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FIGHTING fit; FORMER SOLDIER TURNS GREASY SPOON CAFE INTO MARTIAL ARTS GYM.

Byline: TOM DUFFY ECHO Reporter tom.duffy@trinitymirror.com @tabduffy39

A FORMER soldier who once worked undercover in Northern Ireland has turned a greasy spoon cafe into a mixed martial arts gym.

Mark Hill, who spent years in the Royal Green Jackets, has turned Bootle's Irlam Road cafe into a cutting-edge Muay Thai academy.

Mark, who grew up in Bootle, said: "We took over the cafe a few years ago. My wife ran it for a bit, but trade started to dwindle.

"The cafe used to be popular with dock workers, but the rules changed and workers stopped being allowed to leave the site at lunch. When trade started to dip, I started to think about doing something new with the building."

Mark explained how he launched a boxing club in Litherland several years ago, but that it failed to take off.

He said: "Bitter experience taught me that mixed martial arts was becoming more fashionable than boxing.

"So, I decided to turn the cafe into a Muay Thai club."

Mark signed up to the Master Sken Academy scheme, which is based around Thai mixed martial arts, and launched MSA Liverpool earlier this year. The club teaches Muay Thai, a mixed martial art similar to kick boxing.

He said: "Unlike some other clubs, we teach the art of Muay Thai, which is all about self-defence, rather than the sport.

"We also teach something called Muay Boran, which is an ancient martial art that was used on the battlefield thousands of years ago in Asia."

Mark completed back-to-back tours of Northern Ireland with the Royal Green Jackets between 2000 and 2002, and was based at the British Army's Holywood barracks, on the shores of Belfast loch.

During his tour of duty, Mark completed dangerous undercover missions, when he tried to get close to individuals thought to be engaged in criminality and terrorism.

He carried a concealed weapon to protect his life.

On his final Northern Ireland tour, his Land Rover was petrol-bombed, and his unit was shot at during a Belfast street fight.

Mark survived both incidents unscathed and makes light of the dangers he faced. He later left the Army to begin a second career in Liverpool's private security sector.

Mark told the ECHO that he wanted to dispel a few urban myths that might surround back-street gyms.

He said: "I know some people out there think that you have to have a big fight if you come into this type of gym. But that is not true. We teach mixed martial arts and promote physical fitness. Kids and beginners of all ages are welcome.

"We have a zero tolerance attitude to bullies. They are told to leave and not come back.

"I used to come in here for the odd bacon barm, but I recently turned 40 now and I had to give up those fry-ups. We liked the old cafe but it was time for a change." | To find out more, go to MSA Liverpool on Facebook.

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Mark Hill during his Army days

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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Aug 14, 2017
Words:507
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