A TEENAGER has been hailed as a role model after making the grade to teach martial arts to his peers.

Ryan Clark, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, has qualified as a young instructor for Matt Fiddes Martial Arts Academy classes in Warrington and Widnes.

“He is an example to all of the young children we educate each week,” said owner Steve James.

“He has overcome so many hurdles in his life already, but one goal is to run his own martial arts school.

“After completing his instructor training, he’s now on his way to achieving that.”

Clark, aged 16, tried martial arts for the first time a decade ago.

And the Penketh High School student has hardly missed a session since.

“Ryan started in 2004 when he was a nervous little boy without much confidence,” said mum Ellen.

“He is now a confident, well-respected young man because Steve and his team have helped him to achieve so much.”

The academy told the Guardian that Clark, who lives in Great Sankey, reached third-dan black belt status in mixed martial arts at the town’s Peace Centre earlier this month. He plans to start training for fourth dan when he turns 21.

James said: “When Ryan first started, his condition stopped him getting to grips with working in a big group and he’s had challenging times.

“Practising martial arts has given him the confidence to get through that and he’s gone on to compete in front of hundreds of people.

“It’s not about coming in and being the most fantastic athlete in the world.

“Instead it’s about making the most of an individual’s ability and building their confidence.”