A NEW community centre is aiming to get the people of Tilbury back on their feet and fighting fit.

The Martial Academy and Wellness Centre, in Civic Square, officially opened its doors earlier this month and is offering anyone from the age of six the chance to try their hand at activities such as judo, self-defence and tai chi.

The academy, in the old fire station, has been set up to meet the challenges of inactivity and obesity in the Tilbury and Chadwell areas.

Last year, Thurrock Council’s annual health report showed that men who live in Chadwell and Tilbury have a life expectancy eight years less than that of someone who lives in Orsett.

Academy instructor Daniel Hodgson said the community and those using the centre were already seeing the benefits.

He said: “When we first arrived, we had lots of children that were using the fire tower at the back of the building as a climbing frame.

“There were broken windows and people doing as they shouldn’t. When we spoke to them, we found out they were just bored kids.

“We invited them to the class and now they’re part of the academy – and they’re now very protective of the place.

Councillors Lynn Worrall and Barbara Rice both volunteer at the academy and are delighted to see it now in action.

Mrs Rice said: “People know about the health problems here in Chadwell and Tilbury, and I think this will help to start tackle some of those issues.”

Mrs Worrall added: “It’s great to see a building that had nothing going for it being used again.

“Some of the children here are the ones that may have been outside breaking the windows, but now they’re in here taking ownership.”

For more information, visit www.martialacademy.co.uk