Learn more about our TMA Role Models – this time we interview Jenni Cannon on achieving her 2nd Dan Black Belt, leaving home and accepting a job working at No10 Downing Street!! At this time of year it is easy to consider quitting martial arts because you are worried about moving to a new school and the legendary amounts of extra home-work that you’ll be getting, but really this couldn’t be further from the truth. So take a moment to meet our TMA Role Models. These students all continued to train in the martial arts throughout their school life and have achieved amazing things. Meet Jennifer Cannon, 2nd Dan Black Belt Kickboxing, a member of Tring Martial Arts since she was 13. 1. How old were you when you started training and why did you choose martial arts? I started training when I was about 13 years old. I’d never been particularly good at other sports before then, but kickboxing looked like something fun I could go to with my friends, and was different to anything I’d done in PE lessons before. How has martial arts training helped you at school (better concentration, grades, confidence etc)? Training in martial arts definitely increased my self-confidence – at TMA I trained alongside adults who treated me as an equal and that helped a lot in being sure of myself at school and speaking to teachers on a level, especially as I went towards GCSE’s and A-levels. Doing regular exercise also helped a lot in exam time as a way to take a break from school and feel less stressed – I definitely remember a particularly helpful class on a day where I’d had a bad interaction with a teacher, and Chris advised me to take it out on the punchbag! It was a relief from the routine of school-home-bed-repeat and I think it reenergised me and helped me stay motivated and focused. 2. How do you balance homework against your training, has training helped you be more organised or helped you cope with the stress of moving up to a new school? I never found that I had much trouble balancing training and homework. On days where I didn’t train it was easy to go home and put the television on, and then get into a lazy routine where I didn’t want to get up and do anything; but on days where I went to a class I was already up and active so I didn’t have to drag myself away from the sofa to get work done! I’m a big believer in the saying that busy people get more things done – feeling productive and active is satisfying and creates a positive feedback loop. 3. Did you ever feel like quitting training? Often – particularly on dark winter evenings when all I wanted to do was stay indoors, I had a regular battle with myself (and my mum) about whether to go training! But I knew I never regretted going to a class once I was there, so I just had to remind myself of the buzz I got from training in order to push myself out of the house 🙂 I also struggled when I went to University, as I kept training at TMA but didn’t find a good club in Newcastle so had to self-motivate to keep working towards my 2nd Dan black belt. On my first attempt I wasn’t fit enough and didn’t pass all of the elements of the grading. I really struggled with it and was really disappointed – at that stage it would have been very easy to give up and I almost did. However, one of the most important things I think I learned from martial arts is that you’ve only failed once you stop trying! So I swallowed my pride and worked with Chris to come up with a more strict training plan, attended extra classes in my holidays, and re-graded six months later; and passed. 4. If you had to give someone one piece of advice about balancing home/school/work and martial arts what would it be? Don’t let yourself feel like things are getting on top of you! As soon as you start having thoughts about ‘I can’t do it, I’ve got too much on, I’m too stressed’ it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and it’s almost never the case in reality. Keeping calm and being organised always helped me – as long as I knew what I needed to get done and by when I could plan my weeks to make sure everything would fit in. And one piece of extra good advice my mum gave me (and I still don’t take it often enough) – learn to be okay with saying no if you don’t feel like you can handle something extra! The world won’t end if you miss training on a particularly busy school week, or if you don’t go to see a friend because you want to train. 5. So what did you achieve after University? I left school four years ago now and went to Newcastle University to study English Literature, Psychology and Maths. I’m now on the Civil Service Fast Stream graduate scheme, and have just got a job working in Number 10 on Home Affairs. And almost ten years and two black belts on, I’m still kickboxing! So before you decide to quit training, speak with your Chief Instructor Christopher Allen on the best ways to integrate training with school work and continue to succeed both at school, at martial arts and in life!