A NEW community venue for Weymouth has been officially opened with some high-flying kicks.

Members of The Wessex Karate Academy welcomed the opening of their new home with a visitors’ day of displays and workshops.

Weymouth and Portland Mayor Ray Banham cut the ribbon to open the converted warehouse in Lower St Edmund Street.

The 90-member Weymouth club finally has its own base after years of hiring village and church halls.

Mayor Banham enjoyed watching and taking part in some martial arts demonstrations.

He said: “I think this facility is fantastic. To have something like this in Weymouth is great.

“It’s good for the kids because it teaches them discipline.”

He added that his daughter and son-in-law Rachel and Campbell Houston run Tae Kwon Do classes in Salisbury and Sherborne and taught Olympian Aaron Cook, who is originally from Dorchester.

Senior instructor Pete Thompson, a 5th Dan who teaches traditional karate, said the club’s workshops and demonstrations had proved popular.

“Quite a few people have popped in to find out more.

“We’ve been waiting for a long time to have our own place so this is wonderful to see after so many years.

“Martial arts is quite a big thing and there are so many groups doing it.

“Whatever people are doing we should have space here for them to be able to practise,” he said.

The academy’s matted gym, formerly a furniture warehouse, is available for hire as a community venue, with a boxercise and dance group already set to make use of the building.

The building, which was refurbished by academy members, has a number of smaller rooms that can also be hired out.

Pete’s mum Mary Thompson, 67, a 4th Dan, said: “The venue isn’t just for karate, we can invite anyone in.

“Boxers who want to want to come in and practise can. We want as many people as possible to try karate, it’s available to people of all ages.”

William Richards, aged 10, has been doing karate for just over a year.

He said: “I came along to see the new gym today. I think it’s brilliant.”

Anyone who is interested in hiring the venue should contact Mr Thompson on 0787 311 6118.