Tring Martial Arts Academy, based off Akeman Street in the town centre, now has over 260 members – ranging from ages four to 55 – and has never been more popular.
“The difference between us and the gym is that fitness is just one of the reasons people come,” explained founder Chris Allen, who set up the Academy in 2005, after leaving his corporate job.
“Martial arts is also about building the important life skills such as self-confidence, discipline, and is very sociable; anyone can teach people to punch or kick, we take their training to the next level to include life skills and learning to live with respect, honour and decency. We are not a fight club, we’re a family martial arts academy.
“I had always been a fan of martial arts and saw there was a real need to offer classes for all those children who perhaps don’t like conventional sports such as football, rugby and netball,” Chris continued, adding that he regularly talks in school assemblies about how the sport can help teach self-confidence, self-defence, and how to combat bullying.
He also does a lot of work with children with special needs who enjoy the very structured approach of the classes and the progression up the belts. There is also a dedicated programme for children with challenging behaviour who need boundaries.
As one parent explained, “My son has only been attending TMA for about four months but already we have seen a remarkable improvement in his self-esteem, discipline and numerous other areas. My son has additional needs and the staff have worked hard to include him in classes and help him to get the most out of every visit.”
A view echoed by another member: “My son really enjoys coming to TMA, it has helped him to make new friends, build his self esteem and confidence. He’s had issues with bullying in school and TMA has helped him to control his anger and frustrations.”
The Academy offers a range of classes, from after-school martial arts for children, to cardio kickboxing classes and Combat Fitness for adults in the evening – which can burn up to 800 calories in an hour.
Other disciplines such as Krav Maga are a form of modern, reality-based self-defence training aimed at teens and adults using real world scenarios. These classes attract young people eager to develop the confidence to know they can protect themselves.
“There is also a real emphasis of being fun and welcoming and we have even had our first wedding between members!” Chris added.
The Anniversary evening attracted over 70 guests and involved demonstrations by all age groups as well as a video presentation from martial arts experts from all over the world offering Chris their congratulations.
And the cake was, of course, sliced through by a real Samurai Sword!