A SPECIALIST martial arts gym could soon be opening in Alloa, offering training and life-skill development opportunities to people with additional needs.

Business partners Alison Morrison and John Miller kick-started their venture N-Courage this year and are planning to open a facility on Ward Street in town if the council gives the nod.

It will offer opportunities for people who are not able to attend mainstream classes, particularly those with an autism spectrum disorder.

And the idea is not just to make people fitter and healthier, the duo also aims to accelerate the development of life-skills in general by mixing martial arts with Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA).

ABA looks to bring about meaningful and positive change in behaviour, using techniques and principles around reinforcement.

N-Courage hopes to use all that to harness clients' motivation and accelerate their learning – in the gym and on the mats rather than in the classroom and behind a desk.

Alison, a former chartered surveyor, said: “It’s not just about teaching them marital arts. It’s about teaching transferable skills.

“The younger we get them, the better, but really, the ultimate focus is on young adults because when they come out of the school system, they kind of fall off the cliff edge.”

The Tillicoultry woman gained her experience through bringing up her son Cameron, who is already benefitting from a unique programme delivered by both herself and John, a Krav Maga instructor.

Cameron, 19, was diagnosed with autism at the age of two-and-a-half and Alison spent years learning ABA to support him as he grew up and still runs a home programme for her son today.

John, of Menstrie, has been teaching Krav Maga for 14 years with a life-long passion for the martial arts.

The duo believe the benefits of martial arts and staying active in general should be accessible to everyone.

While there is a wealth of knowledge and experience in the area, the way martial arts training is delivered does not work for everyone.

John said: “By making small adjustments to the way that it’s taught, you can make it accessible to a much larger part of the community.”

Gyms are often noisy with echoes and those on the spectrum can suffer from a sensory overload.

A training session with N-Courage looks very similar to a conventional one, but the teaching methods are vastly different. They will look to take clients on in small groups, even offering two-to-one support.

Most people can easily process instructions whatever type of learner they may be, but somebody on the autism spectrum may not be able to make proper sense of it all.

John said: “It’s [about] providing them the opportunity to make sense of it and supporting them to carry out the same thing.

“We use a reinforcement model, if we get the behaviour that we are looking for then it’s reinforced.”

They are planning to open their gym by converting a light industrial unit, make it autism-friendly and provide work opportunities to those on the spectrum wherever possible.

Staff applying ABA will be working towards a registered behaviour technician certificate and the business duo reckons the idea can easily be lifted over into tutoring in other fields of physical activity like yoga.

Anyone looking to stay up to date with the gym's progress can visit n-courage.co.uk or find N-Courage on Facebook.