This week we’re meeting long standing Tring entrepreneur and founder of Tring Martial Arts, Chris Allen. Chris has an inspiring story, taking his own personal experience with bullying to both reinvent himself but also to encourage others to do the same. Not only does he run Tring Martial Arts, but he’s also taken on an active role in promoting anti-bullying in local schools. Impressive stuff! Let’s hear his story…
How long have you been running TMA and what did you do prior to starting?
I have been running Tring Martial Arts Academy since July 2005, before taking the plunge and giving up my wonderfully paid Sales and Marketing Role with a pharmaceutical company, I operated TMA as a once a week hobby job. I found increasing satisfaction in working for myself and genuinely helping other people on a local level whilst at the same time becoming disillusioned with my day job.
What’s the biggest challenge running an independent business?
Amongst the many life skills we try to teach our students, one phrase really sums up my response to this question. “Wherever you are, be there”! We train our students to focus on their task in hand and give it 100% without distraction, and yet this is one of the biggest challenges that my senior team and I face everyday. Our product is the classroom and when we step on the mat, we’re on our A Game, but 70% of our work is done during the day when we are not teaching. A lot of people think we just show up at 4pm, teach a few classes and then go home, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. You can’t have a full time academy of martial arts with 250+ members and 55 classes per week without some serious admin, marketing, finance, accounting and other systems behind the scenes driving the whole thing forward. In addition to that, my senior team and I need to get our own training in. We train 3 times per week together focusing on curriculum for our students and most importantly, curriculum for OUR progression. After all, we are martial artists!
Tell us about your anti-bullying campaign – what it means to you and how you can help.
Each year I like to focus our community outreach activities on one particular cause, last year it was Conflict Avoidance, but this year it is Anti Bullying. 34 years ago my parents enrolled me into a martial arts class because I was being bullied at school. I was 9 years old, tall and lanky, with zero confidence and a lot of “issues”. Within the first 9 months of my training, the physical bullying stopped, not because I was getting into fights and winning them, but because I had the confidence in knowing that I could defend myself if I needed to BUT I didn’t need to prove it to anyone. Once my tormentors realised they couldn’t goad me into fighting with them, the more hurtful bullying started up. I am talking of course about name-calling, exclusion and gossip and all of this was MANY years before social media!
Our Anti Bullying Campaign takes a 2 fold approach:-
- Anti-Bullying School Talks – we have already gone into 6 local schools but we need more!! The school talks for children aged 6-12 years of age focus on “Be a Buddy, Not a Bully” Many of the tactics we discuss in our talks are things we already speak to the students about regularly in our classes. Having a programme in place gives the students the concrete techniques so that they know what action they can take, and so they can decide what action is the most appropriate. Our emphasis is very much on peaceful conflict resolution, and all the students are taught emphatically to refuse to be involved in bullying, either as a victim or as a bully. Our school talk teaches that standing by and watching others get bullied and not doing anything is also a form of bullying. We also talk about how to react to someone when they tell you they are being bullied and to take it seriously. Bullies usually work best in secret. Telling everyone about the problem goes a long way toward defeating it.
- Anti Bullying Pledge Cards – the purpose of the Pledge Card is to make a personal declaration that you wish to stamp out bullying in our community in all its forms. We ask the general public to put their name on the card and then take a photograph of them in front of our Anti Bullying Banner and post it to social media using the hastags #TMAStopTheBully #AntiBullying #TringMartialArts
Personally, this means a lot to me! It was one of the reasons why I started Tring Martial Arts Academy in the first place! The anti bullying campaign school talks are 100% free of charge and 0% promotional. We don’t bombard schools with leaflets or talk for ages about our classes. We are there purely to serve our community not sell to schools.
What’s your most deadly move?
The simplest and most powerful move we teach in martial arts and self defence is called Bolt, and Run! There is an important phrase in self protection that goes like this “Don’t put yourself in a worse situation than you are already in.” So the best technique is to not be there. As Sun Tzu said, “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting”
What’s been your proudest moment running the business to date?
I am very lucky to have lots of little proud moments almost every day, from seeing a child overcome their fear or personal challenge, to hearing from a parent about how much I have helped their child to overcome adversity. So I am pretty lucky! But one of my proudest moments has to be when I got the chance to show my Mum around our new premises here on the Silk Mill Business Park and to thank her for taking me to martial arts when I was 9 years old and for pushing me to continue when I wanted to give up. Without her belief and support in those early years, TMA would never have happened!