Sometime the smallest things take up the biggest space in our estimation.
This is how I came to view Chuldow Martial Arts Knottingley last year after visiting the space-challenged facility and listening to glowing feedback from students during hustings for the NEST Academy of the Year 2018 award. When I found out they were again shortlisted for 2019, I was keen to catch up with the academy and its development.
Rocking-up at CMAA’s Hill Top base, I was immediately hit by seismic change.
The compact dojo, reception, office, viewing area, kitchen and loo remain fixed in size but I experience a definite increase in temperature. Today there is flame-red décor, a hot-shot drinks station, pick n mix sweet stall, cupboard overflow, motif-scorched walls, a roll-down projector screen and fresh eruption of instructors and staff spilling out on to the mats.
Owners and Chief Instructors Simon Walker, 3rd Dan, and Christine Walker, 3rd Dan, are in full flow teaching a 7-13 Junior Karate class when I arrive but soon join me to blow the lid off what lies beneath the increased activity in this small but mighty Karate and Kickboxing school.
The husband and wife team openly admit that taking on coaching staff was a way to free-up their time outside the business. Time they wanted to spend on self-development by attending various NEST business seminars and courses. Applying heat and pressure to this ambition, and returning to pour knowledge and ideas onto the franchise, appear to have ignited its growth. I see an explosion in student numbers around the dojo, hear rumblings of free workshops offered out to the community, and understand that the couple’s aspirations have also found vent in two satellite clubs recently launched around the area.
Chatting to Simon, Christine, their instructors and students again this year, I am left in no doubt that under their new strategy is the bed-rock importance of wanting to remain a ‘family academy’ – run by family for families.
Ask me today, how big is Chuldow Martial Arts Academy Knottingley?
I’ll tell you.
Thanks to active graft, determination and a willingness to move outside comfort zones, this full-time franchise has gone through the roof!
A lava-hot thank you to Simon, Christine, Ben, Lucy, Emma, Mark, Stephen and the inspirational Mrs Lafferty for their warmth and affability, and for demonstrating to me that it isn’t your size that matters, it’s the matter in your size!
I put a few questions to the dynamic duo behind the academy’s transformation before hitting the gas to leave. Here’s what Mr and Mrs Walker had to say.
Chuldow Martial Arts Academy Knottingley has had a refurb, tell me about the design changes?
Simon Walker: These were part born out of necessity and part wanting to offer a service for our customers. We have an extremely small space for our client base and so wanted to maximise it, yet make it feel less cramped and busy. We’ve added equipment cupboards on the principle ‘tidy environment, tidy mind’ which create a more peaceful mat area, and the reception now has a storage solution added for equipment, plus there’s extra seating, allowing a more comfortable, relaxed environment for families. A self-service coffee station and sweet stall give a service to our customers, to help them relax and have a treat. We have further units on order, too. The colour scheme was decided by a student community vote and it ties in to our brand colours.
I see that the academy has taken on new staff, what does this expansion mean for you?
Simon Walker: The academy has been opened full time since we first opened in December 2008. Just the two of us have run the business for 9 years. Last year we decided it was time to give a better level of service to our students and to develop ourselves personally and professionally. To do this we needed help. We have a fantastic team around us now with four paid teaching staff and a front of house member alongside a superb group of volunteer instructors. All these staff members and instructors have contributed to make the academy a brilliant place. We are giving back to the community and to students more now than ever because we have a great team behind us, something we want to continue to improve on with their support and backing.
I’ve heard Christine referred to as ‘the child whisperer’…?
Simon Walker: That’s a pet nickname I gave to her. Christine has an unparalleled, amazing ability to communicate with children, especially the behaviour challenged. She knows exactly what to say and what to do with each child to pull out the very best version of them. Some of our greatest success stories have come from our most troubled children who have gone on to become superb martial artists, students, sons and daughters. Christine will just say she is more stubborn than the child, but it’s not that, she connects with these children on a deep level. You can physically see the changes happening at times. She is awe inspiring to watch!
What are the most important aspects of the academy to each of you?
Christine Walker: For me, the most important aspect of the academy is our students. We are a family martial arts school and the students who train with us really embrace this. We have full families training – mum, dad, children, grandparents. I love it! It’s so welcoming and warm to new students walking through our doors. Great friendships have been made by parents and children through attending classes.
Simon Walker: There are so many different things that are equally important to me – the staff and instructor team who work tirelessly week in and out, the parents and carers who support us and their children constantly. On this I agree with Christine but for different reasons. We are a small facility as you can see, we have 370 members who share 84 mats, and an additional 300 parents and siblings who share one toilet and a small reception area with no option of expanding. It could be a nightmare to manage but it’s not – everyone just gets on with it and makes it work. No one complains, no one makes a complete mess, everyone helps each other. It means we manage with what we have and it is all worthwhile. Because of them the atmosphere is amazing, it’s a pleasure to be here, and we simply love what we do!
Describe in one sentence the philosophy behind Chuldow Martial Arts Academy Knottingley.
Simon Walker: To serve our community and help people be the version of themselves that they aspire to be.
Christine Walker: To get people to be active and healthy in their body and mind through the enjoyment of the martial arts.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org