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History

Alf’s Blackbelt Academy was originally founded as “Stacksteads Freestyle” back in 1991 and operated out of the church hall on Brandwood Road, Stacksteads, Bacup. Alf Love started the club with mainly family and friends attending the initial lessons on Tuesday and Thursday Evenings, it wasn’t long before the membership grew as word spread across the Rossendale Valley.

In 1995 we were forced to move because the local brownie pack who shared the same premises made complaints about the noise. For a short period we trained in a room above the Riverside Cafe at the Tollbar in Stacksteads, eventually moving up a couple of floors into Unit Y within the Tollbar Business Park which at the time proved to be an ideal location allowing us the space to develop the club and grow.

The club at this time was affiliated to the BMA association but left due to issues with licences to join Joe Tierney’s Shorai International Organisation who we are still with today. Joe Tierney the president of Shorai is one of the most respected martial artists in the World and our Academy are very proud to be in his organisation. 

The clubs very first international trip was with Shorai international to Niagara Falls, Canada in 1996 where twelve students attended a training camp for a week before competing in what at the time was Canada’s largest martial arts event, the “DOUVRIS CLASSIC”. The club enjoyed instant success with Mick Waters winning his semi-contact division. This was very much a significant turning point for the club as we became in years to come a major force at national and international events worldwide.

In 1997 Alf changed the club name to ‘Alf’s Blackbelt Academy’, with the letters from Alf’s the initials for ‘Alf Loves Free Style’, a year later we attended our First World Championships events in Denmark and Canada.

1999 saw the first student from the academy to win a World Title, Scott Love in light contact, from that point on the academy have been regular attendees at world championship events till this day and have enjoyed unprecedented success.

2005 saw the academy achieve what was at the time its best ever medal return at a world championships when eleven fighters won a total of fifteen world championship medals, including Dan Williams and Declan Bailey with three gold medals each making the club the most successful to represent England that year. This prompted a television appearance on BBC’s LOOK NORTH WEST programme. 

In 2008 The decision was made to form a committee as the workload in running the academy was clearly getting too much for Alf to manage on his own. In the years to follow this proved to be an inspired decision in respect of the development of the academy and what it had to offer the people of Rossendale and the surrounding areas. The committee comprising parents of some students and instructors including Alf himself took control of how the academy was run both financially and operationally, setting objectives to take us in the right direction in improving our facilities, raising the profile of the club within the local community, significantly increasing the membership whilst continuing to work in the best interests of our members..

2010 saw Alf represent the North West region at the Daily Mirror 'Pride of Britain' awards having won the Granada Television area event in the 'Feeling Good Category', as a result Alf made his second regional television appearance in five years and was extremely close to appearing on National Television missing out by the narrowest of margins at the main event held at London’s Grosvenor Hotel.

As we entered a new decade In 2011 the real efforts of having a committee started to bear fruit with us purchasing our very own minibus and soon after introducing the school run, collecting children from two local schools and fetching them to the club for classes every weekday. With the help of ASDA we were able to install a state of the art heating system in our facility in September and also refurbish the male and female changing rooms making a huge difference to the training environment for our members.

Alf was presented with a 'lifetime achievement award' at the Rossendale Sports Awards and a 'highly commended award' at the Lancashire Sports Awards in recognition of the 30 years he has been teaching martial arts to the hundreds of people who have attended his classes at the academy

Whilst all this was going on our students were still competing regularly at National and International events. At the world championships Chloe Love, the clubs most successful competitor won her tenth consecutive world championship light contact title at the age of seventeen. Shannon Priestley won her sixth consecutive world championship title in light contact and Charlotte Fagg replicated the feat of Dan Williams and Declan Bailey in 2005 by winning individual golds in both light contact and semi contact and also winning a third gold in the junior girl’s team semi contact event with Chloe. The academies four fighters competing at the championships had an amazing medal return of seven golds, one silver and one bronze.

In 2012 we saw the introduction of Taekwondo into the Olympics , whilst this is no doubt a step in the right direction for martial arts it will be a long time before we see kickboxer's competing for Olympic gold. The academy however still managed to get involved in what is 'The Greatest Sporting Event on Earth' with Sensei Alf Love running with the Olympic flame on what was a horribly wet day in Garstang, Alf was thrilled to be nominated as one of 8,000 torchbearers who ran the torch the length and breadth of the British Isles and was joined on his historic run by many of the academies students. .

2012 also saw the academies students make history competitively, as fourteen competitors smashed the previous academy record in bringing a total of thirty two medals back from the world championships in Montreal, Canada. The medals comprising eleven bronze, fourteen silver and seven gold were accumulated over four days of tough competition. Yet again It was our girls who made history with Chloe Love winning her eleventh consecutive world title in light contact and Shannon Priestley winning her eighth consecutive world title in the same discipline. Charlotte Fagg underlined the dominance of our girls at world championship events by winning three gold’s and two bronze medal’s to become the only student to win individual world titles in both Light and Semi Contact divisions for three consecutive years, a truly amazing achievement.

In the three or so year’s that have followed further significant milestones have been reached with the academy introducing lessons in Ramsbottom in March 2013 and most recently in Bury in 2016 enhancing our membership to in excess of over one hundred students.

In the Spring of 2014 we relocated into Unit N within the Tollbar complex which has proved to be a far more suitable facility designed specifically for our needs with a separate Fitness Suite and an area for parents to sit and enjoy a drink whilst their children participate in lessons. Additionally we enhanced our coaching team adding further instructors, all of whom have come through the academies grading syllabus and have a wealth of experience in competing at the highest level. 2015 saw us purchase a second minibus to help us with transporting students to tournaments and also to help us collecting children from more schools in the area.

We have continued to make history competitively with Chloe continuing her dominance in her light contact division winning a further two world titles in 2014 and 2015 in between taking a year out to give birth to Braxton in 2013. Although Chloe has kept competing it sadly has not been the same for another of our multiple world champions Charlotte Fagg who due to persistent injury problems involving her joints had to take herself out of competition after winning her ninth world title in Cyprus in 2013. Charlotte is now using her wealth of competition experience in her role as an instructor coaching many of the new stars we have following in her footsteps.

During the last three years we have seen many new students attain world champion status with many initially coming to prominence at the 2013 championships in Cyprus amongst them Kian Grenfell, Shannon and Tejay Bacon who were all crowned double world champions along with the more experienced Shannon Priestley who took her world title count to ten. Others also winning that year included Harry Hart who went on to win again in 2014 along with Shannon Bacon and a certain Mia Woodward who aged just 9 won double gold at the 2014 championship in Dublin to be our youngest ever double world champion.

2015 saw the academies students smash the previous gold medal total won at a single world championships of thirteen in Cyprus when they won a remarkable eighteen golds at the championships in Orlando, Florida. Two young ladies contributing significantly to that total were Mia Woodward and Kyrah Khan who both went undefeated the entire week winning gold in both individual and team events to become the academies first ever quadruple world champions. Shannon Bacon, Chloe Love and Max Constant also boosted to the total as double world champions all winning in individual and team light contact.

Florida who broke the previous record of thirteen Gold Medals at a single World Championships winning a total of 18 golds.

The incredible results in Florida came mainly from the many new and established stars we have within the academies ranks Shannon Bacon winning two golds having won inin individual title in Light Contact after stating her re is indeed new stars The new stars e students .