in starting to teach the younger students and I would love for them to pass on their skills and knowledge.
“At first they’ll help me teaching but when they get to 14-years-old, if they are still interested, we will put them on a teaching course.”
Being awarded a black belt at 11-years-old is no mean feat but last year, Julian Lipala became the UK’s youngest when he passed the karate grading at the age of seven.