FREE martial arts classes aimed at helping children keep bullies at bay are being organised in Irvine by a kickboxing champion.

Richie Harkin, a black belt in Taekwondo and full-contact Scottish Kickboxing champion, is running the classes for boys and girls at a warehouse at 6 West Road, Irvine on Tuesdays and Thursdays, at 6.15pm and Saturdays, at noon.

The classes started two months ago and are going really well.

Richie said: "It's basically a class to help get teenagers of the street to give them something positive to do in the town centre. Also to help kids that are maybe starting secondary school or who are at academy that are getting bullied. Just to give them confidence to stand up for themselves. All they have to do is turn up on the night and get involved.

"It's a mix of kickboxing and Taekwondo. The class is aimed at 10-to 16- year-olds and separate classes for adults are also organised. The classes are all free of charge. Over the three days I have 23 students altogether. An average of 15 come along each night, boys and girls. It is self defence but more kick boxing and Taekwondo.

"We have had really good feedback and a lot of the parents are telling us and are the children that they are loving it. I started these classes for two months.

"The classes are important for fitness and discipline and health and gives them confidence to defend themselves.

"Taekwondo is the most popular martial art in the world. The classes are anti-bullying and if children are bullied by learning the skills they will have a stronger body language, they can walk with their heads held high and confidence in themselves. The classes are free, some people pay £30 a week to learn martial arts."

Richie provides boxing gloves and feet protectors so there's every reason to get involved.

People interested should make their way along to any of the lessons,