SCORES of people tried their hand at the innovative self-defence art of Krav Maga at free introductory sessions in Darlington.

Krav Maga, meaning 'contact combat' in Hebrew, is an Israeli self-defence system which was established in the late 1940s but continually evolves to suit real-life situations.

Darlington now boasts one of the few dedicated academies in the region with the launch of Pro Defence Krav Maga at The Northern Echo Arena, and an open day on Saturday attracted huge interest.

Participants who took part in sessions including stick and knife combat were asked only to donate money to St Teresa’s Hospice and trainer Neil Walton said the event was a huge success.

Krav Maga was first developed to help rookie soldiers in the Israeli Defence Forces quickly learn an efficient form of self-defence and since then it has evolved to suit modern day scenarios such as fighting off street robbers and protecting oneself from armed attackers.

Mr Walton explained: “What you learn changes depending on which country you live in.

“For example, there are moves taught to fend off someone with a gun – and this is taught in countries like America and particularly taxi drivers in Israel who are quite likely to face this kind of scenario.

“Thankfully, firearms defence is less relevant in this country - you are more likely to be attacked in a pub or on a street - so you learn how to defend yourself those kinds of situations.”

Mr Walton has 25-years’ experience in martial arts and will run Pro Defence Krav Maga sessions every weeknight at The Northern Echo Arena from 5.30pm.

New participants will be asked to donate to St Teresa’s Hospice throughout this week.