VULNERABLE young girls in India will get tips on how to defend themselves thanks to the martial arts skills of an Abingdon instructor.

Mum-of-two Mary Stevens will travel to Varanasi in the state of Uttar Pradesh to pass on some of the knowledge she has picked up in 15-years as an instructor.

She started taking classes after her son was being bullied and now the 46-year-old is backing Fairfight – a Durch non-profit organisation that aim to empower girls and women from challenging backgrounds through the mental and physical benefits of martial arts training, while also strengthening local communities.

The organisation, which has been running since 2015, has worked in India since last year and contacted Ms Stevens to help with their endeavour.

She said: "My daughter, Charlie, was really excited by it, she's also really into martial arts"

Ms Stevens has set up a web page to help her to travel to India and find ways to extend the project for the future.

She said: "Girls in the project have been rescued from drugs or prostitution to be given an education and the chance to take an independent path in their lives.

"For them, learning martial arts could make all the difference and offer a life of choices and self-fulfilment instead of frustration, suffering and danger.

"We want to help change the natural course of their lives, building confidence and leadership capability to become stronger and less likely to fall in abusive positions.

"My role is to support the instructor there, and give the girls sustainable life skills, it's not about kicking and punching. it's about giving them those life skills.

"It's not about poverty tourism where you take a selfie with a couple of poor kids and never see them again, I'm massively opposed to that kind of stuff."

Ms Stevens works full time as an instructor at the Oxford School of Martial Arts in Kidlington, where she obtained a second degree black belt.

She is also a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and is a former teacher with a specialism in public speaking and debate, which she believes will help her train students in India. She said: "I am interested in seeing young people being able to speak up for themselves".

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