TAEK THAT! Teenage martial artist fights off would-be mugger
WHEN a would-be mugger approached slightly-built teenager Henry Watts determined to steal his wallet and phone, he got much more than he bargained for.
The criminal, who grabbed the Staple Hill teenager on the Bristol to Bath cycle path and aggressively demanded his possessions, had no idea his potential victim was an expert in the martial art taekwondo.
Instead of handing over his valuables, Henry, 15, put his self-defence skills to good use. And in a scene straight out of the movie The Karate Kid, he freed himself from the mugger's grasp and punched him in the face.
But rather than bragging about what he had done, Henry carried straight on to school, where he did not tell anyone about his unusual start to the day.
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It was only that evening when he told his dad, Paul, what had happened. Mr Watts then contacted the police. Henry told The Post: "I usually walk to school with my younger brother Josh but was running a little bit late, so was on my own.
"I saw a man walking towards me with his head down, but suddenly he had hold of my jacket and was asking for my phone and wallet.
"I used an arm lock move to get his hand off my jacket – it basically involves getting his arm and twisting it around – and then I punched him in the face so that I could get away.
"I got off the track and ran up some stairs onto the common before carrying on to school.
"I didn't really think much of it until later in the day, and then I felt quite shocked.
"I didn't really want my dad to tell the police at first but he said what if it had been my brother, who is only 11?
"That made me realise that what had happened was quite serious."
Henry wholly credits his twice-weekly taekwondo lessons for his quick-thinking reaction.
"The whole thing didn't take longer than 15 seconds," he said.
"It never crossed my mind to hand over my things.
"My first reaction was to defend myself, and I think that's because of my taekwondo lessons."
His mum Alice Watts, 41, a finance officer, told The Post: "Henry is quite slight for his age and was wearing headphones.
"I think the man might have thought he was an easy target, but didn't realise that he knew how to defend himself. He's been doing taekwondo on and off for about five years and obviously used some of those moves to defend himself."
Andy Davies, chief instructor at Black Belt Academy in Staple Hill, has been Henry's taekwondo teacher for around 18 months.
Henry, who is in Year 10 at Mangotsfield School, is graded a green belt, which means he knows around half the skills needed to be awarded the elite black belt.
"We teach a mix of taekwondo and kick boxing using a range of oriental weapons," said Mr Davies. "The biggest thing that we try to do is to keep things simple and practical.
"Henry is a very diligent and quiet person – he's the last person I would have expected to do what he did.
"But it shows that he had the confidence to use the moves he'd learned in a real setting to defend himself.
"It's that confidence that we really try to instil in people.
"That takes time and training – the moves have to be practised and repeated over a period of time.
"We try to teach martial arts as a way of life and I am very proud of Henry and what he did to defend himself.
"I would like more children to learn the skills that martial arts teaches so that more can learn how to defend themselves in these sorts of situations."
A police spokeswoman told The Post that no arrests had yet been made but an investigation continues into the incident.
It happened between 8.30am and 8.40am on November 6, on the Bristol to Bath cycle track near Rodway Common in Mangotsfield.
Police are looking for a man aged 20 to 30, with a pale complexion, who is about 5ft 7in tall and skinny, with green eyes, a goatee beard and light brown scruffy hair. He was wearing a grey or blue hooded jumper at the time of the incident.
Anyone with information about the attacker should contact the police on 101.