Slough Trading Estate is a big deal – home to over 600 businesses, it is reported to be the largest industrial estate in private ownership in Europe. It is also linked in my memory to the Ricky Gervais/Stephen Merchant hit TV series The Office as the location of fictitious paper merchant Wernham Hogg. But I hadn’t made the journey here to search for comedy gold, more martial arts mettle.
The NEST Management Academy of the Year roadshow is back (hurrah!) and as independent judge, my hunt for 2019’s award winner this week brought me to the doors of shortlisted nominee, IMAS Academy of Excellence in Slough. Chief Instructor, Sifu Vik Hothi and co-founder Si-hing Sunny Riyat are quick to offer a warm welcome and allow access so I can watch young Tigers, Dragons and Warriors strut their Wing Chun Kung Fu stuff at class and marvel at the confidence shown by even the tiniest students. I see that this is in no small part due to the academy’s fun and inclusive approach to tuition which also encourages teen-students like Rocky and brother Zak to step up and teamwork, ably lending a hand (and experienced foot) with instruction.
The smart, purpose-built IMAS Academy impressively houses a 2000sq ft matted area complete with mirrors, wooden dummy, wall bags and novel ‘dragon’ wall graffiti. Nice scales and my, what big teeth you have! There’s also a small but perfectly-formed gym stacked with kettlebells, gym balls, punch bags and club bells I recognise from articles penned by Sifu Vik on strength and conditioning for ‘MMA Uncaged’ magazine. Combine these facilities with the promise of relief from aching muscles and hard-worked joints by the in-house Osteopath, and a comfortable social area for spectators to relax in over a hot brew, and it’s clear that within IMAS Academy there’s balance and structure in harmony with Wing Chun philosophy.
I’d like to thank the IMAS instructors, students and parents for showing such respect and kindness during my visit and especially Sifu Vik for his candour in answering my questions.
Here’s a little of what he had to say…
Sifu Vik, IMAS Academy sports impressive dragon wall art, a sublime lilac office and sage green therapy room, why these interior choices?
Sifu Vik: The dragon represents the mental and spiritual world and that’s exactly what I believe we help develop (after the physical) at IMAS. The purple (I’m a man and we only see in 7 colours) represents nobility, ambition, dignity, wisdom and spiritual awareness (as noticed in the crown chakra) The green mats represent nature, new beginnings, growth and energy. All non-aggressive colours, for the purpose of aiding the student in the start of their journey and the type of mindset we try to promote.
The academy has a few innovative features, the TV room for parents and the student card scanner, for instance – what was your thinking here?
Sifu Vik: IMAS and the gym is a dream and a labour of love. It was my wish to have a family environment, a place where people can feel safe, have fun, develop and spend considerable time in, whilst getting to know each other – instructors, students and parents alike – so no expense was spared for everyone’s comfort. The TV in the room means that the classes can be watched with no distraction to students. And the student scanner is not only for health and safety but also for me to monitor students’ attendance and offer any assistance/motivation if students aren’t coming as regularly as they could.
That’s an impressive plaque mounted in the entrance, which body awarded it to IMAS Academy and why?
Sifu Vik: On a recent fact-finding Kung Fu trip to China, I was awarded the position for overseas expert for Wing Chun Kung Fu by the Fatsaan Kung Fu Association. A big honour and the only one of its kind in Europe.
What is it about IMAS Academy that you are most proud of?
Sifu Vik: The relationships and the people. Whether they come in for one session or for life, it’s a true honour to be allowed to pass on any and all knowledge that I’m allowed to. Aside from that…..I’m proud of how clean and tidy the place is!
How would you sum up the academy’s philosophy in a sentence for prospective new students?
Sifu Vik: We use the ancient art of Kung Fu to help people actualise their true potential and make a positive impact to our community one person at a time.
Moira Spencer takes to the road for the second year running as independent judge for the NEST Management Academy of the Year award.
Profile picture by
photographer Andrew Gater
About the author: Moira Spencer previously enjoyed a long, successful career in publishing sports titles, including Martial Arts Illustrated and MMA Uncaged magazines. Now qualified in Professional Interior Design, she has combined this creativity with her knowledge and understanding of the sports industry to launch Glove & Lotus, an interior design consultancy specifically for sports academies, clubs, studios and home gyms. For more details on this unique service, visit www.gloveandlotus.com phone 0787 8750045 or email email@example.com