MARTIAL ARTS: TAKING up a sport and going on to excel in it is not always about the glory and for one young student in Tony Littlejohns' Ellesmere Port & Neston Tae Kwon-Do Club, taking up martial arts has changed his entire life.
When you first meet Liam Gaine he looks like any normal 12-year-old but for all of his short life he has had to live with the condition dyspraxia - the 'invisible learning difficulty.'
Dyspraxia affects the way a sufferer moves their body and there are a number of various symptoms including poor balance, hand-eye co-ordination and visual perception.
But in the four years since Liam first took up tae kwon-do, he has come on leaps and bounds.
His father, Roger, said: 'When he first came to Tony's classes he couldn't even kick a football but the transformation has been amazing.'
Liam's mother, Ann, decided her son should learn a martial art after doctors suggested that it may be beneficial to his development.
She said: 'Children with dyspraxia have loose ligaments and problems with doing things in a sequence but the tae kwon-do has helped remedy both these problems and encourages Liam to focus. It has also helped with his asthma, has strengthened his body as a whole and improved his confidence as most children with dyspraxia have low self-esteem.
'Tony has been a great help to him and Liam and all the other youngsters love him because he's such an inspiration and he's also a big kid at heart himself.'
Liam is now one of Ellesmere Port & Neston Tae Kwon-Do's star pupils and has now been awarded his first dan black belt after a grading in Bristol.
Littlejohns said: 'Things that most of us take for granted are so difficult for Liam and he has to face many challenges on a daily basis. The has a spacial awareness disorder which means that he is unable to tell whether something is 10ft away or just 10 inches. He had to exercise so much control when went for his grading, we were all concerned for him because he sometimes struggles in un-familiar surroundings but he was magnificent.
'Liam has good and bad days but if he falls over he just rolls on his back and flicks himself up, he's extremely athletic. In the past, he's had to face some comments from other children because they don't understand his ways but he always tries his best and is now reaping the benefits.
I once read that if you're a first dan in an accredited martial art then you're among the top 1% of athletes in the world and for someone like Liam, that's an incredible achievement.'